Canoeing and kayaking - what's the difference?

Though the word canoeing is often used as a general term to refer to most types of paddlesport in this country, the two terms do have different meanings. In short, paddling a canoe means you use a single-bladed paddle, while kayaking uses a paddle with a blade at both ends. 

More importantly, different paddling disciplines require differently shaped boats. The club offers the chance to do most aspects of the sport, whether in general purpose kayaks, Canadian open canoes, sea kayaks, surf kayaks, playboats, K1 and K2 racers, whitewater boats, slalom boats, lifeguard ‘sharks’, polo 'BATs', squirt boats (Google it!) or you could even paddle our coracle!

For newcomers to the sport, here are some brief descriptions of the club’s most popular activities:-

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Anyone who joins the club as a beginner will usually want to learn the basics in either a general purpose kayak or a Canadian open canoe, before being offered the chance to do anything more adventurous. Starting with gentle coaching sessions on the non-tidal River Stour, we suggest paddlers move on to doing a few short club trips to gain some experience, and perhaps a pool session or two to practise their rescue techniques, before considering what to do next.



For this we use relatively short boats which are very manoeverable, making it easier to dodge rocks as we follow the flow of the river. Whitewater includes ‘river-running’, where we paddle downstream from A to B, and playboating, where paddlers practise their skills and tricks on particular whitewater features.It’s very popular for both kayak and canoe, and suitable for anyone from relative novices on easy grade 2 water, right up to advanced paddlers on grade 4+. The club runs regular trips to some great whitewater locations, like Symonds Yat and the River Dart, and there are informal groups of club paddlers who regularly test their skills at the Lee Valley Olympic Legacy artificial course in London.




Polo is usually played in a swimming pool with two teams. There are two goals suspended above the water and it’s a bit like netball, in as far as you can’t paddle when you’re holding the ball. It’s a fun game and really helps paddlers improve their skills. Our games vary from a juniors and adult beginners game to our more advanced paddlers who are allowed to push each other over when they have the ball. (It’s the rules, honest!). We wear full protective buoyancy aids and helmets with face guards, and have a fleet of special polo kayaks that we keep just for the pool.




Opening canoes are used for gentle touring trips on flat water or, for the slightly more adventurous, whitewater trips of various grades. They can take lots of gear, so they’re popular for  paddlers who want to take the whole family, and for overnight camping trips. Some of the more dedicated enthusiasts also carry a sail which they use to cover longer distances on lakes or estuaries.




This branch of paddling uses long, straight-line boats, specifically designed to cope with our seas. They are quite fast, cutting through waves with relative ease and they usually have storage compartments which are used for your spare kit on day trips or even overnight camping trips.We are lucky enough to have some very experienced and dedicated sea kayaking coaches in the club, and our sea kayaking group is rapidly growing.Several of our intermediate paddlers take part in sea kayaking trips, either locally on our estuaries and coastline or on trips to other areas around the UK coastline, where you can explore dramatic cliffs, caves and rock formations, watch the wildlife or have fun in the surf.



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Our club has a small, but steadily expanding group of members who take part in K1 and K2 marathon races (single and double kayak) including events in the Hasler regional racing series and the annual Devizes to Westminster race (the DW) which is an epic, 125 mile race down the Thames completed in 24 hours (or over 4 days for those slightly less committed). Uncompromisingly built for straight line speed, this discipline uses long, very narrow (and often quite unstable) kayaks. Our K-boat team members have had some great results, holding their own against some much bigger, specialist clubs.

Surf Kayaking

Surf kayaking is just what it says - you surf in your kayak rather than with a surf board. It’s good to be a reasonably confident paddler before you try this, but it will help to improve your skills rapidly.  We use general purpose kayaks to begin with, but if you progress well, you might want to give one of our specialist surf kayaks a try.


Whatever type of paddling you'd like to try, we're sure to have some of it going on! And we have expert coaches for every one of these disciplines, who'll help you build your skills and confidence safely.

To find out more, and start taking your first paddle strokes, get in touch via our Contact page