Canoeing is the activity of paddling a canoe or kayak for the purpose of recreation, sport, or transportation. It usually refers exclusively to using a paddle to propel a canoe or kayak with only human muscle power. A kayak is propelled using a paddle with two blades where the paddler sits with their legs infront of them, whereas canoes are propelled using single- or double-bladed paddles where the paddler is kneeling or sitting on a raised seat. Kayaks are usually closed-decked boats with a spraydeck, while canoes are usually open boats. There are also open kayaks and closed canoes. Although somewhat confusing, the term canoeing is generally used as a generic term for both forms, though the term "paddle sports" is also used. In the United States and Canada, however, 'canoeing' usually refers only to canoes, as opposed to both canoes and kayaks. Paddling a kayak is also referred to as kayaking.
School outing (Cuckmere Haven, Sussex) © photo NJK
Open canoes may be 'poled' (punted), sailed, 'lined and tracked' (using ropes)or even 'gunnel-bobbed'.
In modern canoe sport, both canoes and kayaks may be closed-decked. Other than by the minimum competition specifications (typically length and width (beam))and seating arrangement it is difficult to differentiate most competition canoes from the equivalent competition kayaks. The most common difference is that competition kayaks are always seated, and competition canoes are generally kneeling. Exceptions include Canoe Marathon (in both European and American competitive forms) and sprint (high kneeling position). The most traditional and early canoes did not have seats, the padlers merely kneeled on the bottom of the boat. Recreational or 'canadian' canoes employ seats and whitewater rodeo and surf variants increasingly employ the use of 'saddles' to give greater boat control under extreme conditions.
The International Canoe Federation is the world wide canoeing organisation and creates the standard rules for the different disciplines of canoe competition. The ICF recognises several competitive and non-competitive disciplines of canoeing, of which Sprint and Slalom are the only two competing in the Olympic games. The United States Canoe Association is widely considered the American authority in sport and recreational canoeing, and recognizes many ICF classes. Other national competition rules are usually based on the rules of the ICF.
Other recreational aspects of canoeing are not strictly defined, and distinctions are rather articifical and growing increasingly blurred as new hybrid canoes, kayaks, and similar craft boob are developed. Some of these forms may be nominally organised at national levels, but are largely individual, group, or club activities. For many groups there is no emphasis on training, the goal is simply to use boats to have fun on the water.
In some countries, these forms of paddling may come under the national canoeing organisations, but they are not universally accepted as canoeing, even though they involve propelling a small craft with a paddle.
Canoeing began to meet the simple needs of transportation across and along waterways. Canoeing was the primary mode of long-distance transportation at one time throughout much of North America, the Amazon Basin, and Polynesia, among other locations. As a method of transportation, canoes have generally been replaced by motorized boats, airplanes, railroads and roads with increasing industrialisation, although they remain popular as recreational or sporting watercraft.
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