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What is Kayaking?

what is kayaking

If you are an outdoor enthusiast who is interested in adding another watersport to your lists of hobbies and therefore seeks to know what is kayaking?. Then this article will assist you.

Kayaking is simpler terms is a watersport that involves using a paddle which is usually double-bladed to propel a small boat in the water.

The kayak is mostly designed in such a way that, it has an enclosed deck that covers the paddler’s legs. The paddler sits in a cockpit with their legs extended beneath a closed deck, leaving the upper body free and exposed.

The majority of kayaks can only accommodate one person, but some kayaks like the tandem kayaks are able to hold two people.

what is kayaking

The paddler maneuvers their way through the water by sitting face forward and propelling ahead with alternating side-by-side paddle strokes.

Kayaking is a sport that is both fun and versatile. You can enjoy this sport in any body of water as well such as the sea, lakes, rivers and other moving bodies of water. This watersport can easily be pair with other outdoor adventures and activities such as fishing, camping, diving, etc.

You might also you a kayak in rock climbing and skiing activities if you need to access the area via a water body.  A kayak might come in handy for that.

Brief History of Kayaking

This watersport has been around for centuries. History has it that, Kayaks were created the Inuit who were formerly known as Eskimos of the Northern Arctic regions.

Kayaks were created in those days with driftwood and sometimes the skeleton of whale is used to construct the frame of the kayak.

Animal skin was used to create the body of the kayak. These kayaks were mainly used for hunting and fishing by the Eskimos. These kayaks were termed the hunter’s boat.

In the 16th century, around the 1740s, Russian explorers led by Vitus Bering came in contact with the Aleutians, they took the basic concept and develop multiple designs.

These designs were specifically for the purposes of hunting, transportation, and environmental conditions.

By the mid-1800s the kayak became increasingly popular and the Europeans became interested. German and French men began kayaking for sport.

In the 1950s, fiberglass kayaks were developed and commonly used, until the 1980s when polyethylene plastic kayaks were introduced.

Kayaking progressed as a fringe sport in the U.S. until the 1970s when it became a mainstream popular sport.

Today, over 10 whitewater kayaks are featured in the Olympic games.

.This sport can be enjoyed by enthusiasts of different levels. From beginners to experts who want to explore the shallow waters at the edge of the river to the extremes of rushing waters. It is a sport open to all explorers.

Types of Kayaks

Here are the types of kayaks and how they are used.

1. Sit-In or Sit-on Kayak

With the sit-in kayak, when you are paddling, your legs are enclosed within a cockpit, a spray skirt is attached, which stops water from coming in over the top.

This keeps your legs dry and out of the wind. Sin-in kayaks are commonly used when you are in colder waters.

The disadvantage of a sit-in kayak is that a few lessons from an expert are required in case you are exiting, capsize or re-entering your kayak.

If by any means the space in the hull is flooded, you will need to bail out your kayak or paddle it to shore to drain it before you can continue your adventure.

Sit-on kayaks, on the other hand, are mostly used in warmer water and in warmer temperatures. Unlike the sit-in kayak were your legs are kept warm and dry, with the sit-on kayak, you are exposed to sprays from the waves, riffles and paddle splashes.

This means you are going to get wet somehow with a sit-on kayak.

One advantage of a sit-on kayak is that it is straightforward to get on and off your kayak. If you can always re-enter your sit-on kayak from the water.

2. Recreational Kayak

The type of kayak is designed to be stable and also easy to steer. Generally, they feature a wide hull which is less than 12 feet long. Recreational kayaks are either sit-in or sit-on type.

With a small area to put essentials and include a large cockpit for easy access. Recreational kayaks are best used on flatwater streams, lakes or areas of saltwater that are protected by the wind or waves.

The good thing about recreational kayaks is that they are built wider at the beam for increased stability which lessens your chance of capsizing.

These kayaks are beginner-friendly because they are more comfortable and have increased stability.

One downside of a recreational kayak is the ability to track or keep a straight line. This can make them difficult and tiring to paddle for long periods of time. These types of kayaks will also struggle in waters with rapids and waves.

3. Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks as the name suggest are inflatable with either a foot or electric pump. They are designed to be recreational and can also be used for whitewater.

Their wide and sturdy hulls make them suited to calm water. Inflatable kayaks can be folded down to a convenient size, some models can even be worn as a backpack. Inflatable kayaks come in both sit-on and sit-in styles.

some advantages of inflatable kayaks are, they are stable and easy to maneuver, can bend or dent on impact with rocks which make them able to handle weather and slightly rougher water.

These kinds of kayaks are beginner and children friendly.

what is kayaking, types of kayaks

The downsides are; they are lighter and can be difficult to use in windy and rougher waters. They are also rendered useless with any hole in them. Because they can be difficult to patch.

4. Sail Kayak

For a sail kayak, you need a kayak sail which is an accessory you can purchase and attach to any kayak. This enhances its speed and reduces strain on the paddler.

These types of kayaks are not very common. You can add the kayak sail accessory to either a sit-in or sit-on types of kayaks.

Just keep in mind that not all kayaks can accommodate a kayak sail. Kayak sails work best on touring and sea kayaks.

5. Touring Kayak

Touring kayaks are long and robust to make them fast and efficient over long distances. Their length is between 12 and 24 feet long.

Many touring kayaks have one or more internal bulkheads that allow for larger internal storage area. To compensate for wind or tidal movement, touring kayaks are often fitted with rudder or skeg to assist in steering.

6. Surf Kayak

Surf kayaks are designed with surfing in mind. They have a narrow front profile that is able to cut or punch through large broken waves.

They can be sometimes up to 21 feet long and 16 to 20 inches wide. The wave ski, a variant of the surf ski, is used to take advantage of wave swell, similar to a surfboard.

Wave skis feature a wide, flat hull that is often less than 10 feet long. Surf kayaks come as both sit-in and sit-on models.

7. Specialist kayak

These kayak types are designed for a specific kayak based sport in mind. They perform extremely well in that purpose but poorly in other sports. These are not your everyday kayaking types and might not encounter them if you are not undertaking such activity.

8. Tandem Kayak

Tandem kayaks give you the ability to share kayaking with another person. They are designed to fit two or more people.

These kayaks are ideal for training. You can take a younger one or less experienced kayakers with you on it to help them practice their skills.

Tandem kayaks are heavy and can weigh somewhere between 75 to 100 pounds.

what is kayaking, types of kayaks

9. Fishing Kayak

Fishing with kayaks has become popular and because of that, kayaks are made with fishing in mind.
Fishing kayaks usually feature a pole rest, a flatter hull for stability, ponton stabilizer and even pedal-powered water wheels that help you to keep your hands on the fishing pole.
Fishing kayaks can also be either a sit-in or sit-on style. Most fishing kayak models have a storage area to help you keep your catch. They are shorter and lighter to help you store on your car rack and can maneuver in and out of the water.
These kayak types are designed for short journeys or day trips. Not suitable for long journeys because of their smaller storage area.

10. Diving Kayak

Although you won’t really find a kayak that is manufactured for diving, it is good to know that when selecting a kayak for diving, it should be having a wide and stable beam and large storage area.

Kayaks that work well with support boats can also be used for camping or recreational activities.

11. Crossover Kayak

Crossover kayaks are a jack-of-all-trades. The span the gap between one style of kayak and another. An example is a kayak that is for recreational and whitewater..

These kayaks allow the kayaker to tackle a number of different environments without changing kayaks.

You can’t combine kayaks that are utterly different, like a touring kayak and a wave ski, so most crossover kayaks are based on a recreational kayak hull combined with features from more specific designs, like pole holders for fishing or a planing hull for running whitewater.

12. Whitewater Kayak

Whitewater kayaks are shorter in length within the range of 4 to 10 feet. They are designed that way to make them move quickly down fast-flowing rocky water.

