A canoe is a lightweight narrow vessel, typically pointed at both ends and open on top, propelled by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers facing the direction of travel using a single-bladed paddle.
Canoes were developed by cultures all over the world, including some designed for use with sails or outriggers. Until the mid-1800s the canoe was an important means of transport for exploration and trade, and in some places it still is used as such, perhaps with the addition of an outboard motor. Where the canoe played a key role in history, such as the northern United States, Canada, and New Zealand, it remains an important theme in popular culture.
Australian Aboriginal people made canoes using a variety of materials, including bark and hollowed out tree trunks. The indigenous people of the Amazon commonly used Hymenaea trees. The Pacific Northwest canoes are a dugouts usually made of red cedar.
Although canoes were once primarily a means of transport, with industrialization they became popular as recreational or sporting watercraft. John MacGregor popularized canoeing through his books, and in 1866 founded the Royal Canoe Club in London and in 1880 the American Canoe Association. The Canadian Canoe Association was founded in 1900, and the British Canoe Union in 1936.
Fiber reinforced composites: Fiberglass is the most common material used in manufacturing canoes. Fiberglass is not expensive, can be molded to any shape, and is easy to repair. Kevlar is popular with paddlers looking for a light, durable boat that will not be taken in whitewater. Fiberglass and Kevlar are strong but lack rigidity. Carbonfiber is used in racing canoes to create a very light, ridged construction usually combined with Kevlar for durability. Boats are built by draping the cloth in a mold, then impregnating it with a liquid resin. A vacuum process then removes excess resin to reduce weight. A gel coat on the outside gives a smoother appearance.
Bark: the indigenous peoples of eastern Canada and the northeast United States made canoes using the bark of the paper birch, which was harvested in early spring by stripping off the bark in one piece, using wooden wedges. Next, the two ends (stem and stern) were sewn together and made watertight with the pitch of balsam fir. The ribs of the canoe, called verons in Canadian French, were made of white cedar, and the hull, ribs, and thwarts were fastened using watap, a binding usually made from the roots of various species of conifers, such as the white spruce, black spruce, or cedar, and caulked with pitch.
Modern canoe types are usually categorized by the intended use. Many modern canoe designs are hybrids (a combination of two or more designs, meant for multiple uses). The purpose of the canoe will also often determine the materials used. Most canoes are designed for either one person (solo) or two people (tandem), but some are designed for more than two people.
Marathons are long-distance races which may include portages. Under ICF rules minimum canoe weight is 10 and 14 kg (22 and 31 lb) for C1 and C2 respectively. Other rules can vary by race, for example in the Classique Internationale de Canots de la Mauricie athletes race in C2s, with a maximum length of 5.6 m (18 ft 6 in), minimum width of 69 cm (27 in) at 8 cm (3 in) from the bottom of the centre of the craft, minimum height of 38 cm (15 in) at the bow and 25 cm (10 in) at the centre and stern. The Texas Water Safari, at 422 km (262 mi), includes an open class, the only rule being the vessel must be human-powered, and although novel setups have been tried, the fastest so far has been the six-man canoe.
A canoe specialized for whitewater play and tricks. Most are identical to short, flat-bottomed kayak playboats except for internal outfitting. The paddler kneels and uses a single-blade canoe paddle. Playboating is a discipline of whitewater canoeing where the paddler performs various technical moves in one place (a playspot), as opposed to downriver where the objective is to travel the length of a section of river (although whitewater canoeists will often stop and play en route). Specialized canoes known as playboats can be used.