It’s more than likely that you have seen a kayak once or twice before in your life. In today’s world they’re pretty hard to miss, as most of them are made out of a material with a very bright or eye-catching color. No matter if you saw it strapped to the top of a car, or being used in at the ocean or a river, you may have wondered where kayaks came from. Believe it or not, kayaks have existed for about 4,000 years. They aren’t recent inventions!
The Original Kayaks
It is said that the native Inuit and Aleut peoples were the first to make use of a kayak. These tribes often had to hunt to find their food, so many would hunt along the shorelines located in Alaska, Greenland, and even northern Canada. However, during this time, kayaks definitely weren’t as luxurious or eye-catching. In fact, kayaks were personalized. While you wouldn’t find the kayaker’s name on his kayak, the kayaks were made around the person’s height and weight, and were often fitted to be “worn” by that person. Many times the kayaker was tied to the boat and certain clothing was worn to stay warm in cold water.
They were made to be sturdy enough in order to carry a person and a few pounds of meat. Generally kayaks were made out of driftwood that was covered and protected by animal skins. A hole was usually cut into the kayak so that the person inside was able to fish. But, while the kayaks made 4,000 years ago weren’t nearly as safe and protected as the ones used today, they were safe and well-made enough to do their job.
Today kayaks are made more for exercising, adventuring, entertainment, and for sporting. It’s rare that you will see someone using a kayak in order to go fishing to find a meal to eat later. In 1894, John MacGregor created the Rob Roy, which was the first recreational kayak. He was then able to create a kayaking club full of enthusiasts and soon started kayaking competitions. Though kayaks today do still have a practical use, in the past they were extremely important. You won’t find as many wooden kayaks today either.
Kayaks made in today’s world are usually made of fiberglass or some other material that is sturdy. Some kayaks do use wood, but the wood is often covered by other materials to ensure that the boat is safe and secure. Some kayaks are made for just one person while others are made for up to four. You will often see the longer type of kayaks used when it comes to sporting events and adventure. For example, in the Olympics, four person kayaks are used to seat a team.
The kayaks you’ll find today are often made to suit people who are looking to go out on an adventure and kayak through tough waters. In comparing the original ancient kayak with the ones found today, it’s amazing how similar they are, but how they are used for such different reasons.
Larry Kang is a writer on outdoor recreation topics such as hiking, kayaking, and nature photography. He is also a contributor to Kayaks and Paddling for Beginners.