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Canoeing is the activity of paddling a canoe for the purpose of recreation (also called a float trip), sport, or transportation. It usually refers exclusively to using a paddle to propel a canoe with only human muscle power. A kayak is propelled using a paddle with two blades where paddlers sit with their legs mostly extended in front of them, whereas canoes are propelled using single- or double-bladed paddles where the paddler - a "canoeist" or "canoer"- is kneeling or sitting on seat or thwart, with their knees bent and their legs more or less beneath them. Kayaks are usually closed-decked boats with a spraydeck, while canoes are usually open boats. There are also open kayaks and closed canoes. Technically, a kayak can be seen as a special kind of canoe. When exactly a canoe can be called a kayak is difficult to determine though, and often arbitrary. Internationally, the term canoeing is used as a generic term for both forms though the terms "paddle sports" or "canoe/kayak" are also used. In North America, however, 'canoeing' usually refers only to canoes, as opposed to both canoes and kayaks. Paddling a kayak is also referred to as kayaking.
Open canoes may be 'poled' (punted), sailed, 'lined and tracked' (using ropes) or even 'gunnel-bobbed'.
In modern canoe sport, both canoes and kayaks may be closed-decked. Other than by the minimum competition specifications (typically length and width (beam) and seating arrangement it is difficult to differentiate most competition canoes from the equivalent competition kayaks. The most common difference is that competition kayaks are always seated and paddled with a double-bladed paddle, and competition canoes are generally kneeled and paddled with a single-bladed paddle. Exceptions include Canoe Marathon (in both European and American competitive forms) and sprint (high kneeling position). The most traditional and early canoes did not have seats, the paddlers merely kneeled on the bottom of the boat. Recreational canoes and kayaks employ seats and whitewater rodeo and surf variants increasingly employ the use of 'saddles' to give greater boat control under extreme conditions.