The History of White Water Kayaking

To locate the start of Kayaking we go to the Inuit people of the arctic, these were the first inventor of kayaking and the kayak as we know it today. The very first kayaks were made from wooden frames, and then covered in sealskin to give a strong frame and a waterproof lining. The kayaks included a small hole in the middles of the structure, where the kayaker sits; the Inuit people mostly used these kayaks for hunting. These early designs changed greatly depending on which region you were in, as different environments and different cultures required a variation of needs, from hunting or transportation.

There are two main designs which are featured amongst the majority of these regions; the first was quite shorts and wide, this was mainly used for transporting a number of items and designed to be stable and easy to use. This was popular amongst the Inuit as it can be utilised by the majority of the community and because of the diverse environment was essential for transporting food, clothes and other necessities. The second design was long, fast and used at sea, this was used primarily for hunting. This design was harder to master and was only used by the men in the communities for long hunting trips out to sea. As these were more difficult to master and manoeuvre, many of the first designs were unfortunately attributed to the deaths of many huntsmen.

The kayak has seen many materials used for the frame and outer layers, these process and materials have changed significantly over the years. The first kayaks involved a wooden frame covered in a skin; this changed when Europeans landed on the shores and was converted to fabrics. These materials lasted many years until the introduction of fibre glass in the 1950s. In 1984 we saw the introduction of the first plastic kayak, which is still used by the majority of kayak designs today. The modern-day kayaks have been designed to be sturdy, light and adaptable, as they can be found in a number of environments with an ever-increasing number of tasks being assigned to them.

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Current day interest in white water rafting and kayaking evolved from John Macgregor, who designed the first canoe, which he based on sketches he derived from the Inuit people kayaks. He then formed the Canoe Club in 1866 with other canoe and kayaking fans. Macgregor then set about making it a competitive sport by holding the first regatta in 1873, this increased interest as a sport and it is now part of the Olympic programme including a range of events by top performing athletes.