I'm pretty used to kayaking by now, though I would not venture so far as to say I'm any sort of expert. I can basically "do it". And, I think that is part of the popularity of paddling - unless you have shoulder problems or something along those lines, there really isn't anything keeping anyone from getting out there and trying it. The safest places are still waters, but I definitely want to try whitewater kayaking one day.
Canoeing differs from kayaking in a couple of ways. First off, a canoe has you sitting higher in the water. Most kayaks have you sitting low and quasi-submerged in the water. Canoes use a paddle with a handle on one end, whereas kayaks use a paddle that has a paddle at either end; depending on the style of paddle you have, the opposing paddles can either be at the same angle, or offset 90 degrees (which I prefer). A canoe is also a little more flat-bottomed than a kayak, and I think it's a tad more likely to capsize when rough waters hit (if you're not prepared).
Both kayaking and canoeing can be done alone, or with others in your boat (tandem). We were originally planning to rent kayaks, but the University of Washington rec center only rents canoes and rowboats. Anyway, we all piled in - Daniel and I got a boat, as did Tori and Ryan, and Dave and Chiako. (Igor was on-call for work).
Here is Daniel. I turned around to take this picture. Yes, we were all safe and in our PFD's, but I was mad because I forgot my kayaking PFD (it is rather more comfortable than the ones you get at a rental house, and it is actually designed for paddling, so it gives you more clearance in the armpit area than these rental ones).
Behind Daniel, you can see the UW Husky stadium.
Here are Dave and Chiako, moving ahead of us around some trees. The weather was quite nice - it was overcast, but neither especially cold nor hot, and not windy on the water, which was a nice treat. The white fluff on the water is from cottonwood trees (or so Daniel tells me).
This is kind of a crappy shot, but if you look really hard in almost the exact center of the picture, you can see a great blue heron (I thought it was an egret, but I now have changed my mind to heron). The concrete pillars in the background are freeway overpasses. Yes, this is somewhat-urban paddling...really, the car noise fades into the background when you're busy checking out wildlife. We also spotted a duck sitting on some chicks (?), and another heron, as well as a couple of flocks of Canada geese.
Here's a shot of the other two boats.
On our way back to Tori, Igor, and Ryan's place, we stopped off at a "public" rock wall on the UW campus. It's open, but the sign posted says you can't use it unless you're somehow affiliated with UW. Tori, Chiako, Ryan, and Daniel climbed a smaller wall - I tried and my sandals slipped, so I stopped right there (Ryan, Tori and Chiako went barefoot). Daniel then tried his hand at bouldering. (This picture looks way more impressive than the wall was. I mean, it was high - maybe 12-15 feet? - but the gravel on the ground makes it look much taller, I think...)