A kayak is a small, narrow watercraft which is propelled by means of a double-bladed paddle. The word kayak originates from the Greenlandic word qajaq (IPA: [qajaq]). The traditional kayak has a covered deck and one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler. The cockpit is sometimes covered by a spray deck that prevents the entry of water from waves or spray and makes it possible for suitably skilled kayakers to roll the kayak: that is, to capsize and right it without it filling with water or ejecting the paddler.
Interior 360 degree photosphere of a kayak at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Click for an immersive 360 degree view
Some modern boats vary considerably from a traditional design but still claim the title "kayak", for instance in eliminating the cockpit by seating the paddler on top of the boat ("sit-on-top" kayaks); having inflated air chambers surrounding the boat; replacing the single hull by twin hulls, and replacing paddles with other human-powered propulsion methods, such as foot-powered rotational propellers and "flippers". Kayaks are also being sailed, as well as propelled by means of small electric motors, and even by outboard gas engines.
Kayaks are often used to get closer to marine animals, such as sea otters
The kayak was first used by the indigenous Aleut, Inuit, Yupik and possibly Ainu hunters in subarctic regions of the world.
1 History 2 Design principles
2.1 Displacement 2.2 Length 2.3 Rocker 2.4 Beam profile
2.4.1 Types of stability 2.4.2 Stability from body shape and skill level
2.5 Hull surface profile 2.6 Seating position and contact points
3 Materials and construction 4 Modern design 5 Types
5.1 Recreational 5.2 Sea
5.4.1 Playboat 5.4.2 Creekboat
5.5.1 Whitewater 5.5.2 Flatwater sprint 5.5.3 Slalom 5.5.4 Surf ski
5.6 Specialty and hybrids
5.6.1 Inflatable 5.6.2 Folding 5.6.3 Pedal 5.6.4 Twin hull and outrigger
5.7 Fishing 5.8 Military
6 See also 7 References 8 External links
This section may require cleanup to meet's quality
standards. The specific problem is: references need improving,
globalization needed (nothing on the dory-shaped East
See also: Kajukki
Two people in kayak, Nunivak, Alaska, photographed by Edward S. Curtis, 1930
Kayaks (Inuktitut: qajaq (ᖃᔭᖅ Inuktitut
pronunciation: [qɑˈjɑq]), Yup'ik: qayaq (from qai- "surface;
top"), Aleut: Iqyax) were originally developed by the Inuit,
Yup'ik, and Aleut. They used the boats to hunt on inland lakes, rivers
and coastal waters of the
Child using oversized equipment. The kayak is floating too high, it is too wide for his hips and shoulders, and it is so deep that his elbows hit the deck. His paddle is also too long. It is impossible for him to paddle efficiently, and he will tire quickly. His PFD is also large enough to slip off over his head while fastened.
Typically, kayak design is largely a matter of trade-offs: directional
stability ("tracking") vs maneuverability; stability vs speed; and
primary vs secondary stability.
This polo kayak has a lot of rocker; that is, the bottom is not flat when seen from the side.
Length alone does not fully predict a kayak's maneuverability: a second design element is rocker, i.e. its lengthwise curvature. A heavily rockered boat curves more, shortening its effective waterline. For example, an 18-foot (5.5 m) kayak with no rocker is in the water from end to end. In contrast, the bow and stern of a rockered boat are out of the water, shortening its lengthwise waterline to only 16 ft (4.9 m). Rocker is generally most evident at the ends, and in moderation improves handling. Similarly, although a rockered whitewater boat may only be a few feet shorter than a typical recreational kayak, its waterline is far shorter and its maneuverability far greater. When surfing, a heavily rockered boat is less likely to lock into the wave as the bow and stern are still above water. A boat with less rocker cuts into the wave and makes it harder to turn while surfing. Beam profile The overall width of a kayak's cross section is its beam. A wide hull is more stable, and packs more displacement into a shorter length. A narrow hull has less drag and is generally easier to paddle; in waves it will ride more easily and stay dryer. A narrower kayak makes a somewhat shorter paddle appropriate and a shorter paddle puts less strain on the shoulder joints. Some paddlers are comfortable with a sit-in kayak so narrow that their legs extend fairly straight out. Others want sufficient width to permit crossing their legs inside the kayak. Types of stability
Hypothetical cross-sections of kayaks. Left to right: High primary stability but low secondary stability, lower primary stability but ~same secondary stability, lower primary but higher secondary stability, two extra chines, four extra chines. More chines (angles) give a more rounded profile, decreasing stability, tracking, and the wetted area, and increasing speed.
