Kayaking: A Popular Way to Paddle


The kayak is one of the most highly used watercraft in the world. You might be surprised by how many different ways it is used all over the world. 

Structure of the Kayak

The kayak is a narrow watercraft with a covered deck. The covered deck is what differentiates it from a canoe, which is hollow. Kayaks can seat one or two paddlers in what is called a cockpit.

Kayaks aren’t one-size-fits-all. According to Military.com, while there are many different options in kayaks, they can be described basically in two different styles. A longer hull is utilized for speed and covering greater distances, while a shorter hull is designed to be more easily controlled. Those using kayaks for the first time will want the stability that comes with a shorter hull (somewhere around eight to twelve feet or so.) People wanting to travel further and faster, such as in competitive kayaking, will look for a longer hull (between 12 up to 18 feet in length.) 

Competitive Kayaking

Kayaking is so popular that there are multiple Olympic events dedicated to the activity! Whitewater slalom and river racing are other forms of competitive kayaking available. The sport is popular enough that sponsorship is possible for the best of the best.

Of course, there are others that make a living teaching kayaking and offering guided tours through different rivers and waterways all throughout the world. Those that find that they are passionate about kayaking will find that it can be more than just a hobby. 

Kayak History

What we think of as a kayak is traced back approximately 15,000 years in the Northern Arctic region. Lenny Flank writes for Daily Kos that to travel through the icy waters, watercraft originally called “umiaks” were used by the Inuit people. These umiaks were used for hunting, to move materials, and to transport people.

As time went on, this watercraft evolved into what we now know as the kayak. The word “kayak” in the Inuit language means “hunter’s boat.” Using driftwood or whalebones, the hull would be constructed. The upper deck was made of multiple sealskins, which were waterproof.

By the mid 1700s, Russian hunting ships discovered the Inuit people in the Aleutian Islands, recognizing their use of the kayak for hunting seals and sea otters. Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Europeans built versions of the kayak, recognizing its versatility as a watercraft. Through the years, we have arrived to find kayaking clubs and organizations dedicated to the use of the kayak for its recreational use. 

Kayaks in the Military

Special forces units in the United States Military used kayaks as far back as World War II. Even today, kayaks are used as a way of infiltrating many areas that are difficult to navigate unseen by land.

The military uses a number of specially designed kayaks that are virtually impossible to sink. Many of these kayaks used by the military incorporate a longer hull, for the purpose of faster movement over longer distances. This YouTube video shows how the kayak is used in military applications. Many of the kayaks used by the military are designed for two paddlers, much like recreational kayaks.

Whether you intend to take a relaxing trip down the river on a weekend, or you plan to enter a competition, kayaking has something to offer everyone. You don’t have to be an Olympian to enjoy competitive kayaking. Fishermen frequently utilize kayaks to navigate rivers and lakes as well. Beginners will find it easy to get started, but beware that the kayak bug might pull you in as a lifelong lover and enthusiast.