A look at the origins of the kayak and reasons for its superiority as a water vessel

Published September 11, 2016

original-traditional-kayakKayaks are water vessels that were invented by the Inuit people of Greenland in the Arctic regions. The kayak was a revolutionary vessels that the Inuit could use to hunt and fish with more safety assurance as compared to other water vessels. This is hugely due to the unique design of the kayak.

The original traditional kayak was a slender light vessel that was made from locally available materials. The tubular vessel is made using a frame of light rigid material such as whale bones or drift wood. The frame is then tightly covered by seal skin which is then made water proof by whale or seal fat. The vessel, unlike other water vessels, had a covered deck with a small opening which is the pilot’s cockpit.

The original kayak was designed to be used by a solitary pilot. The solitary pilot would sit in the cockpit with his lower body recessed into the kayak and only the upper torso exposed atop the deck. To prevent water from getting into the kayak, the kayak had a skirt which the pilot would tightly fasten to his body.

The sitting position of the pilot gave him great control of the kayak. He could steer the vessel using his body especially using his legs. This made the kayak a very agile vessel suitable for hunting. It also gave the pilot extra protection from the elements such as the freezing water of the Arctic region.

One of the greatest advantages provided by the kayak for the Inuk was the fact that in case the kayak capsized, the pilot could use his body to roll the kayak and restore it back to its normal position. This was very important since it is impossible to swim in the freezing conditions of the Arctic waters.

The original kayak was a hunter’s boat, which is actually the meaning of the name kayak. A kayak was usually built by a man and his wife and it was made to suit the man’s features such as weight, height, and skill. When accidents happened and kayak pilots drowned, it was often claimed that the drowned person must have stolen another man’s kayak.

The Inuit community used the kayak for survival activities such as for hunting whale, seals, and other sea creatures for food. The kayak was also an ideal vessel to go fishing in. This is especially due to its ability to venture into areas that are very difficult to access. The kayak is slender and can sail through slender channels and it can also sail through very shallow water where most other water vessels cannot sail through.

Today kayaks have undergone a great transformation especially in their designs. Today there are different types of kayaks with different shapes and form to facilitate their use in diverse applications. For example, today there are kayaks that are made of different types of materials including tough plastics, PVC, hyperon, fiber glass and rubber.

People have come up with different kayak designs including sit on top kayaks, where the pilot sits fully exposed on the kayak, and tandem kayaks which can carry more than one person.

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