origins of kayaking modern skin on frame kayak designs  building classes home

Origins of Kayaking

inuit hunter

Eight thousand years ago humans began a journey eastward from what is now Siberia.   These northern immigrants colonized the the coasts of Alaska and spread north and to the east  to what is now northern Canada, and Greenland. The world they encountered, like the world they left, was frozen and barren. Arctic peoples adapted to these conditions and created cultures that thrived and flourished in natures’ most inhospitable climate.  In these sparse landscapes the search for food often led to the water and into frigid oceans that teemed with sea life. In a world without trees, driftwood was split and shaped into a skeleton which was then covered with sealskin to create the first kayaks.  These craft were used as a platform to hunt seals, otters, caribou, and fish. To hunt these waters Arctic kayakers  braved sub-freezing temperatures, gale force winds, ice cold waters, shifting ice floes, and some of the roughest open waterways on earth.  In this harsh world that would again and again claim the lives of European explorers, these northern natives thrived and flourished. They were masters of their environment and their survival depended on the kayaks they built.

The Kayaks

inuit in kayaks

In the barren wood poor arctic all ocean craft were fashioned from driftwood logs that were split with stone and bone wedges.  This and other found wood was expertly shaped and carefully pieced together into a frame that was lashed with sinew and covered  with sealskin.  From this common framework designs varied considerably depending on the needs of the hunters and cultural influences. Each design served its purpose perfectly.  These purposes however do not always yield a satisfying sea kayak for the modern recreational kayaker.  Two designs that can be more easily adapted to our present desires are the Greenland kayak and the Aleutian kayak. Modern designs can also be constructed using the skin on frame technology.

origins of kayaking modern skin on frame kayak designs  building classes home