Beginning paddler, what is the right canoe for me?

Which canoe design is right for me

From the Wenonah Canoe website;

1. How to Choose the Best Canoe For You

We offer more than 30 canoe models, most of which can be fabricated in several different materials. How do you choose the right canoe for you? Follow these simple steps to help narrow down the decision and ensure you’ll find your perfect canoe.

First, try to narrow your search down to one or two categories of boats. To do this, consider your priorities. How and where do you plan on using this canoe? What type of water are you going to paddle? How much gear are you likely to take along? How skilled are the paddlers?

Find a category that best matches your basic needs:

General Touring – Designed to do many things well, they are very versatile. They’re stable, maneuverable, efficient and will haul a fair amount of gear. Great family canoes.

Performance Touring – Light and fast. They track and glide well, and respond best in the hands of experienced paddlers. These designs are true performance boats.

Sports & Leisure – Popular with beginners, kids, and people who fish, hunt, or take photos. S & L canoes are extremely stable and easy to handle.

Down River – Perfect for paddling in streams, rivers, and smaller rapids. These fun paddling canoes turn on a dime and slide through eddies.

Whitewater – Built for paddling the fast water and raging currents of whitewater rivers. Their hulls are contoured for maneuverability and stability in steep leans.

Expedition – For distance paddling, adventure trips, and big water, they’re designed to perform most efficiently when fully loaded with a lot of gear.

2. Aspects of Performance

Once you’ve decided on a category that fits your needs (or more importantly, eliminated the categories that don’t) then you select the performance aspects most important to you.

The main aspects of performance are:

Efficiency – How far the canoe goes with each stroke. A long glide following the stroke means the canoe is very efficient.

Maneuverability – How easily the boat will turn. A lot of boats are specifically designed to “Track Straight”. We always say it’s much easier to turn a boat than keep one going straight.

Capacity – How much gear and weight the canoe can hold.

Initial Stability – How “tippy” a boat feels when you’re getting in and out of it or when it’s resting on calm water.

Final Stability – How resistant a canoe is to tipping even when leaned or in high winds and waves.

Seaworthiness – How dry, capable, and predictable the canoe is in large waves or rough waters.

3. Basic Canoe Design

Read and understand the basics of Canoe Design. Learn why the different dimensions and hull shapes, both above and below the water line, determine to what degree a canoe will excel at which aspects of performance.

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 canoe is. Of the close to 30 models of canoes in this catalog, no two perform the same. A sports canoe that’s stable and easy to paddle will have a different length, width, rocker and streamlining than a performance canoe designed to go fast and glide far. Even within the same category of canoes, subtle differences in design will change their performance.

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.

  • Flat Bottom – Typical for bargain canoes. Flat-bottomed hulls have initial stability, but are unpredictable on waves or if leaned beyond a critical angle.
  • Shallow Arch – Characteristic of well-designed hulls. Good initial and final stability. Predictable and responsive when leaned or on waves.
  • Shallow “V” – Shaped with a ridge in the center, like a keel. Stable but rides deeper and is less efficient than a shallow arch. May snag on rocks.
  • Round Bottom – Extremely rare, used only on canoes for calm-water racing. Very fast, but has no initial stability at all and is tricky to balance.


  • Length – 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 tight streams. Even a 6-inch difference in length can make a dramatic difference in canoe performance.
  • Depth – Adding depth to the center of the hull creates more freeboard, which adds capacity and seaworthiness. Adding depth to the bow or stern helps to fend off waves or spray.
  • Width – A wider hull has a higher initial stability, but requires more effort to paddle. A narrow hull requires less effort to paddle, but has less initial stability. Width also increases capacity, although not as much as length.
  • Flare – A flared hull widens out near the gunwales. It deflects waves and resists capsize.
  • Tumblehome – Tumblehome is how the hull curves in toward the gunwales and lets the paddler paddle close to the hull. Both flare and tumblehome may be built into different parts of the same hull. Composites are the only practical material for this purpose, and even then the hull needs stout, wooden gunwales to help hold the complex shapes that combine tumblehome and flare (see the Itasca for an example).
  • Rocker – Rocker describes the way some hulls curve up at the ends, like a rocking chair. Rocker plays part in a canoe’s maneuverability. Longer canoes with some rocker will maneuver like much shorter canoes. Canoes with a lot of rocker turn more easily, which is why whitewater and down river canoes have steeply rockered ends. Canoes with very little rocker will track straighter.
  • Streamlining and Fullness – Different canoes with the same load can require more or less effort to paddle, depending on streamlining and fullness. How fast or how gradual the hull widens influences speed, capacity, and stability. A hull that widens gradually and smoothly is more efficient.
  • Entry Line – The entry line is the sharpness of the bow. Blunt entry lines resist impacts better, which is why whitewater canoes generally have blunt entry lines. Sharper entry lines improve the hull’s efficiency and tracking.

Canoe Weights

Because every canoe we make is handcrafted, weights may vary slightly from the stated figure with standard equipment. Most options add weight including wood trim, sliding seats and foot braces, and optional gel-coat finish. Actual boat weights may vary +/- 5% off the stated figure.

Maximum Capacities

Many canoe makers publish specific weight capacities for their hulls.

These are highly misleading for many reasons:

  • Even if you know how much weight you’ve put into the canoe, water in the bilge rapidly increases the load by an unknown amount.
  • If loaded anywhere near its claimed limit, a canoe may not be overloaded officially, but it will handle very poorly.
  • Waves or strong current call for an increased safety margin, hence less load.
  • Paddlers’ skills play a major role in what weight a canoe can transport safely.

We don’t print specific figures. Rather we say our hulls have reserve capacity for their intended use.

A Heron or Fisherman is for shorter day-trips. A Rogue, Adirondack, Aurora, Kingfisher, or Escapade will take two typical adults with moderate gear. A Spirit, Escape, Boundary Waters or Cascade is ment for two adults with lots of gear. The Minnesota II, and Champlain have a bit more capacity, while the Minnesota 3, and Itasca will carry three to four adults and lots of gear in most situations.

If you’re worried about the capacity of any model (made by us or by anyone), a published figure is not a reliable guide. Load the hull with the intended weight and test it. If the canoe is overloaded, a test will reveal it better than any published figure could.


There’s flotation in each of our pleasure hulls to keep it afloat if filled with water. Royalex® canoes have foam cores giving flotation. Most composite hulls have sealed-air tanks. Tuf-weave® tandems with a Flex-core have polyurethane-filled end tanks.

However, even though our hulls float filled with water, we strongly advise supplemental air flotation bags for Class II rapids or above. If swamped in rapids, a hull must not just float, but float high to avoid hidden rocks.



(links and or links to videos on all sub-categories )

Well known canoe brands