Welcome to the 2017 season

Our website will shortly be updated so that you can book and pay for your paddling online. Until then, reach us by phone, or by email at enquiries@chesterkayakhire.co.uk, where there will always be a prompt and friendly reply. See you on the river soon!

Tel: 01244 422007

A brief history of the kayak

With kayaking increasing in popularity, particularly since the London 2012 Olympics, many more people are discovering this great sport for the first time.

It was not always about sport though, with the kayak deeply rooted in the basics of living. Its translation of ‘hunter’s boat’ from the Inuit language is testament to this.

It was the Inuit and Aleut tribes from the Arctic North American plains who essentially invented the craft; building them and using them on a daily basis. When first created, archaeologists believe, there were two different types of basic kayak, one made entirely of wood, the other whalebones and animal skins.

The first kind, made only with light driftwood, was very light and manoeuvrable. The second used animal skins stretched over whalebone frames and were more resilient, plus far more waterproof. Boiled down whale fat was used to proof both types of vessel.

The buoyancy of both kayaks was also improved by the innovations of hunters, who would use seal bladders, fill them with air and then tightly pack them into the aft and fore sections of each vessel. This would give much needed lift to both ends, allowing for greater speed and manoeuvrability.

The majority of early kayaks were intended for single person use but, for larger groups and to transport families, larger craft called umiaqs were created. Extending to as long as 60 feet, these kayaks could carry possessions over long distances both quickly and effectively.

It is the smaller boats that would come to form the basis of our sport, however, and it is not hard to see how they would be used by the huntsman. Stealthy in the water, fast, and easy to switch direction, they were perfect for both open water hunting and stalking prey in the shallows and by the shoreline.

It was not for many years that the rest of the world knew about the kayak, when European explorers came upon it. Taking it back to their homelands, it was the French and German nations that would first see its potential for sport.

Adventurers too saw its potential and, in 1931, this was really put to its test when Adolf Anderle took a kayak down the Salzachofen Gorge rapids for the first time. Essentially inventing white-water kayaking, it would not be long before the still-in-use International Scale of River Difficulty appeared.

The kayak would make its first Olympic appearance at the Berlin games of 1936, and it continued to grow in popularity throughout the world. With men and women both actively participating, it was very much ahead of its time.

The 1950s saw a huge change to the way that kayaks were made, with fibreglass making its appearance. This remained the go-to material until the 1980s, when polyethylene plastic took up the charge, helping them become even lighter, sturdier, and increasingly versatile on the water.

Today, there are many different types of kayak, using a whole manner of types of material, which deliver a series of boats ideal for any task. Whether it is going from ice flow to ice flow in the Arctic, crossing island streams in the South Pacific, or cruising the River Dee in Chester, anything is possible.