Kayaking is an outdoor water sport using a kayak, which is a canoe-like
boat with an enclosed cockpit. A kayak may have one opening (a single
person kayak), or it may have two or more openings (multi-person kayak).
Kayaks are made of molded plastic and fiberglass, aluminum alloys, or
other materials. They are wide at the center and taper at the front and
back. Skirts seal out water from entering the cockpit. There are
different varieties and sizes of kayaks, but touring kayaks are generally
longer and narrower, while whitewater kayaks are shorter and wider.
Whitewater kayaks have an upturned front and rear, or more "rocker" than
a touring kayak. Less rocker creates more stability, but more rocker
provides more maneuverability.
The kayak is propelled through the water by a paddle made of wood,
aluminum, or fiberglass. The paddle has two curved blades; one on each
end of the shaft. The blades are usually at 90 degree angles from one
Kayakers are in a seated position with their legs extended in front of
them. The kayaker grips the shaft of the paddle and dips one blade into
the water ahead of the body. The blade is pulled through the water
toward the kayaker. This blade is then lifted from the water while the
other blade is simultaneously dipped into the water on the other side.
Equal pull on both sides enables the kayak to move forward in a straight
path. Pulling more to the right turns it to the left, and pulling more
on the left helps the boat turn right.
White water kayaking and sea kayaking have become popular manifestations
of the sport. White water kayaking involves kayaking through rapids,
while sea kayaking, also known as ocean kayaking, is practiced on the
ocean or another open water source. Sprint kayaking involves races
between individuals or teams for a distance of 500 to 1,000 meters.
Kayaks have been used for travel and recreation across many cultures for
centuries. The kayak was invented by Native Americans known as the
Inuit. These kayaks were constructed with the oiled hides of sea
mammals. The hides were stretched over a framework of wood or whale
ribs. Much like kayakers today, the Inuit used a double paddle to propel
their boats through the water.
Kayakers should be confident swimmers and always wear life vests. A
helmet is also recommended to protect the head against rocks and other
objects. This is especially important in whitewater kayaking, where the
water can be rough and the course unpredictable.
- REI - Kayaks and Accessories
Supplier of specialty outdoor gear and clothing.
Founded in 1938 as a consumer cooperative to purchase high-quality
mountain climbing equipment, Recreational Equipment, Inc. has grown to
offer a wide range of outdoor equipment and apparel via the Internet
and through its chain of retail stores.
- Campmor Canoeing and Kayaking
New Jersey-based retailer offers a wide selection of outdoor
gear and apparel. Retail store has a well stocked climbing department
plus a full service bike shop and an extensive water sports section.
- Wilderness Systems
North Carolina firm features a popular selection of
recreational, sit-on-top, touring, and sporting kayaks, as well as
paddles, sprayskirts, pfds, and other kayaking accessories.
- Old Town Canoe
Established in 1903, this Maine firm offers both canoes and
kayaks for recreation, touring, and sporting.
- Current Designs
British Columbia firm builds premium touring kayaks,
paddles, and outriggers from composite materials.
- Ocean Kayak
Designer and leading manufacturer of popular sit-on-top
kayaks offers sea kayaks and accessories.
- Perception Kayaks
This manufacturer of modern kayaks features whitewater,
touring, recreational, and sit-on-top models.
South Carolina designer and manufacturer of whitewater,
touring, and recreational kayaks.
- USA Canoe and Kayak
Created in 1987, USA Canoe/Kayak is the national governing
body for the Olympic disciplines of canoe and kayak racing.
- Sit On Top Kayaking
Online resource for information about sit-on-top and
open-cockpit, self-bailing kayaks.
- Kayak Online
Information on hardshell and inflatable kayaks, kayaking,
and kayak gear.
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Kayaking Equipment Guide