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The History Of The Kayak

Jan 4, 2008
We have many varied kayaks to choose from these days with it would appear every sport, style and requirement catered for. There are fibreglass kayaks, inflatable kayaks, sit on tops, kayak fishing boats equipped with outriggers, racing kayaks, surf and sea boats and so on.

Today kayaks are purchased mainly for recreational and sporting pursuits with very few people still relying on them to as a means of survival.

These days anybody of any age can buy a kayak and with little or no experience go off for a paddle. For the Eskimos, Inuit and Aleut people kayaking was a way of life. These indigenous people of North East Asia used kayaks four thousand years ago as a means of survival and as a result a young boy would be trained at a very young age how to use his paddles to manoeuvre the kayak and critically how to roll it.

The kayak played a pivotal part in their existence and as such was treated and given the highest respect. The name kayak means 'Hunters boat' or a 'man boat' and to this end women were confined to only being able to make the waterproof covering from seal skins and under no means were they allowed to touch the kayak itself.

The actual frames of these early kayaks were constructed from driftwood as there was a lack of trees in these regions. The kayak was made specifically for the person who would be using it and the measurements were typically taken from three lengths of the paddlers out stretched arms for the length of the kayak and the width was measured at approximately the size of the paddlers hips plus around two fists.

A skin coat called a tuilik or annuraaq was made to form a water proof seal around the face and wrists of the paddler. This was also secured to the cockpit of the kayak forming a watertight seal enabling the paddler to perform an Eskimo roll in the event of a capsize. It was similar to the spray skirts worn by kayakers today.

The people in these regions used kayaks to hunt for seals and caribou. Variants of the kayak were also built. The Baidarka which had two or three cockpits and was designed to carry goods and the Umiak which would be classed as a canoe as it had no cockpit and was paddled using single bladed paddles.

Up until the 1950s kayaks and canoes were based on these ancient designs. The styles, shapes and functions began to change dramatically with the introduction of fibreglass.

In the 1970s rotomoulded plastic first appeared which radically brought about changes to kayaking that we can see today. Kayaks made from fibreglass, Kevlar, carbon fibre and polyethylene have enabled kayaks to be designed for many purposes including sit on top tops for kayak fishing, inflatable kayak recreation and sport pursuits and even kayaks for military operations.
About the Author
Vicki Churchill writes for a site that specializes in Inflatable Kayak Accessories providing you with excellent resources and products including reviews on Varieties Of Kayak. and Buying And Storing A Kayak
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