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Open Canoes

Canoes, Canadian canoes and Open canoes

Are descriptions for the same thing. Generally known as Canoes or Canadians are bigger open cockpit boats that usually carry two people. The Canoe as we know it has developed from a style that originated in North America, made by the Native Indians. However, boats of a very similar style can be found amongst many indigenous peoples all over the world.

The canoe is a great boat for transporting goods and equipment and is very well suited to family fun, camping and exploring. There are many different styles of open canoe including specialist designs for White water, Freestyle, Racing, Touring and of course general purpose.

Below is an over view of hull shapes and design features that should help you choose the right canoe for you. We have active Canoe paddlers working at A.S Watersports who will be able to answer almost any question you may have.

Canoe Hull Shapes

A canoe's performance is built into its design. The dimensions and shape of the hull above and below the water line, and other variables, determine how efficient, stable, roomy, maneuverable, and seaworthy that type of canoe is.

Cross Section Shape

Cross-section shape determines initial and final stability. Initial stability is how stable a canoe feels when upright in calm water. Final stability is how resistant a canoe is to capsizing even when on edge.

Canoes usually feature one of three hull cross sections: Flat bottomed, Shallow Arch, and Shallow 'V'. Note that both Shallow Arch and Vee can vary in terms of degree or angle.

open canoes canadian canoes canoes
Shallow V Flat Bottom Shallow Arch

Shallow 'V'

Shallow 'V' hulls are easy to spot as they are shaped like a shallow letter V, with a ridge down the center like a keel. They offer good stability, but ride deeper in the water and are less efficient than a shallow arch.

Pros   Cons
  • Most versatile hull cross section
  • Highest final stability
  • Superior rough water performance
  • Better tracking
  • Superior rigidity for increased hull efficiency
  • Wear concentrated at point of Vee
  • Lower initial stability
  • Slower than shallow arch in calm conditions

Good examples of shallow 'V' hulls are the Mad River Explorer range.


Flat Bottom

Flat-bottomed hulls have good initial stability, but are unpredictable on waves or if leaned beyond a critical angle.

Pros   Cons
  • High initial stability
  • Maneuverable
  • Reduced final stability
  • Low structural integrity
  • Slow
  • Unpredictable if leaned or in waves
  • Stability reduced as load increases

Good examples of flat bottomed boats are the Old Town Camper and the Mad river Legend.


Shallow Arch

Shallow arch hulls gently curve offering a good compromise between flat hulls and rounded hulls. They offer good initial and final stability, and are predictable and responsive when leaned or on waves. Shallow arch hulls are the most common shape for canoe hulls.

Pros   Cons
  • Paddling efficiency & speed in calm conditions
  • Higher final stability than flat bottom
  • Maneuverable when combined with moderate to extreme rocker
  • Performance degrades in rough waters
  • Lower final stability than shallow vee

Good examples of shallow arch hulls are the Venture Prospector and Old Town Charles River.


Longer canoes track straighter, travel faster, and glide farther. They also hold more and perform better when loaded. Shorter canoes turn easily and are great for paddling on smaller rivers. For solo and occasional double paddling canoes around 14-15 feet are ideal. For double paddling and family paddling boats 15-17 feet in length offer more room for occupants and luggage.

A wider hull has a high initial stability, but the extra width requires more effort to paddle through the water. A narrower hull requires less effort to paddle through the water, but has less stability, great if you want to go fast, but not carry too much of a load! Most canoes have hull widths between 85-95cm, which offer good stability, without too much resistance.

Open Canoes


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