History of Kayaking

The word “Kayak” comes from a Danish word ‘kajak’ that originally means ‘small boats of skin’. The literal meaning of this word is “hunter’s boat”. A kayak is a compact, light, and tapered boat with a covering over the top and is moved by using a paddle. 

Kayak was first created by Inuit, Aleut, and Yup’ik, the arctic people who crafted this boat out of wooden frames covered in sealskin. The boat was designed by drilling a hole in the center, creating space for the user to sit in. As the name suggests, Kayak was predominantly built for hunting and fishing. The kayaks allow the hunters to sneak up behind animals on the shoreline and catch their prey successfully.

Evolution of Kayak

The quality materials used for making kayaks have changed notably over the years. Earlier, kayaks were made out of wood covered in skin. Eventually, in the mid-1800s the Europeans molded the structure by covering the kayak with a fabric. However, present-day kayaks offer versatility in terms of construction as well as use.

Back in the day, kayaking began as a sport in Western Europe and gained immense popularity. Kayaks were also perpetuated to be used in icy waters, and traveling to the North and South Poles carried them to helm through ice floes and partially frozen rivers.

Kayaking History Timeline

Kayaks are said to be almost 4,000 years old. However, the first-ever recorded use of Kayak for Whitewater running was in 1931, when a German named Adolf Anderle became the first person to kayak down the Salzachofen Gorge.

In 1936, kayak racing was introduced as an episode to the Berlin games. Over time, kayakers developed a much lighter and extra strong boat, and in the 50s, kayaks were made from fiberglass.

Kayakers created the “Eskimo Roll” in the 1950s. This is the technique that allows for kayakers to right themselves after flipping over without leaving their boat.

Many boaters enhanced their method and expertise due to new boat projects and new supplies. This uprising gave way to many 1st descents of rivers in the US.

Kayaking was enjoyed immensely as a peripheral sport in the United States until the 1970s when it started to move towards ordinary athletics.

History of Kayaking and Canoeing

Kayaks and canoes are equally elongated and tapered boats that are mechanized by one or more contributory paddlers. In some sectors of the world, kayaks are said to be canoes. Nonetheless, there are prominent differences between a kayak and a canoe, in relation to their design and history.

The difference is comparatively simple in a sense that the athlete’s position is different among both the boats. In a kayak, the paddler is seated whereas in a canoe, the paddler kneels. Moreover, in a kayak, the paddler uses a double-bladed paddle as compared to a canoe where a single-bladed paddle is used dragging the blade through the water on alternate sides in order to propagate.

Kayak, meaning “man-boat” in Eskimo, originated chiefly in the northern parts of the world, North America, Siberia, and Greenland. They were perfect for single transport and were used largely for hunting and fishing

The Canoe, on the other hand, was exploited on a much wider scale. From the Native American tribes to the Polynesians, the canoe relished a diversity of scales and practices, mainly transport, trade, and warfare.

History of Kayaking in Canada

The history of the kayak is intimately interlinked with Canadian history itself. Kayaks have played a significant role in the discovery of the land in Canada. However, in general paddle sports have played a vital role in the development of Canada as a country.

In 1936, kayaking grew into an Olympic sport in the Berlin Summer Games. Even though Canada did get a medal in paddling sports at these games, it was not until a number of summer games advanced that Canada won a medal in a kayaking event. Later performing on a global scale at the Olympics, kayaking became far more prevalent in America and women began to entail in the sport as well.

A great deal of advancement took place in the 1950s with fiberglass being used in the manufacture of kayaks. Later in 1970, George Dyson visited Vancouver and was flattered by the traditional construction methods for baidarkas (the Aleutian kayak). He then expended many years of his life assembling wood and skin on the frames of the boat to give life to a more traditional construction method. He used kayak for traveling and spent quite some time of his life along the coastal British Columbia. 

While George Dyson was busy bringing the traditional style of kayaks back, polyethylene kayaks were taking over throughout the 1980s.

With such an amusing history, as well as the local conventions with nature that kayaking facilitates, there is no doubt that kayaking in Canada should be the top of everyone’s list when visiting Canada.

History of Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaks are purposely designed for travel by one or more than one paddlers on open water and in many cases trade maneuverability for seaworthiness, stability, and cargo capacity. Sea-kayak sub-sets comprise open-deck “sit-on-top” kayaks, recreational kayaks, and portable “skin-on-frame” boats.

Centuries of experience of navigation in extreme conditions, at the limits of the possible, have led to the development of a hull that is thoroughly reliable and highly maneuverable, fast and steady, and capable of withstanding the worst possible weather conditions. 

The modern sea kayak, which is a direct descendant of those used by the Inuit and other indigenous peoples of the American Far North, was invented in 1865 by the Englishman John McGregor, who built the famous canoe known as ‘Rob Roy’.

Most of the first models were constructed in waxed canvas on a wooden frame and were only an approximate equivalent, both in shape and performance, of their polar ancestors.

Most people in Italy are convinced that the modern kayak is essentially a river craft, with which breathtaking descents down mountain river rapids can be experienced.

History of Whitewater Kayaking

Whitewater kayaks are in some cases extremely controllable boats, generally for a single paddler, and consist of specialized boats such as playboats and slalom kayaks.

White water racers integrate a fast, wobbly lower hull portion with a wide upper hull portion to combine flatwater racing speed with additional stability in big water. They do not have built-in rudders and have alike controlling expertise as compared to flatwater racers.

The first and former endeavor to cross a whitewater river took place in 1811. The group attempting the journey on the Snake River in Wyoming contemplated that they were lacking essential and proper equipment and skills, so the river was considered too challenging to track.

The rubber raft was first developed in 1840 by Lt. John Freemont and Horace Day in order to visit the Rocky Mountains via the Snake River. The journey and raft were unsuccessful because of the rough waters.

Paddling had been an adventurous activity in both the US and Europe since the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that the first major improvements began to advance. With first-hand and fresh new materials, such as fiberglass and aluminum to make kayaks and canoes and manmade rubber for rafts, river journeys started to escalate in attractiveness and popularity, though the number of participants was still less compared to today’s criteria.

Rafts were also offered by war surplus shops, which generated a significant increase in the number of people rafting. This increase of rafting primarily was concentrated in the west and unlocked countless barriers for running whitewater.

The first popular and successful whitewater rafting voyage took place in July of 1940. Clyde Smith was capable of piloting the Snake River Canyon in a home-produced rubber raft.

The 1st Annual Royal Gorge Boat Race took place in 1949 in Salida, Colorado. Today, it is one of the oldest whitewater races in the Western Hemisphere.

At the beginning of the 1990s, an estimate of 14.8 million people took part in whitewater rafting and kayaking. This is a big leap from whitewater’s beginning as a club sport with a very limited number of participants.


Using the core muscles of your body, you flush out the kayak through the splashing water in the river. This roller coaster ride keeps your adrenaline levels fluctuating giving you a complete essence of thrill, excitement, and joy.

What actually makes kayaking a prominent sport is that from the very start the Aleut and Inuit people presented outstanding manufacturing masterminds. A proof of their artistic talent is that, on the whole, the shape and construction of the traditional kayak are still greatly intact and original.

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