Canoe Parts

Dive into the world of canoeing and discover the parts that make up an Esquif canoe.

written by Phoebe Jade (she/her)

Phoebe grew up paddling canoes on local lakes and waterways with her family throughout the Ottawa Valley (Ontario, Canada) and rural Quebec. She currently lives and works in Ottawa on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. A few years ago, her partner Evan introduced her to the exciting world of whitewater canoeing and river tripping - ever since then, she's been growing her love and knowledge of this space and finding her flow in the water and on the portage trails. She shares her journey and writes on all things canoe-related here on

I believe it was Aristotle who once said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. When it comes to paddling down the perfect set of rapids - that much is certainly true. However, I’ve found that knowing the parts of your canoe can come in handy for things like performance and repairs on trips. Plus, it might help you to choose the right boat for you. 

In this article, I’ll break down the most common canoe parts and include some tips, tricks and resources. Don't worry, there won't be a pop quiz at the end 😉 And you can save this page to refer back to at a later date! 

Canoe Parts

canoe parts



The hull is the main body of the canoe, responsible for buoyancy, stability, and overall performance. For example, a prospecteur canoe’s hull's shape has a shallow arch and flared sides and is designed to improve manoeuvrability and prevent the canoe from taking on water when running rapids.

The Majority of Esquif canoes are constructed with T-Formex, a highly durable and abrasion-resistant material ideal for whitewater conditions. Plus, it comes in lots of different colours! Mango camo is my recent favourite colour.


Bow and Stern:

The bow and stern are the front and rear ends of the canoe. You can remember this by thinking of someone taking a “bow” forward in the front. 🙇

Different canoe models have varying levels of “rocker”, meaning how much they curve upward from the canoe's centerline (the keel). The more rocker you have (a.k.a how much upward curve) the quicker you can turn. So for example, a sporty solo boat such as an Esquif L’Edge Super Lite has a lot of rocker and can turn on a dime, whereas an Esquif Prospecteur canoe has a more moderate rocker and therefore is still manoeuvrable but may be more stable. 

Tip: To protect your bow and stern from wear and tear you can install skid plates made out of a highly abrasion-resistant material called Kevlar. You can install this on a new boat, or after there is already lots of wear to bring your boat back to life. At we recommend you take the first layer off yourself. See the video here of our friends in the shop outfitting a boat!



The gunwales (pronounced "gunnels") are the top edges of the canoe's sides, providing structural support and a place to attach various components or outfitting. You may have seen someone do a “gunnel grab” before when trying to prevent going overboard into a rapid. 

Esquif canoes come with either plastic or wooden gunwales, depending on your preference. Both materials offer excellent strength however wooden gunwales provide a more traditional aesthetic, whereas plastic gunwales require less maintenance and are more durable. 

Tip: If you opt for wooden gunnels make sure to take good care of them by seasonally cleaning, sanding and oiling them. 


Thwarts and Yoke:

Thwarts are horizontal crossbars that connect the canoe's sides, adding structural support and rigidity. The center thwart, known as the yoke, is curved and ergonomically designed to fit comfortably on your shoulders, making it easier to portage (carry) the canoe. 

Tip: To remember it, you can think of the yoke like an egg yolk in the middle of an egg (the egg, in this case, being the canoe). 🍳


Tandem canoes feature two seats, one for the bow paddler (front) and one for the stern paddler (back). Where’s as solo canoes have… you guessed it, one seat, that is in the centre back of the boat. 

Made from either wood or moulded plastic, these seats are designed to provide comfort and support during long paddling sessions. In solo whitewater boats, seats are usually made out of a foam structure that you sit in and in this case, it would be referred to as a “saddle” inside the cockpit (the area where the seat is situated). 

Tip: To paddle a tandem canoe by yourself (solo) you can sit in the front seat and face backwards. In doing this, you help to even out the weight distribution in the canoe (the trim) and this can improve your canoe's tracking and stability. 

Tip: Just in case, keep some parachord and extra seat hardware such as bolts and screws with you while out on canoe trips for on-the-river repairs. 

Deck Plates:

Located at the bow and stern, deck plates provide additional structural support and protect the canoe's ends from impacts. They also serve as attachment points for painter lines, which are ropes used to secure the canoe to a dock or line them up rapids. 


Grab Handles:

Esquif Prospector canoes are equipped with grab handles at the bow(front) and stern (back), making it easy to lift and carry the canoe. These handles also provide a secure point to hold onto while lining up through rapids or other challenging conditions.


Whitewater Outfitting: Float Bags,  Thigh Straps, and Knee Pads. 

If you are looking to take on some whitewater with your canoe then you will want to get it outfitted for those conditions. Here’s a list:

Float bags are inflatable bags that are secured into the bow, stern, and/or center area of your canoe. They are held in place by laces threaded through clips located in the gunnels and are only inflated before getting onto the water for the day. 

Thigh Straps can be thought of like a saddle for a horse. They help paddlers stay in place and use their legs to lean and improve the manoeuvrability and control of the canoe in whitewater. 

Knee pads made out of foam are often installed at the same time as thigh straps for optimum comfort. 

Tip: Tandem Esuif Prospecteur 16 canoes can be outfitted with up to three sets of thigh straps and knee pads: One set in the front (bow) one in the back (stern) and another one on the opposite side of the bow for solo paddling as mentioned above. 

Check out this video of Esquif Ambassador Marty Morisette outfitting his Vertige X for solo whitewater!

In Summary 

Understanding the different parts of your canoe can improve your paddling experience by knowing how to properly maintain your boat, optimize its performance, and even help you choose the right model for your outdoor lifestyle. 

Tip: If you’re looking for any canoe parts or a whole boat check out’s ever-growing selection. We often get custom colours in at limited qualities so it’s always worth checking the shop! 

Hope you found this article helpful and informative. Happy paddling out there! 🛶


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