Primary (sometimes called initial) stability describes how much a boat tips, or rocks back and forth, when displaced from level by paddler weight shifts. Secondary stability describes how stable a kayak feels when put on edge or when waves are passing under the hull perpendicular to the length of the boat. For kayak rolling, tertiary stability, or the stability of an upside-down kayak, is also important (lower tertiary stability makes rolling up easier). Primary stability is often a big concern to a beginner, while secondary stability matters both to beginners and experienced travelers. By example, a wide, flat-bottomed kayak will have high primary stability and feel very stable on flat water. However, when a steep wave breaks on such a boat, it can be easily overturned because the flat bottom is no longer level. By contrast, a kayak with a narrower, more rounded hull with more hull flare can be edged or leaned into waves and (in the hands of a skilled kayaker) provides a safer, more comfortable response on stormy seas. Kayaks with only moderate primary, but excellent secondary stability are, in general, considered more seaworthy, especially in challenging conditions.
A cross-section through a skin-on-frame kayak. The skin touches only at the two gunwales, the two stringers, and the keel.
The shape of the cross section affects stability, maneuverability, and drag. Hull shapes are categorized by roundness/flatness, and by the presence and angle of chines. This cross–section may vary along the length of the boat. A chine typically increases secondary stability by effectively widening the beam of the boat when it heels (tips). A V-shaped hull tends to travel straight (track) well, but makes turning harder. V-shaped hulls also have the greatest secondary stability. Conversely, flat-bottomed hulls are easy to turn, but harder to direct in a constant direction. A round-bottomed boat has minimal wetter area, and thus minimizes drag; however, it may be so unstable that it will not remain upright when floating empty, and needs continual effort to keep it upright. In a skin-on-frame kayak, chine placement may be constrained by the need to avoid the bones of the pelvis. Sea kayaks, designed for open water and rough conditions, are generally narrower at 22–25 inches (56–64 cm) and have more secondary stability than recreational kayaks, which are wider 26–30 inches (66–76 cm), have a flatter hull shape, and more primary stability. Stability from body shape and skill level
The position of the center of gravity is affected by body shape. The lower the CoG, the higher the primary stability.
Two different approaches to giving beginners more stability; left, a wider kayak, right, outriggers lashed across the stern deck.
The body of the paddler must also be taken into account. A paddler with a low center of gravity will find all boats more stable; for a paddler with a high center of gravity, all boats will feel tippier. On average, women and children have a lower COG than men. Unisex kayaks are built for men. A paddler with narrow shoulders will also want a narrower kayak. Newcomers will often want a craft with high primary stability (see above). The southern method is a wider kayak. The northern method is a removable pair of outriggers, lashed across the stern deck. Such an outrigger pair is often homemade of a small plank and found floats such as empty bottles or plastic ducks. Outriggers are also made commercially, especially for fishing kayaks and sailing. If the floats are set so that they are both in the water, they give primary stability, but produce more drag. If they are set so that they are both out of the water when the kayak is balanced, they give secondary stability. Hull surface profile
Some kayak hulls are categorized according to the shape from bow to stern Common shapes include:
Symmetrical: the widest part of the boat is halfway between bow and stern. Fish form: the widest part is forward (in front) of the midpoint. Swede form: the widest part is aft (behind) midpoint.
Seating position and contact points
Traditional-style and some modern types of kayaks (e.g. sit-on-top)
require that paddler be seated with their legs stretched in front of
them, in a right angle, in a position called the "L" kayaking
position. Other kayaks offer a different sitting position, in which
the paddler's legs are not stretched out in front of them, and the
thigh brace bears more on the inside than the top of the thighs (see
A kayakker must be able to move the hull of their kayak by moving
their lower body, and brace themselves against the hull (mostly with
the feet) on each stroke. Most kayaks therefore have footrests and a
backrest. Some kayaks fit snugly on the hips; others rely more on
thigh braces. Mass-produced kayaks generally have adjustable bracing
points. Many paddlers also customize their kayaks by putting in shims
of closed-cell foam, or more elaborate structure, to make it fit more
Paddling puts substantial force through the legs, alternately with
each stroke. The knees should therefore not be hyperextended.
Separately, if the kneecap is in contact with the boat, this will
cause pain and may injure the knee. Insufficient foot space will cause
painful cramping and inefficient paddling. The paddler should
generally be in a comfortable position.
Attempting to lift and carry a kayak by oneself or improperly is a
significant cause of kayaking injuries. Good lifting technique,
sharing loads, and not using needlessly large and heavy kayaks
Materials and construction
Today almost all kayaks are commercial products intended for sale
rather than for the builder's personal use.
Modern sea kayak in west Wales
Modern kayaks differ greatly from native kayaks in every aspect—from
initial form through conception, design, manufacturing and usage.
Modern kayaks are designed with computer-aided design (CAD) software,
often in combination with CAD customized for naval design.
