A Little Sea Kayaking History

kyak, kyack, kaiak, qajaq: The word kayak appears in literature spelled in different ways, but meansHunter Boat. The primary purpose of kayaks was to hunt animals on open water, lakes or rivers depending on the region. They were also used to follow the animals migration, move camps and populations.

Those boats were made of wood and animal skins and had many different designs depending on the area, some were double or triple, some were seaworthy and others weren’t, some were paddled with a one bladed paddle and others with a two bladed paddle like the one we use nowadays.

How old are sea kayaks? Archaeologists have found evidence indicating kayaks are at least 4000 years old. The remains didn’t give us a good idea of their design because they were made of biodegradable materials. The length of the boats were similar to our own, and the deck was organized in order to store all tools needed for the hunt and keep them out of the way until required…

Now, did all native kayakers know how to roll??

No, mostly the Greenland Inuit and the Alaskan Aleuts knew and needed to roll because of the conditions. Their environment being really cold (air and water temperature), and their prey sometimes coming to attack their kayaks, made it a necessary skill for survival. The Greenlanders were the masters of the roll. Their narrow boats, the conditions they paddled in and unexpected complications during hunting required them to develop numerous different rolls. In addition to the typical rolling with a paddle, numerous “trick” rolls were known such as rolling with the paddle held by one hand, using a harpoon shaft or using just an open or closed hand.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that kayaks were introduced in Europe, directly copied from the Greenland boat design, and from there the development of the modern kayak started and was directed towards exploration and then recreational purposes.

So the sea kayak sport industry is really young, with only about 20 years of industrial existence behind it, and it is growing rapidly. The oldest association related to sea kayaking comes from England and is the BCU (British Canoe Union). In Canada the CRCA (Canadian Recreational Canoe Association) is so far our oldest reference.

The CRCA just changed their name to Paddle Canada to include all paddle sports.

Follow the links to get more information on traditional sea kayaking and watch demonstration of Greenland rolling. Enjoy.