Canoe Anatomy: Can You Name Every Part On Your Canoe? | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
Packed canoes on the shoreline. Photo: Flickr user Paul Geffen

Discover the 11 need-to-know terms that will make you sound like an expert.

Whether you are completely new to canoeing or an enthusiastic novice who wants to brush up, knowing all the parts of the canoe will make you a more knowledgeable paddler. It will also help you make better decisions when purchasing a new or used canoe and provide a foundation for you to learn from. Use this guide and brush up on the specifics of each canoe part with our terminology list below. Happy canoeing!

READ MORE: 7 things to know before buying a used canoe


Graphic with parts of the canoe labelled

 A diagram showing parts of a canoe.

A diagram showing parts of the canoe.

Parts of the canoe

Deck: A triangular covering at the bow and stern of the canoe where the gunwales are attached. It may be made of metal, wood or plastic. 

Stern: The back of the canoe. When canoeing in tandem, the stern paddler will use strokes that control the direction of the canoe. 

Bow: The front of the canoe. You can tell the stern from the bow because the bow will have lots of space in front and behind of the seat, while the stern seat has almost no space behind. 

Gunwale: Gunwales run from bow to stern along the sides of the canoe and meet at the decks. They are often made of plastic or wood. 

Hull: The hull is the main structure of the canoe and encompasses the exterior of the canoe and the interior. The hull shape affects how the canoe performs on the water. 

Thwart: Thwarts are cross braces that stretch from one side of the canoe to the other. They strengthen the canoe. 

Yoke: The yoke is a thwart that stretches from one side of the canoe to the other and a has a small semi circle cut out that allows for more comfort when a canoeists carries the canoe on his or her shoulders while portaging. 

Handle: Some canoes will have handles next to the decks that allow for easier transportation and carrying of the canoe into and out of the water. 

Seat: The seat allows the paddler to sit comfortable and at a good distance from the water while paddling. Most canoes have two seats. 

Tumblehome: Tumblehome is identified by the width of the canoe being narrower across the gunwales than the waterline width. Canoes with tumblehome can be more stable to paddle.

Keel: A keel is the centerline that joins the two halves of the hull and runs bow to stern on the canoe.

Painters: Painters are ropes that are attached to the canoe that can be used for tying, tracking and lining or to aid in tricky situations like a capsize. Painter lines can be attached through rings or holes in the bow of the canoe

Rocker: Rocker is the amount of curve in the keel line of the canoe from bow to stern. If a canoe has a lot of rocker, less of the hull sits in the water and it will maneuver quickly but not track straight as well as a canoe with less rocker.

Chine: The chine is the part of the canoe where the floor becomes the wall. The shape of this transition varies, and a more angular, sharper one is referred to as a hard chine while gentle curvature is soft.

Beam: Beam refers to the width of the canoe, and the measurement is taken at the boat’s widest point. 

Inspired to explore canoes? Check out our Paddling Buyer's Guide. 

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