Rafting or canoeing: what are the differences exactly?

Canoes are lightweight craft typically compared to or confused with a kayak. As opposed to canoes, rafts are not rigid or sturdy, instead they are inflatable and need not rely on the passengers’ ability to work under pressure as much.

Introduction to a canoe

These boats typically seat two to three people, a canoe is open on top, made from wood or more commonly fiberglass, and is pointed at both ends. The canoers paddle using a single-bladed oar, usually they’re on a calm lake or river and will be seated or kneeling while doing so, this helps balance the passengers’ weight distribution. Due to the boat’s size, weight, and material it can be prone to upsets.

It takes a lot of skill to successfully manoeuvre canoes while moving quickly. Yet on a calm river it is far less likely to capsize. Due to the fact that canoes have pointed ends, it glides through the water with much less resistance and moves faster. Canoes also have high sides meaning they are less likely to get wet, yet if water does begin to collect inside the canoe it can quickly create problems and passengers will have to bail the water out. Due to this, a lot of teamwork is needed to excel at canoeing.

Introduction to a raft

These are much better suited than canoes to rocky waters as they are more capable of absorbing hits and bouncing along rocky river beds.They seat five to ten people, much more than a canoe. They are also open-topped but have a wide front which means they move more slowly than a canoe. The passengers in a raft also have oars, however, they aren’t needed as much as in canoes especially on rivers or in rapids where you are left to the mercy of the water.

Rafts are also less likely to capsize due to their low centre of mass and may often lose gear or passengers before it turns over itself. Slightly more preparation is required when rafting, however, as it must be inflated beforehand. An under-inflated raft could prove fatal as it would not be as sturdy a ride as one would expect.

Who is canoeing for?

Canoeing is often a much more calm experience and allows for more freedom or exploration depending on the location. It requires greater skill and teamwork, however, as passengers must co-ordinate their paddling. The teamwork in a canoe works such that the lead person at the front decides where to go and tells the people at the rear of the boat where to steer. Miscommunications are not uncommon here.

Canoes are better suited to deep water as they won’t get stuck on rocky river beds, which is why you won’t usually see them on rapids. Canoeing is still quite physically demanding yet doesn’t involve risky trips, rather more exploration type trips. Hence a rafter may see a canoer loading their cargo on to a river and wonder if it’s worth their while.

Competitive canoeing has several disciplines such as polo, this is more team orientated and players must pass or flick a ball to others on their team in an attempt to score a goal. Freestyle emphasizes precision as the objective is to paddle on flat water while demonstrating excellent control of the canoe, usually done with music, this has been compared to interpretive dance but with canoes. The sprint is a standard race between canoes. The marathon is a long race down a section of a calm river, there are often obstacles and currents during this event too.

Who is rafting for?

Rafting has earned a reputation as an extreme sport. It is for thrill-seeking people who are looking for an adrenaline rush rather than exploration. Teamwork in a raft involves each passenger assuming the burden of control and constantly working together to avoid capsizing and to keep their craft afloat. Rafting can also be quite physically demanding but is not for the faint-hearted or those who won’t be able to hold down their lunch.

Rafting also has numerous disciplines that are done competitively such as a sprint, which involves teams racing one another on relatively calm water over a short distance, where competitors go individually. It’s a very interesting discipline people use to bet a lot on. The H2H is more exciting where teams go at the same time down rapids in a similar sprint. The slalom is very technically demanding and teams must navigate their way through twelve gates up and down the river. The downriver involves teams going through much larger rapids for longer times, up to five rafts go at once, this is really a test of endurance and skill as it is incredibly difficult to navigate these rapids.

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