© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Longitudinal gaps are commonly found in aquatic canopies. While the ecological significance of gaps may be large, we know little about their impact on the hydrodynamics within the canopy. We used laboratory experiments to investigate the effect of longitudinal gaps within canopies exposed to a wave field. In rigid submerged and emergent vegetation, wave velocities were reduced compared to the case without vegetation. Flexible canopies also attenuated waves, but this attenuation was lower than for rigid canopies. The presence of the gap modified the mean current associated with the waves in both the gap and the lateral vegetation. A gap within a canopy of 5% solid plant fraction did not show differences in the wave attenuation between the gap and the lateral vegetation. In contrast, gaps within canopies of 10% solid plant fraction resulted in large differences between the gap and the lateral vegetation. In all the experiments, the effect of a gap within a canopy reduced the wave attenuation within the lateral vegetation adjacent to the gap when compared with a canopy without a gap. In canopies with rigid plants, the lateral vegetation modified the wave attenuation in the nearby gap. In contrast, the lateral flexible vegetation did not produce any effect on the wave attenuation of the adjacent gap. Canopy density, plant height and plant flexibility were critical for determining the hydrodynamics throughout the canopy and in the gap.