Kayak

Facing strong volumes of water with skill, speed and without fear, are part of the necessary ingredients that kayaking lovers ought to have. Canoe or kayak, are two different words that make reference to a same sport, that offers excitement to those persons who enjoy the sensation of water splashing on their bodies and faces.

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Deriving from the Eskimo word qayaq, the origins of kayak date back to other ships, also Eskimo, used long time ago for fishing and hunting in the Arctic areas. It was built of reindeer bones or wood, and covered with sealfurs or from other animals. The kayak reached its maximum sophistication in Greenland.

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Nevertheless, the most ancient reference to this ship was discovered by archeologist Sir Leonard Wooley, next to the tomb of a Sumerian king. There, in the banks of the Euphrates River, was found a representation of a canoe and a silver oar, over 6000 years old.

At the Yucatan peninsula, appeared another canoe representation on a mural, 1150 AC, and on the ruins of Tikal, at the heart of Guatemala, there is some dating back to 700 AC with engravings representing canoes. The very first to know Eskimo kayaks were the British, who took it, back to Europe by the end of the nineteenth century (1890). From that moment on, the kayak begins to become popular until today, when it no longer is seen as a work instrument, but more as entertainment and competition.

The Beginnings

The birth of kayaking such as it is known today, goes back to the kayak built in 1865, by the Scotsman John McGregor, a lawyer residing in London.

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During that year, McGregor engaged in various trips aboard his kayak, traveling the lakes and rivers of the Nordic countries in Central Europe (France, Germany and Switzerland). He also reached the Red Sea, and sailed the Jordan River, the Suez Canal and the Nile River.

It was this lawyer who conceived the idea of a craft which was light and big enough to carry him. He also thought of a double paddle oar to impulse him.

So, today's kayak came to be the same used in sports competitions or adventure tours. In 1936 the kayak for competition in the Olympic Games of Berlin appeared for the first time. And from that date on, it has been present in every tournament.


The mixture of kayak and water offers a lot of possibilities. Some of its specialties may be practiced in fresh water while others on the sea.

Following we show you the ones practiced on rivers and lakes.

  • White water: is kayaking when practiced on rivers. Competition is under the modalities of descent and slalom.

    Descent consists of going down a section of a river, approximately 6 kilometers, in the smallest time possible. In these cases, the craft is longer and narrow, but faster.

    On the descent of rivers, there are trials at the international category which are very difficult, requiring a very special, nautical instinct. The kayakist should be able to interpret what water currents, depths and dangers may be present as he passes. Here there are no obstacles, only the natural ones of the river, with strong currents and passages requiring a great ability. Within the specialty of white waters, you may find the modality carried out in rushing waters, which as suggested by its name, is characterized by the water's force.

    The main competition within it is the slalom, when the rower has to overcome not only the rapids and natural obstacles, but also tests of obligatory way, which are placed along a length of almost 800 meters.

  • Quiet waters: This is the Olympic specialty par excellence. Competition is generally on lakes or rivers without much current.

  • Marathon: the kayak marathon is done on lakes, lagoons, rivers and the sea. Distances exceed 15 kilometers and crafts are specially adapted to that aim.

As there may be variety in the practice of kayak, there are a variety of constructive models for the crafts. The possibility of using any fabrication material has been exploited to the max. Treated woods, metals, plastics and fibers, which make kayaks lighter, durable and resistant.

Currently, many are made of fine woods, which are worked adequately. But carbon fibers and kevlar also give them greater resistance. Nevertheless, the material used, which gives them an excellent quality, is plastic, due to a greater durability.

What is basic of this discipline, is that the crew remains seated and advances with a double paddle oar. The ship's route may be directed with the oar or with a rudder, which is maneuvered with the feet. The number of crewmembers may vary, one, two, or four (K-1, K-2 & K-4), be it for fun as for competition. Also, he paddle or oar the only propulsion element authorized for competition kayaks. Nowadays, there are no limits as to the weight and measurements of the oar. Nevertheless, a continuous evolution in its design has been going on which affects in a higher navigation speed.

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Another element to know, to tell apart the differences between kayak and other disciplines, as for example canoeing, is that in the first one the kayakist sails facing to the direction he advances. Another difference is the way the craft is impulsed: in the kayak the paddle is not supported on the canoe, as it is in canoeing. As for the abilities to be developed by a kayakist, the main one is balance. Having reached this step, he should acquire a good rowing technique, where energy saving prevails, but without leaving out the conveyance of energy to the craft. The purpose is to favor a better gliding on the water, profiting from winds and currents.

With these introductory notes to kayaking, what follows is that you look for the equipment, be it owned or rented, and that you dare live the adventure of the experience. The country has rivers and lakes, the perfect platform to prove your ability and speed over water.

Speaking The Same Language

  • Proa Kayak's front side.

  • Popa Kayak's back side.

  • Manga (breadth) Wider part of the kayak.

  • Paleta (paddle) Wide part of the oar that goes into the water.

  • Tubo (tube) Narrow part of the oar that is held by the kayakist.

  • Borda (tack) Outer, higher edge of the canoe.

  • Frustre Support member that extends along the canoe between the tacks.

  • Palada en'J' (paddle) Paddle that ends as a rudder.

  • Timoneo (steering) Dragging the oar to create resistance; when it's executed by the paddlers at the stern, the canoe will turn towards the direction of the side of the rudder.

  • Remar (rowing) Paddle movement that draws towards the paddler at 90 degrees to the direction of advance, when it is executed by the paddler at bow, the canoe will turn to the direction of the side of the rudder.

  • Barrido (sweeping) Paddle movement as a wide curve, when it's executed by the paddler at the stern the canoe will turn to the direction opposite of the side of the sweeping.

Information courtesy of Eco Sport Magazine

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