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

History of the kayak

Some of the first ever people to use a Kayak were the Aleut and Inuit tribes from the Arctic North America. At this point in time there were two basic types. One was made with light driftwood, while the other from animal skins that were stretched out over whalebone. Members of the tribes would use whale fat to make the vessels waterproof and to improve the buoyancy, seal bladders were filled with air and these would be placed in the aft and fore sections of the kayak.

Umiaqs for the whole family, kayaks for hunting

Along with the single-person kayaks that resemble the version we know today, the tribes used umiaqs, which were larger versions of the kayak capable of carrying the whole family. Some of these were around 60 feet in length. Smaller kayaks were used by the tribes to go hunting – kayak actually means ‘hunter’s boat’. They were perfect for hunting as they were stealthy; this meant the Inuit’s could sneak easily upon animals on the shoreline.

The kayak makes its way to Europe

The kayak arrived in Europe in the early to middle 1800s. This was in the shape of a frame boat that had soft sides. Kayaking soon became a popular sport among French and German athletes. Along with this, the kayak was practical in icy waters, so explorers venturing to the South and North Poles would often take them with them.

In 1931 people began to get more adventurous and a man by the name of Adolf Anderle was the first to take a kayak down Salzachofen Gorge. This moment is seen by many as the birth of what we know today as white water kayaking. It was not long after this that the International Scale of River Difficulty came into force. This was to determine just how dangerous the rapids of a river were. Even today, the same classification is used.

Kayak racing was introduced into the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 and it was at this time that kayaks made their way to America. It was also at this time that female athletes started to take an interest, when two years after the Olympics, Genevieve De Colmont was the first woman to paddle the Colorado and Green rivers, risking the white water rapids. Kayaking did not become mainstream until the 1970s, however. Today there are 10 white water events for kayaking in the Olympic Games.

Different types of kayaks

Today, there are a number of different types of kayaks. White water kayaks tend to be shorter and are often less stable but easy to move around and they are durable. Generally they are around eight feet long with round hulls, minimal flare and softer chines. Other varieties include sea kayaks and surf kayaks. White water kayaks are usually made from plastic, while those for surfing are made using fibreglass. There are also soft-sided folding kayaks and even an inflatable model.

Kayaking has evolved over the years but many of the basic principles still remain. It is, perhaps, for this reason that so many people are still attracted to the sport.