These types of kayaks are only sit-in style. Whitewater kayaks are categorized into two: the playboats and the creekboats. The other types are just a slight version of these two main types of whitewater kayaks.

Playboats are the shortest of the whitewater kayaks.

Playboats have a scooped bow and blunt stern, making playboats highly maneuverable and robust. By utilizing the speed gained by traveling through rapids, these boats are used to perform technical tricks in a sport known as rodeo boating. 

Creekboats are longer and have more volume than a playboat. They are used to run narrow, low-volume waterways.

Due to their stability and buoyancy, creekboats are more multi-purpose. They can be used on larger rivers. They are also able to navigate flatter stretches and negotiate rapids

13. Folding Kayak

Folding kayaks as the name suggest can be folded and packed away in a small suitcase. As earlier on mentioned in the history of kayaks, where the Eskimos used animal skin on the frame of the boat, that technology has been improved over the years to make them more flexible.

They are light enough to be carried with relative ease. These can be either sit-in or sit-on style.

If you have a problem with weight and storage, these are best to have. Just that they are not as durable as the standard kayak hull.

14. Sea Kayak

Sea kayak is a variant of touring kayak. They have a narrow V-shaped front profile and have a higher rocker that helps it crest into oncoming waves.

As you already know, the sea is a rough place and kayaks designed for the sea have to be able to handle the rough waters at the expense of your stability.

Moderns sea kayaks have a larger storage area to carry large equipment. The sea kayak is easier to control, tracks straighter, and is less likely to be swamped by waves than a standard touring kayak

Sea kayaks are only sit-in only.

Sea kayak higher rocker makes it less maneuverable on flat water, while it’s narrow profile makes it less stable than a standard touring kayak.

What You Need for Kayaking as a Beginner

If you are new to this sport, you might be wondering what you need for kayaking as a beginner. Well, it is important to carry with you the right set of items for your kayaking adventure. The type of water you are paddle determines what you wear.

Here are the basic items you will need for kayaking:

Recommended for short recreational trips

  • Kayak
  • Paddle (1 per paddler), plus spare
  • Personal flotation device (1 per paddler)
  • Bilge pump
  • Spray skirt (for cold weather/water)
  • Dry bag for personal items
  • Headlamp/light with extra batteries (in case you’re out after dusk)
  • Signaling whistle
  • Swimwear or shorts or convertible pants
  • Rashguard top or moisture-wicking T-shirt or long-sleeve shirt
  • Neoprene footwear
  • Sun-shielding hat

Recommended for Extended or Overnight Trips

  • Paddle float
  • Paddling knife (attached to PFD)
  • Towline
  • Maps and charts in a waterproof case
  • Compass (that floats)
  • Watch
  • Weather/VHF radio (+ local emergency channel list)
  • Dry bags (variety of sizes)
  • Paddle leash (optional)
  • Large sponge
  • Float bags
  • Emergency flares or strobe
  • GPS (loaded with map files)
  • Two-way radios (1 in lead, 1 in sweep boat)
  • Swimwear or shorts or convertible pants
  • Rashguard top or moisture-wicking T-shirt or long-sleeve shirt
  • Neoprene footwear
  • Sun-shielding hat

Kayaking Benefits

Kayaking comes with some health benefits just like other sport games. Here are some benefits you get by kayaking.

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Kayaking and canoeing can be peaceful and meditative or can be exhilarating
  • Increased muscle strength, particularly in the back, arms, shoulders and chest, from moving the paddle
  • Increased torso and leg strength, as the strength to power a canoe or kayak comes mainly from rotating the torso and applying pressure with your legs
  • Paddling is a great way to enjoy our waterways.
  • Reduced risk of wear-and-tear on joints and tissues, since paddling is a low impact activity.

Final words on Kayaking

Kayaking is an incredible and versatile sport that everyone can enjoy. It is well enjoyed when you have the right equipment and gear.

You can get the right kayak for the occasion and even combine your adventure with other activities like rock climbing, fishing, diving, camping, and other outdoor adventures.

Safety should also be taking into consideration when kayaking.

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