Discover canoeing and kayaking

Canoes and kayaks are boats that let you navigate the water; they are propelled using a paddle. Hop on board, you will be quickly won over by this sport

As you can see, canoeing/kayaking offers a multitude of possibilities, discoveries, experiences and a feeling of wellbeing. Welcome, hop on board, you will be quickly won over by this water sport that is accessible to all! 




What is canoeing/kayaking?

Canoeing and kayaking are leisure or competitive water-based activities that are practised in single-seater boats or as a team (up to four seats).~~The two practices are different. Firstly, there is the canoe, of Native American origin, a boat that is propelled and steered by a single paddle with the paddler kneeling or sat on a raised seat. And on the other hand, the kayak, invented by Eskimos, which is propelled and steered by a double paddle, with the paddler sat inside the boat.

Canoeing and kayaking are practised in calm water (reservoir, lakes, canals, tributaries), in white water (rivers, rapids) and in marine environments (seas, estuaries, oceans, etc.).

There are many disciplines: gentle, touring, kayak polo (like basketball in a kayak), sprint (speed), river descent, slalom, marathon, kayak surfing, freestyle, extreme (Class V fast-flowing rapids and rivers).~ 



The basics of canoeing/kayaking

Canoeing and kayaking are water sports. Just like for sailing, you need to be able to swim and wear a buoyancy aid that provides good buoyancy in case you fall into the water (when learning on flat water, it is very rare to fall in, but being able to float thanks to the BA means you can take the time to retrieve the boat and get back on board more easily).

When starting out, it is best to paddle a stable, flat-bottomed boat on a calm body of water. For easy transportation, you can choose an inflatable kayak. For your safety, all inflatable kayaks comply with the ISO 6185-1 standard, which guarantees that they will continue to float so that you can get back to shore if one of the three chambers is punctured.

When learning, go for a kayak rather than a canoe. Kayaking is, in fact, more suitable. The double-bladed paddle will make it easier to steer and to push against the water.  It will enable you to learn the strokes (circle, draw, etc.) on the right and on the left. The sitting position on a seat will be more comfortable. The kayak is the boat of choice used by all paddling schools. ~Then, when the time comes to specialise, canoeing can be considered the more technical discipline. The raised position of the paddler on the water increases instability; the steering of the boat is also more difficult because of the use of a single paddle, on only one side.

From the first few paddle strokes, you will be able to move around on the water. The principle consists of propelling yourself with your paddle, using the resistance of the water, aiming for the place you want to reach with the front of your boat. You will progress quickly and learn how to steer the boat with several consecutive paddle strokes on the same side to correct your course depending on which way you want to go. Over time, you will then steer your boat by gently adjusting the power and movements of your strokes in the water, and finally, with much more experience, simply by edging.

Your playing field on the water is endless and you will always find a location to suit your level and your thirst for discovery and new experiences.~ 


What are the benefits of canoeing/kayaking?

Practised recreationally or as a sport, usually out in the open, it presents many benefits: fresh air, sunshine, peace and quiet... and a full-body workout. ~You will consolidate your physical abilities; strengthen your muscles; develop your coordination, balance, lung capacity and heart health. You will improve your memory and your sense of listening and observation. 

The most used muscles are those of the arms (biceps, triceps), back (lats) and stomach (abdominals) as they play a key role in pulling the paddle. Leg muscles are also called into play for stability.


Is canoeing/kayaking for you?

The first advantage of this discipline is that it is accessible to all, as long as you can swim. Anyone can do it and progress at their own pace. For example, you can start with short trips and, according to how you feel, go further and further, and faster and faster, by improving your paddling technique and physical fitness.

Your playing field on the water is incredibly varied and offers many possibilities; you will always be able to find a canoe or kayak and a location to suit your level and your thirst for discovery and new experiences. 

Adults and children can canoe and kayak so long as they follow the minimum safety rules: being able to swim and wearing a buoyancy aid (or life jacket if under 30 kg). You can easily discover the pleasures of canoeing and kayaking with the family.

Whatever the duration of your trip on the water, always wear a buoyancy aid (some feature a water bladder to help you easily stay hydrated), a waterproof pouch for your phone if necessary, and remember to always check the weather forecast before you get in the water. Headwinds, tide and current can seriously disrupt your trip.


The equipment you need for canoeing/kayaking

For easier transportation and storage, we recommend using an inflatable kayak and a detachable paddle (that can be attached to the inflatable kayak's bag). Add a buoyancy aid for safety and a dry bag to take your belongings out on the water... and you're all kitted out and ready to go.


There are several sizes of inflatable kayaks out there for one, two or three people. You can also use a two- or three-person kayak on your own thanks to a system of removable seats. These kayaks are easy to inflate in minutes with a low-pressure pump (two side chambers and a floor chamber, which must be inflated first). The chambers are very easy to change using the zips that run the length of their fabric covers.


It is important to choose the size of your paddle according to your build but also the width of the kayak to be able to plant the blade in the water. Fixed-size models are simple but not suitable for everyone. Adjustable paddles can be used by several family members. If you want to be able to store the paddle in the inflatable kayak's bag, choose a four-part split model.


To inflate your kayak in a few minutes, you can choose a single or double action (inflates on both the up and down strokes) manual low-pressure pump. If you are finding the inflation stage too difficult, opt for an electric pump that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter. The kayak's three chambers will be effortlessly inflated to the right pressure, easy peasy!

You now know all the good reasons to get in a canoe or kayak and have a go at this accessible, fun and sociable discipline. So, see you out on the water soon?




Decathlon team writer (development leader decathlon france)

I discovered canoeing kayaking at the age of 10 during a summer holiday camp introducing water sports activities at Besançon. 

I was instantly taken in by kayaking because it put me into contact with nature in special way, discovering new landscapes, freedom to move around…I then discovered the joys of competing. I specialised in canoe sprint, winning a French junior champions title.

I work today for property development at Decathlon. I still do kayaking recreationally and love to share my enthusiasm for it with my kids, and more generally with all those who want to discover it. 


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