Canoeing is one those activities that is simultaneously enjoyable, a way to stay fit, and a method for travelling. The first canoes were called dugouts and that is exactly how they were made, they were dug out from a hollow or fallen tree. Many cultures around the world have fashioned dugouts and used them for travel and fishing. The oldest canoe is almost 10,000 years old and was found in the Netherlands. It is theorized that an advanced ancient culture sailed these canoes from Scandinavia around Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, possibly further, and jump started many civilizations with their advanced tools, knowledge and understanding of the stars which is essential for sea navigation.
Canoeing really gained popularity during the discovery and survey of America. A wood canoe could easily traverse rough waters, wide lakes, and even the open sea. They were also light enough to be carried for long distances when water was impassable or non-existent. They were widely used by fur traders who developed a big canoe to carry plenty of pelts and supplies as well as people. Lewis and Clarks famous exploration was travelled largely by canoe.
The canoe parts consist of bow, stern, hull, keel, thwart, gunwale, yoke, a spray deck on a kayak canoe, and a skid plate. Even an inflatable canoe has these vital parts. The shape of a canoe is symmetrical from side to side which makes it handle similarly on both sides, but generally a little bit wider in the aft section of the boat which promotes stability. Different designs can give the boat more tracking ability with a larger keel but they lose maneuverability so are not well suited for river travel. They have tall rounded ends which help to shed water and cut through rough waves, but can also catch the wind and alter the boats direction.
An outrigger canoe has an extra piece of wood attached to the side of the boat for extra stability and good tracking ability. These are often used in coastal areas because they can easily be paddled in the ocean and even ride waves in. They can often include two paddlers as well. A canoe paddle has one blade and the paddling is done in a forward to back motions, opposite of rowing where the rower sits with their back to the direction they are travelling. They do not have as much power, but they are much more maneuverable. The paddler either kneels or sits on a canoe seat while paddling.
The most popular canoes today are aluminum canoes because of their cheap cost and extreme durability. They have buoyant materials, usually Styrofoam, inserted into the front and back of the boat for floatation in case the boat gets capsized. Cedar canoes are also very popular. They are made by fine artisans that craft their boats with the same techniques used during the turn of the century. They are collected and many are considered to be works of art more than modes of transportation. Birch is another very popular traditional building material.
These boats can easily be transported by hand, either carried or dragged on their skid plate, or they can be attached to a canoe trailer and hitched to the back of a vehicle for further distances. Common canoe accessories include dry bags to keep food and other provisions dry even if the boat capsizes, extra paddles, and quite often a good fishing pole. Some people view canoes as essential camping gear, that they would not go without, much like personalized mountain bike parts or go karts for the dunes.