Although the kayak has a long history, it has adopted a more modern design to create a fantastic, flexible recreational boat. Kayaks are among the most versatile of recreational boats as they can handle whitewater conditions as well as lengthy, stable tours. The various kayak designs are specific to what the boat will be used for so it is important to become familiar with the various designs as well as how to stay safe on the water. If you currently own a kayak, understanding the different designs will help you understand what conditions your particular kayak is best suited for.
The very first kayaks were created by arctic people. They were wood framed and sealskin was used to cover them. There was a tiny hole in the boat's middle which the kayaker sat in. They were primarily used in hunting activities and varied in their design depending on the region. Two of the most common kayaks used were: one which was wide, short, easy to use, stable, and had a lot of room for storage, and another which was longer, faster, and suitable for sea water. How kayaks are made has changed quite a bit over the years. In the beginning, many were wooden framed with skin used to cover them but after being adopted by the European settlers, fabric was used in covering them. This continued into the 1950's until the introduction of fiberglass. B y 1984, plastic kayaks were being made. Now kayaks are sturdier, lighter, and extremely versatile.
When looking for a kayak, it's best to find one designed well enough to work in various situations. Small changes in shape and dimensions can make all the difference. Longer kayaks mean the boat will work well in smooth water and it will be faster. Wider kayaks are more stable. Those with larger legs might prefer a kayak with deeper hulls as they will provide them with more room. These are just a few of a kayak's design features and finding one that is the perfect fit will provide the paddler with the control and comfort they desire.
When purchasing a kayak, the material and construction of the kayak are important considerations as they will play a role in price, durability, and weight. Earlier kayaks used wood and animal skins but today they are made out of plastic and various other man-made materials. There are three main types of materials used in kayaks today: plastic, fiberglass, and Kevlar. Kayaks made of plastic will see little damage regardless of how they're used which makes them resistant to impacts. Fiberglass kayaks are lighter than those made of plastic, however they cost a bit more. Kevlar kayaks are made of the same material used in bullet proof vests, making them very strong Kevlar is the lightest material available.
How a kayak is used depends upon the type of kayak it is. Most common is a recreational boat. These are wide, stable, and great for casual paddlers to use in lakes or rivers that move slow. These are also popular with fishermen and photographers. Play boats and creeking boats are the main whitewater kayaks. Play boats are for whitewater paddlers and are versatile in white water conditions. Creeking boats are narrower and less stable. These are used in tough rapids. Sea kayaks can be long and stable, and accommodate a couple of paddlers. There are also sea kayaks that the paddler can sit on top of. Basic kayak designs can always be modified for various uses, including trick performance, racing, and touring.
Where to Kayak
There is somewhere to canoe or kayak almost everywhere. Beginners may prefer staying local in slow waters such as lakes and rivers. More advanced kayakers may choose to test white water conditions. Kayakers can also be seen boating in the ocean. A simple Internet search will help you find lakes and rivers in your local area or you can do a search for the best kayaking destinations.
What to Bring
Kayaking provides a way for people to get to places that cannot be reached on foot or on larger boats. Some trips might include overnight stays at campsites which requires more planning. When planning longer trips, be sure to have the resources to keep your items dry, bring enough items without bringing too much, and always address safety issues. Some items might include extra clothing, sunscreen, bug spray, food and water, and life jackets.
The following list of resources will provide more information on safety, destinations, and necessary equipment for your next kayaking trip:
Kayaking: What Equipment Do You Need? – The Central Florida Kayaking website provides information on the type of equipment needed for kayaking, the various types of kayaks, technique, safety, and central Florida kayaking destinations.
Planning Kayaking Trips – This article discusses how to plan for kayaking or multi-day rafting trips. You'll learn about the different craft styles, about regulated rivers, and what to expect as far as expenses go.
U.S. National Whitewater Center – The U.S. National Whitewater Center is like Disney World for outdoor-loving, adventurous individuals. 400 acres provide you with fun activities such as kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, and zip line courses. Visit the website to learn more about the activities offered so you can plan your next family vacation.
Reflections from the Cockpit: To Roll or Not to Roll? – This article is written by Wayne Horodowich, an experienced sea kayaker and instructor, and he discusses whether or not you should learn to roll your kayak. A definite must read for those who wonder about this subject.
American Canoe Association – The American Canoe Association provides information on safety. You can also read their survey report which covers topics on leashes and life jackets.
The National Organization for Rivers – The National Organization for Rivers website has a lot of valuable information from important points pertaining to river laws to improving kayaking skills.
USA Canoe/Kayak – The website for the USA Canoe/Kayak organization is a great resource for those who would like to take their kayaking more seriously and compete for Olympic medals.
British Canoe Union – Use the British Canoe Union's website to stay up-to-date on sprint, wild water, and marathon racing, freestyle kayaking and more.
Kayak for a Cure – Are you interested in participating in a fun activity to help Canadian and American Cancer Societies? Each summer all throughout Canada and the United States both beginners and more experienced kayakers come together to kayak for a cure. Visit the website to learn how you can get involved.
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary – The website for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary provides some great information on boating safety.
Kayaker Float Plan PDF – Before taking your next trip, print and fill out this free float plan from Sea Kayaker magazine. This is a great way to be found should something happen while on your kayaking trip.
The ABCs of Sea Kayaking Safety PDF – The Chicago Area Sea Kayaking Association has provided this safety brochure which provides you with basic safety tips.
Kayak Owner's Manual – Visit this link to learn about kayak features, safety, outfitting, repair, maintenance, and equipment.
Safe Paddling PDF – This resource simply provides more tips on safe paddling.
Kayak Visibility Study PDF – This is the report of a study done about radars and kayak visibility. The study inspected and investigated various types of homemade and commercial reflectors to see which was most effective.