Gear Talk, The Lowdown

Canoe or Kayak? Both! The Canak by Wenonah

April 19, 2011

The popularity of the kayak is growing by leaps and bounds. The canoe is the preferred method of travel in the Boundary Waters and the Quetico. There must be a hybrid that tours like a kayak and hauls gear like a canoe. I promised you a curveball and here it is: the Canak by Wenonah.

The following is a review I wrote last August just after paddling the Canak prototype for the first time.

The first thing I noticed about the Wenonah prototype kayak/canoe blend was the stability. I climbed into the cockpit from a dock and the boat hardly waivered. Being built on the Prism this should have been no surprise. As I paddled out with a kayak paddle the boat gained speed easily, with no loss of stability.

At one point I did attempt to roll the boat up onto the shoulders, and while stability felt good, it is really a maneuver to be done while kneeling. And this is not a kneeling cockpit because it is made up of a tractor seat and rail.

The wind was blowing stiff the day I tested the boat, therefore I headed out into the whitecaps to check performance. The boat tracked well on flat water and did very well in the waves. Going straight upwind, quartering upwind, and even letting the waves take the boat broadside didn’t affect the ability to hold the line or the stability.

Some water did come over the bow and I made the mistake of taking the cockpit covers off before venturing out. Should have left that cover on to protect from splash. On trail in such a case the covers should be left on both the bow and the stern.

Additionally, I paddled with both the kayak paddle and the canoe paddle, but I have to prefer the kayak paddle. Using a Bending Branches adjustable I stretched it out to the maximum and was able to reach out for a nice stroke. The decks on this boat created a situation where I felt I was reaching out too much with the canoe paddle.

The seat felt tall, I would like to paddle another prototype in which the seat might be lowered to the hull, but still keeping the sliding rail and seat. I moved the seat on the rail and could feel the boat change favorably with the weight adjustment. After having spoke with the designer I now know keeping the seat high was a purposeful design trait.

Additions to the cockpit might include a foot bar or foot pegs to brace against. I was pulling hard upwind and would have liked to have an anchor for my feet.

There’s the Canak, a great blend, and the best of both paddling worlds.

By: Brad Putney. “Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney can be found at the Duluth Pack Store, helpfully dispensing free advice. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at:


  • mark mahoney October 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I recently purchaced a canak this summer from piragis in ely. I like what you said about the seat being a little high. I too would feal safer a little lower. However like you said it is a design trait and to lower it i think would not be able to get a good enough reach when paddling. I took mine out into a bad storm in the bwca toward the end of summer. I watched as people were literally paddling but moving backwards. Being maybe a little crazy i was turned parralel to the waves a few times. To correct myself i had to take my kayak paddle (10 feet long) and use it like a reglar canoe paddle just to turn. If i were any lower in the canoe i dont think i would be able to get that kind of reach. I’m recomending when purchacing one you get the biggest kayak paddle yiu can find

    • BradP October 17, 2011 at 9:21 am

      Mark, you are absolutely right. About a month after paddling the Canak I spoke to the designer for Wenonah and for the reasons you mention, they left the seat a little bit higher than what you would find in a kayak. The long paddle is a good tip for Canak paddlers, it can really give you the power to dig in and generate some power. As I mentioned, my test paddle was done in white caps and I really liked the stability of the Canak. Thanks for checking in and giving us your report. • Brad

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