Modern kayaks serve diverse purposes, ranging from slow and easy
touring on placid water, to racing and complex maneuvering in
fast-moving whitewater, to fishing and long-distance ocean excursions.
Modern forms, materials and construction techniques make it possible
to effectively serve these needs while continuing to leverage the
insights of the original
Modern kayaks have evolved into specialized types that may be broadly categorized according to their application as sea or touring kayaks, whitewater (or river) kayaks, surf kayaks, racing kayaks, fishing kayaks, and recreational kayaks. The broader kayak categories today are 'Sit-In', which is inspired mainly by traditional kayak forms, 'Sit-On-Top' (SOT), which evolved from paddle boards that were outfitted with footrests and a backrest, 'Hybrid', which are essentially canoes featuring a narrower beam and a reduced free board enabling the paddler to propel them from the middle of the boat, using a double blade paddle (i.e. 'kayak paddle'), and twin hull kayaks offering each of the paddler's legs a narrow hull of its own. In recent decades, kayaks design have proliferated to a point where the only broadly accepted denominator for them is their being designed mainly for paddling using a kayak paddle featuring two blades i.e. 'kayak paddle'. However, even this inclusive definition is being challenged by other means of human powered propulsion, such as foot activated pedal drives combined with rotating or sideways moving propellers, electric motors, and even outboard motors. Recreational Main article: Recreational kayak Recreational kayaks are designed for the casual paddler interested in fishing, photography, or a peaceful paddle on a lake, flatwater stream or protected salt water away from strong ocean waves. These boats presently make up the largest segment of kayak sales. Compared to other kayaks, recreational kayaks have a larger cockpit for easier entry and exit and a wider beam (27–36 inches (69–91 cm)) for more stability. They are generally less than 12 feet (3.7 m) in length and have limited cargo capacity. Less expensive materials like polyethylene and fewer options keep these boats relatively inexpensive. Most canoe/kayak clubs offer introductory instruction in recreational boats. They do not perform as well in the sea. The recreational kayak is usually a type of touring kayak. Sea Main article: Sea kayak
Sea kayaks are typically designed for travel by one, two or even three paddlers on open water and in many cases trade maneuverability for seaworthiness, stability, and cargo capacity. Sea-kayak sub-types include "skin-on-frame" kayaks with traditionally constructed frames, open-deck "sit-on-top" kayaks, and recreational kayaks. The sea kayak, though descended directly from traditional types, is implemented in a variety of materials. Sea kayaks typically have a longer waterline, and provisions for below-deck storage of cargo. Sea kayaks may also have rudders or skegs (fixed rudder) and upturned bow or stern profiles for wave shedding. Modern sea kayaks usually have two or more internal bulkheads. Some models can accommodate two or sometimes three paddlers. Sit-on-top
A paddler in a sit on top kayak explores
Sealed-hull (unsinkable) craft were developed for leisure use, as derivatives of surfboards (e.g. paddle or wave skis), or for surf conditions. Variants include planing surf craft, touring kayaks, and sea marathon kayaks. Increasingly, manufacturers build leisure 'sit-on-top' variants of extreme sports craft, typically using polyethylene to ensure strength and affordability, often with a skeg for directional stability. Water that enters the cockpit drains out through scupper holes—tubes that run from the cockpit to the bottom of the hull.
Sit-on-top kayaks come in 1-4 paddler configurations. Sit-on-top kayaks are particularly popular for fishing and SCUBA diving, since participants need to easily enter and exit the water, change seating positions, and access hatches and storage wells. Ordinarily the seat of a sit-on-top is slightly above water level, so the center of gravity for the paddler is higher than in a traditional kayak. To compensate for the higher center of gravity, sit-on-tops are often wider and slower than a traditional kayak of the same length. Contrary to popular belief, the sit-on-top kayak hull is not self bailing, since water penetrating it does not drain out automatically, as it does in bigger boats equipped with self bailing systems. Furthermore, the sit-on-top hull cannot be molded in a way that would assure water tightness, and water may get in through various holes in its hull, usually around hatches and deck accessories. If the sit-on-top kayak is loaded to a point where such perforations are covered with water, or if the water paddled is rough enough that such perforations often go under water, the sit-on-top hull may fill with water without the paddler noticing it in time. Surf Main article: Surf Kayaking
Specialty surf boats typically have flat bottoms, and hard edges,
similar to surf boards. The design of a surf kayak promotes the use of
an ocean surf wave (moving wave) as opposed to a river or feature wave
(moving water). They are typically made from rotomolded plastic, or
Main article: Whitewater kayaking
Whitewater kayaks are rotomolded in a semi-rigid, high impact plastic,
usually polyethylene. Careful construction ensures that the boat
remains structurally sound when subjected to fast-moving water. The
plastic hull allows these kayaks to bounce off rocks without leaking,
although they scratch and eventually puncture with enough use.
