The History of Kayaking

The Kayak is a narrow and diminutive boat which is propelled with the aid of a double-bladed paddle. It is from the Greenlandic Inuktitut language that the word kayak has its origins. The word Kayaks refers to “hunter’s boat.” They were appropriate for hunting due to their stealth in water. Inuit’s utilized them to ambush unsuspecting animals in the waters. However the word canoe is often utilized when referring to the word Kayak in the United Kingdom.

A traditional Kayak is has a concealed deck with one or more cockpits. Each cock pit seats one paddler. The cockpit is occasionally concealed by “spray deck” preventing water from waves from entering and enabling suitable skilled kayakers to roll the Kayak. A Kayak roll , (also referred to as an Eskimo Roll) is a maneuver of righting a capsized Kayak using body motion or a paddle. It’s performed by having the torso lifted towards the surface whilst flickering the hips to right the Kayak and applying some force using the paddles to enable the torso again over the boat.

There were also larger Kayaks called “umiaqs,’ in addition to the single person versions which are similar to the modern kayaks. These larger kayaks were developed to carry entire families plus their possessions. Some of these larger kayaks were as long as 18.3 meters.

The Kayak was originally utilized by the indigenous Inuit, Aleut and Yupik hunters from subarctic regions of the earth. These people utilized these boats to hunt on rivers, inland lakes and coastal waters of the North Atlantic, Bering Sea, Arctic Ocean and North Pacific oceans. The first Kayaks were designed using stitched sealskin or skins from other animals stretched over a whalebone-skeleton frame or wood.

Western Alaskan Natives utilized wood, whereas the eastern Inuit designed theirs using whalebone due to their treeless landscape. Members of the tribes, utilized whale fat to have their vessels water proofed. To enhance buoyancy they would fill up the seal bladders with air and have them tucked into the front and rear sections of the Kayak.

It is believed that Kayaks were first used 4000 years ago. Kayaks from the Bering Strait area were predominantly short wand wide, allowing a large storage capacity. These kayaks were extremely stable and easy to use. However, The Kayaks designed by the Aleuts, were fast, long and seaworthy.

It should be noted that over the years, the material used to make kayaks have significantly changed. The kayak later got into Europe in early to mid-1800s as a boat with as soft sided frame. Frenchmen and German men soon began kayaking as a sport. Kayaks also still maintained their practical purpose in icy waters. Explorers to South Pole and North Pole used them in their expeditions. In the 1936 Olympics Kayak races were included in the Berlin games. The United States then commenced the sport at this point, so did women two years after these Olympic Games.

As much as early Kayaks were originally made using wooded frames covered in skin, with the adoption of ships by European settlers, they have been since covered in fabric, fiberglass and most recently with plastic. Kayaks are presently; much more light, sturdier and extremely versatile. The kayaks which are oldest in existence are currently displayed in the North America department;-State Museum of Ethnology in Munich.

Native people developed numerous kinds of boats, for various purposes based on their individual experiences and that of generations before them. The skills were passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition. The native crafts were personal crafts, built by the man who utilized it. Sometimes with the help from his wife who sewed the skins. Together they would closely fit his size to enable maximum maneuverability. A unique skin jacked called a “Tuilik,” was further laced to the kayak, providing a waterproof seal. This easily enabled the “Eskimo roll” to become the more fancied method of getting back posture upon capsizing. Very few Eskimos could swim; as their waters are so cold a swimmer wouldn’t survive for long.

Most traditional Kayaker's today use a spray deck, which is made of water proof synthetic material that is sufficiently stretchable to fit around the cockpit rim and the kayaker’s body. It can also be rapidly released from the cockpit permitting an easy exit. Eskimo kayak builders had very specific boat measurements. The length of the Kayak was typically three times the span of the builder’s outstretched arms. The cockpits width was normally the width of the hips of the builder plus two fists or less sometimes. The usual depth was his fist plus the outstretched thumb i.e. hitch hiker.Therefore typical dimensions of the kayak were 17 feet long by 20-22 inches wide by 7 inches deep. These measurements puzzled early European explored who endeavored duplicating the kayak, since each kayak was uniquely different.

Traditional Kayaks consist of three types:

  1. 1. Baidarkas:- These are from the Aleutian islands and Bering Sea. These kayaks are the oldest design and are rounded having numerous "chines" which give them a seemingly blimp-like appearance. A chine in reference to boating refers to sharp change in the angle in the cross section of a hull ( the watertight body of a body). Chine were useful in the designing of boats as it allowed the maximum cargo carrying capacity of Kayaks.
  2. 2. West Greenland Kayaks:- These kayaks have fewer chines and more angular shapes.

    3. East Greenland kayaks: - These kayaks have a west Greenland style. They often fit much more cozily to the paddler and have more maneuverability.

The kayaks were used for hunting a variety of prey;-primarily seals, caribou and whales. Skin-on-frame kayaks are still currently being utilized for hunting in Greenland by the Inuit people. This is because the skin-on-frame kayaks are smooth and flexible when stealthily gliding through the waves. In various parts of the world too, home builders employ the tradition of skin to frame kayaks, sometimes with modern skins of synthetic fabric or canvas.

Contemporary traditional–style kayaks have their origins traced primarily to native Alaskan boats, Southwest Greenland and Northern Canada. As much as natives from the Arctic predominantly used kayaks for hunting rather than fishing, the kayak sport over the years has also gradually developed to embrace sport-fishing in both fresh and salt waters in warmer regions. Kayaks have since been used for military use in the Second World War by both the British and American Armies.

In conclusion it should be noted that Kayaks were among the very first vessels utilized by humans to navigate the wild waters i.e rivers, lakes and oceans in the some of the remotest areas of the planet. .It can further be evidently concluded that the building of the kayak is the genesis to boat and ship making. Furthermore, The basics of kayaking have also since been implemented in the designing of submarines.

Furthermore, Kayaking in future will always be an awesome sport. Over the years it has gradually developed into "whitewater kayaking." Whitewater Kayaking;-is a competitive sport involving paddling a kayak on a moving body of water. The water body is usually a whitewater river. Nevertheless, as a beginner you don’t need the largest boat or gear, video camera or sponsorship to begin this sport. All you need to know is taking the paddle and pushing off the bank. It is also an Olympic sport and therefore an ideal sport for any beginner to take seriously.

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