Kayaking is an activity that originated from the Inuit people of Greenland. They invented the Kayak which they built by building a light frame which they covered by stretching skins over it. The frame was made using light whale bones or from driftwood. The skins used to cover the frame were made water tight using whale fat. The traditional kayak was used as a transportation vessel but in most cases it was used as a hunting vessel. The kayak is propelled and maneuvered using a double sided paddle.
The traditional kayak was made such that it could carry one or two people. Usually it was designed for one person with one cockpit. The cockpit of the kayak was fit with a waterproof seal skin jacket that the user would wear and tightly seal the jacket hood around his face and around his wrists. This ensured that no water could enter the kayak even if the vessel capsized. As such the rider of the kayak could not get out of the vessel very fast and if the vessel turned over, one had to be skilled enough to right the vessel or perish. For the traditional Eskimo who used the kayaks, swimming was not an option. This is because no one could survive the ice cold water. The heavy clothing that they wore would also quickly soak up water and drown the person.
The kayak was made to accurately measure up to the weight of the user. Accurate weight measurement was necessary to ensure easy maneuverability of the vessel. As such, the canoe was a personal item that was rarely shared. If one died in a Kayak, it was said that he had borrowed or stolen another person’s kayak.
The kayak designs have changed a great deal when you compare the traditional kayak versus the modern kayak. The modern kayaks today are mostly designed by computer aided designs. Depending on their application, they are optimized for comfort, speed, sturdiness, and maneuverability.
Modern kayaks are used for recreational purposes, water competitions, fishing, and for water expeditions such as in the military.
Kayaks made for recreational purposes are the most popular kayaks today. They are used for simply relaxing on calm waters or are used to tour calm waters where there are other attractions such as marine wildlife. Most of them are sit-on-top designs which is a variation from the traditional sit-in designs. Modern designs can be moved and maneuvered using paddles or pedals that are fit onto the kayak that turn propellers or underwater flippers. Modern kayaks can be made from carbon fiber, polyethylene, polyester, Kevlar fiberglass, rubberized fabric, aluminum or wood.
Modern kayaks can also be specially designed for other activities. For example, Kayaks made for fishing are designed with a special hull that makes it stable. Kayaks that are to be used for sporting activities such as white water kayaking are made to withstand the rough rocky conditions that they are used in. They are mostly made from tough plastics that can bounce off rocks without destroying the kayak. They are also designed to maximize maneuverability. Kayaks for racing are designed for speed.