Whitewater kayaks range from 4 to 10 feet (1.2 to 3.0 m) long.
There are two main types of whitewater kayak:
Main article: Playboat
One type, the playboat, is short, with a scooped bow and blunt stern.
These trade speed and stability for high maneuverability. Their
primary use is performing tricks in individual water features or short
stretches of river. In playboating or freestyle competition (also
known as rodeo boating), kayakers exploit the complex currents of
rapids to execute a series of tricks, which are scored for skill and
The other primary type is the creek boat, which gets its name from its
purpose: running narrow, low-volume waterways. Creekboats are longer
and have far more volume than playboats, which makes them more stable,
faster and higher-floating. Many paddlers use creekboats in "short
boat" downriver races, and they are often seen on large rivers where
their extra stability and speed may be necessary to get through
Between the creekboat and playboat extremes is a category called
river–running kayaks. These medium–sized boats are designed for
rivers of moderate to high volume, and some, known as river running
playboats, are capable of basic playboating moves. They are typically
owned by paddlers who do not have enough whitewater involvement to
warrant the purchase of more–specialized boats.
Squirt Boating involves paddling both on the surface of the river and
underwater. Squirt boats must be custom-fitted to the paddler to
ensure comfort while maintaining the low interior volume necessary to
allow the paddler to submerge completely in the river.
White water racers combine a fast, unstable lower hull portion with a
flared upper hull portion to combine flat water racing speed with
extra stability in open water: they are not fitted with rudders and
have similar maneuverability to flat water racers. They usually
require substantial skill to achieve stability, due to extremely
narrow hulls. Whitewater racing kayaks, like all racing kayaks, are
made to regulation lengths, usually of fiber reinforced resin (usually
epoxy or polyester reinforced with Kevlar, glass fiber, carbon fiber,
or some combination). This form of construction is stiffer and has a
harder skin than non-reinforced plastic construction such as
rotomolded polyethylene: stiffer means faster, and harder means fewer
scratches and therefore also faster.
Main article: Sprint kayak
An inflatable kayak
Inflatables, also known as the duckies or IKs, can usually be
transported by hand using a carry bag. They are generally made of
hypalon (a kind of neoprene), Nytrylon (a rubberized fabric), PVC, or
polyurethane coated cloth. They can be inflated with foot, hand or
electric pumps. Multiple compartments in all but the least expensive
increase safety. They generally use low pressure air, almost always
below 3 psi.
While many inflatables are non-rigid, essentially pointed rafts, best
suited for use on rivers and calm water, the higher end inflatables
are designed to be hardy, seaworthy vessels. Recently some
manufacturers have added an internal frame (folding-style) to a
multi-section inflatable sit-on-top kayak to produce a seaworthy boat.
The appeal of inflatable kayaks is their portability, their durability
(they don't dent), ruggedness in white water (they bounce off rocks
rather than break) and their easy storage. In addition, inflatable
kayaks generally are stable, have a small turning radius and are easy
to master, although some models take more effort to paddle and are
slower than traditional kayaks.
Because inflatable kayaks aren't as sturdy as traditional,
hard-shelled kayaks, a lot of people tend to steer away from them.
However, there have been considerable advancements in inflatable kayak
technology over recent years.
Main article: Folding kayak
Folding kayaks are direct descendants of the skin-on-frame boats used
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A kayak with pedals allows the kayaker to propel the vessel with a rotating propeller or underwater "flippers" rather than with a paddle. In contrast to paddling, kayakers who pedal kayaks use their legs rather than their arms. Twin hull and outrigger
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Traditional multi-hull vessels such as catamarans and outrigger canoes
benefit from increased lateral stability without sacrificing speed,
and these advantages have been successfully applied in twin hull
Klepper Aerius Quattro XT in military colors
Kayaks were adapted for military use in the Second World War. Used
^ There is scant evidence of Ainu peoples using the classic kayak
design in prehistoric times. The following indicates that they did use
skin-covered vessels, however: "Like the yara chisei, bark houses, …
yara chip, bark boats, were probably substitutes for the skin-covered
boat, elsewhere surviving in the coracle and kayak. Skin-covered boats
… are referred to in old [Ainu] traditions. -Ainu material culture
from the notes of N. G. Munro: in the archive of the Royal
Anthropological Institute, British Museum, Department of Ethnography,
1994, p. 33
^ Jacobson, Steven A. (2012). Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary, 2nd edition.
Hoehn, John (2011). Commando Kayak: The Role of the Folboat in the Pacific War. Zurich, Switzerland: Hirsch Publishing. ISBN 978-3-033-01717-7.
Look up kayak in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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