Canoeing and Kayaking go back to the dawn of human culture. The word “kayak” literally means “hunter’s boat.” The kayak was useful for transport, but it was a miraculous hunting tool, facilitating a quiet approach towards one’s desired prey. The covered deck of the kayak made it more sea-worthy and better able to shed waves than the traditional canoe. Kayaks are mostly used during summer months, primarily for hunting and fishing.
Similar to the kayak, the umiak is a larger boat which can carry up to 20 people. The umiak and the kayak existed side by side, both finding useful niches for transporting and hunting throughout history.
Kayak design varied according to the specific needs of inhabitants of particular regions. For instance, early kayaks designed by inhabitants surrounding the Bering Straight were wider and shorter. Whereas the kayaks from Greenland were sleek and low. Kayaks from Baffin Island were wider and longer.
The kayak was first created by the Inuit, an artic people. Interestingly, despite being the birth place of the kayak, very little archaeological evidence of the covered kayak can be found on the Siberian Coast.
Early Eskimos made kayak frames using driftwood, and early kayaks were wrapped in sealskins.
In fact, most early kayaks were fabricated using wood for the frame and then tied together using sinew, or tendons, with a seal skin cover. Kayaks were virtually unsinkable with air-filled seal bladders. Today, very few traditional skin kayaks are still in use and the knowledge of their construction is quickly fading. Other early kayaks were made from whalebone or driftwood.
The materials that have been used to make a kayak have changed significantly with the years. Europeans eventually discovered the versatility of the kayak, and kayaks once designed with sealskins were designed by Europeans with fabric covers. This method continued until the 1950’s when a company known as Valley Products began producing the first fiberglass kayak. Then in 1984, the first plastic kayak was introduced. Kayaks continue to become lighter, sturdier, and more versatile.
Now there are several types of kayaks designed with various materials suitable for a variety of sporting events. Today, kayaking is accessible to all skill levels, providing a quiet and gas-free form of breathtaking travel, exploration and exercise.