Recreational Canoes are often designed for initial stability but there are enough variations in designs to cater to a wide range of interests. These boats tend not to be great in any category but this doesn't mean you can't pursue the same activities as the specialists. Some can handle whitewater, some are good river tripping boats or lake country camping boats for example. They are general purpose boats and you may find that if you own one canoe, a recreation canoe is your best boat.
Touring Canoes are designed to smoothly cut through the water and get you from point A to Point B feeling little resistance. These boats tend to be relatively low volume and less maneuverable than many other canoes. The trade off is toward ease of forward movement. You can find tandem, solo, and even solo/tandem options that invite a tour or extended paddle. These boats are equivalent to a road bike -they invite you to cover distance.
Sport Canoes are for the hunting and fishing enthusiast. They tend to be wider than many other canoes, often are fairly heavy, and relatively flat bottomed. They are working platforms but with that canoe quality of manageable size and the option of sitting high or even standing. Some are square sterned to accept a motor. Many are painted or cast in colors that make it easier to hide from watchful eyes.
Whitewater Canoes are short, deep and highly rockered to promote easy turning. They are a lot of fun in moving water and will help you build great paddling skills. Solo boats give you the freedom to go anywhere you want, but tandem whitewater canoes can't be beat for the fun (and challenge) of teamwork. these boats are about finesse and precise control in a very chaotic environment. From easy class one or two rapids, to very difficult class four and five, you can run most of it in an open canoe. It takes a lot of forethought and practice, but running whitewater in an open canoe can be the most rewarding thing you've ever done.
Wilderness Tripping Canoes tend to be high volume boats, stable with or without a load, and deep for keeping waves out of the canoe as well as to maintain adequate freeboard with a load. Some are designed for whitewater and some for lake country travel so they range in size, length, and shape. Generally, a tandem is 16 feet or longer (sixteen feet is one rod, a measurement unit of boat lengths to a portage). Lake country boats can be quite long, even over 18 feet. The weight of this sort of canoe will vary depending upon construction and size. Solo tripping canoes are shorter than the tandems but 17 and 18 feet is possible if you are really looking to cover a lot of flat water miles.
Racing Canoes are light, stiff and often challenging to turn. These are for advanced paddlers who want to train and race and put in time on the water honing their competitive edge. There are solos for a range of paddler sizes, tandems for paddlers of similar size, and tandems for paddlers of different sizes. These boats come in a wide range of models and designs and they change often as designs are tweaked and materials change. Carl loves racing, has years of experience, and loves to talk racing so if this is a curiosity or a serious interest you can likely learn something here. Carl himself loves to learn and pass knowledge from paddler to paddler so come teach if you like. He'll listen and share stories of his own.
Freestyle Canoes are a significant division of canoes if only because of the stellar designs that have been created over time. These aren't often appreciated by entry level paddlers because there is a fairly steep learning curve in gaining control over them. Most of these canoes are solos but there are also some remarkable tandems. This has been a difficult canoe to sell to a mass market because of the paddling skill required but many of them are now known to be stellar tripping boats or as just plain fun and incredibly versatile. Some of the best boat control paddlers of this generation have been involved in creating companies and or designs that have contributed to this group of canoes. Carl has worked with and sold many of these canoes over the years and is always on the lookout for used "classics".