First off in Canoeing, safety first! all participants should be good swimmers, secondly everyone wears a life vest. for beginners I suggest practicing close to shore on a calm lake, for those of you looking to rthe river find a slow moving shallow river to practice in. I always plan a trip to the least experienced person and take learning strokes and craft control slowly. I guess I treat canoeing like flying, everything builds on previous lessons.
Have fun, and enjoy trips down some of our inland waterways, it's a great rush to paddle down a river and camp on the side of the river. You see alot of majestic sights.
First off. Canoeing is an open boat design. Kayak is closed except for the opening you set in. I kayak, because I kayak in the Sound (Coastal waters). I need a closed boat because of the wave. Kayaking here is fun due to the prestine nature, serenity and the beatifull wildlife. How fun is it to see the shore, a seal that checks you out or visit one of the islands in the Sound.
I agree that canoeing is great upper torso exercise. However, IF the last time you were canoeing was 20-30+ years ago, and you are now 50-100 Lbs or more over-weight; it is not very advisable to go out alone! If you capsize and loose the canoe mid-stream, you gotta be in good enough shape to swim back to shore! On the bright side of canoeing, I have found more peace and solitude, slipping along in a canoe quietly, then letting it drift mid-lake or stream in a quiet calm water and just enjoying scenery and nature! I really like Joe's suggestion, so that no matter how far in you paddle and glide, you always have a nice cold brew to sip on, 'round the campfire at night! :)