Kayaks are small, lightweight boats that are pointed at both ends and powered by paddling. The boats are usually highly stable, with the paddler sitting close to the water, and were originally designed for use in the Arctic in a wide variety of waterways.
Like canoes, kayaks can be used across a range of competitive and recreational activities. Different designs are suited to particular uses, and allow for single or multiple paddlers in the boat. Whilst racing kayaks may be made out of fibreglass, sea kayaks and beginner boats are more heavy-duty, plastic vessels. The key thing that differentiates kayaking from canoeing is that the paddles are longer and have a blade at either end, whereas canoeing uses a single-headed paddle. Also, kayaks are always seated, without the option of kneeling, and are typically decked boats, whilst canoes are open. Generally speaking, kayakers will sit flat in the bottom of the boat, with legs extended straight under the deck, hips just below the deck and their upper body sitting upright out of the hole. A spray deck can also be attached, being worn around the waist of the kayaker to keep water out of the cockpit where he/she sits.
Paddlers sit facing forward, and use their double-bladed paddle to pull front-to-back on one side and then the other in a sweeping movement. This activity is a great workout for the arms, back and core muscles and participants can choose exactly how hard they want to work and how fast they’d like to go. Thanks to the covered deck, meaning that the legs of the kayaker are concealed, warm and dry, inside the boat, kayaking can be done come rain, wind or shine. The ability to add a spray deck means that kayaks are also better suited to racing or navigating white-water courses.
Sit on top kayaks can be used on the sea, estuaries, harbours and in the surf and are great for paddlers of all ages and abilities. These are the ones you are likely to see on holiday, where paddlers sit in an open, concave deck above the water level, rather than within a hole. They are much easier to get in and out of, and allow paddlers to jump in for a swim if and when they choose!
Fancy giving it a go? Find a location near you below.