A Kayak is a lightweight plastic or fiberglass covered canoe propelled by a double-bladed paddle, used for leisure or competitive water sports. Interesting enough Kayaking has grown into one of the top extreme water sport in the United States and throughout the world. Extreme water sports have always been relegated to Surfing, Windsurfing, Kitesurfing, Jet skiing and now kayaking. Kayaking is an extreme water sport which challenges the individual strength, stamina and hand & eye coordination without depleting our natural resources. Whitewater kayaking takes advantage of nature’s rough terrains and rapids, many people have been drawn to this high energy water sport.

Kayaking is not limited to the rough terrains such as white water rapids. There are many different kinds of kayaking boats, kayak paddles and equipment designed for your trip. This allows the calm water enthusiasts as well as white water kayakers to enjoy this growing water sport. Sea Kayker in cold waters in the Artic hunt and fish making use of their mobility to provide for their families. This growing water sport propelled only by individual strength makes you feel like you’re one with nature.

As experienced kayakers push to improve their skills, new challengers create powerful and exhilarating maneuvers. We find kayakers sliding off a ledge, pushing themselves off different heights, and splashing into rivers, lakes and oceans to create new ways of enhancing their experience. Kayaking provides such variety that new generation kayakers are constantly on the cutting edge. Many see themselves today as action heroes living a high thrilling adventure.

Weather conditions play an important part in your preparations. Improper equipment can contribute to accidents and this can prove to be fatal. Courage can not stand alone against nature’s powerful challenges. Not all kayakers seek white water rapids, there are those who enjoy the smooth early morning water on the lake. Chilling weather creates adverse conditions for the average kayaker and it is necessary to address this issue.

Proper equipment helps keep your sites on your adventure and not else where. There is a variety of thermal wear, foot wear, swim vest, hand wear and head wear which are designed to help you have a safe trip. Safety equipment such as river knives, rescue gear, dry bags, batteries, flash light, first aid kits, sunglasses and protective gear should also be considered. Kayaker eyewear is important when on a kayaking vacation . Of course the kayak and the paddles are essential parts of your trip and should be considered with regard to the type of trip you desire. Different types of kayak trips require proper equipment such as hardshell, inflatable kayaks, long paddles versus short paddles.

Whether you’re going on a long kayaking pleasure trip or you’re ready to dive into the rugged waters, you will find this extreme sport is an excellent choice. Around the world from icy conditions to tropical climates, kayaking will never leave you empty. Remember to address your prescription watersports sunglasses with your optometrist as well.

Your thirst for excitement will draw you to meet many people like yourself. I recommend you get your training and prepare yourself for the adventure of your life. In my book kayaking is the number one extreme water sport.




A kayak is a small human-powered boat. It typically has a covered deck, and a cockpit covered by a spray skirt. It is propelled by a double-bladed paddle. The kayak was originally developed by native Aleut and Inuit hunters in sub-arctic regions of North America and Greenland. Modern kayaks come in a wide variety of designs and materials for specialized purposes.

Kayaks may accommodate one, two, or occasionally three paddlers who sit facing forward in one or more cockpits below the deck of the boat. The spray skirt or similar waterproof garment attaches securely to the edges of the cockpit, preventing the entry of water from waves or spray, and making it possible in most styles of boat, to roll the kayak upright again without it filling with water or ejecting the paddler.

Kayaks differ distinctly in design and history from canoes, which are more flat-bottomed boats propelled by single-bladed paddles, although some modern canoes may be difficult for a non-expert to distinguish from a kayak. Kayaks are often called canoes in several countries like Great Britain and Ireland.

Kayaks (Inuktitut: qajaq , Inuktitut syllabics) were originally developed by the Aleuts and Inuit indigenous peoples living in the Arctic regions of North America and Greenland, who used the boats to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and the coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. These first kayaks were constructed from stitched animal skins such as seal stretched over a wooden frame made from collected driftwood, as many of the areas of their construction were treeless. Archaeologists have found evidence indicating that kayaks are at least 4000 years old.

Though the term "kayak" is now used broadly for this class of boat, native people made many different types of boat for different purposes. The baidarka is double or triple kayak developed by indigenous cultures in Alaska and was used for hunting and transporting passengers or goods. An umiak ("women's boat") is a larger open decked boat ranging from 17 feet to 60 feet, made with seal skins and wood. It was paddled with single bladed paddles and typically had more than one paddler. It is thought the kayak originally started out as a decked over umiak and evolved into its traditional form.

The word "kayak" means "man's boat" or "hunter's boat", and native kayaks were a very personal craft, built by the man who would use them (with assistance from his wife, who would sew the skins) fitting his measures, for maximum maneuverability. The skin jacket of the hunter was then sewn into the skins of the kayak, to create a waterproof seal.

The builder used found materials and anthromorphic measurements, using his own body, to create a kayak conforming closely to his own body. For example - typically the length was three times the span of his outstretched arms. The width at the cockpit was the width of the builder's hips plus two fists (and sometimes less). The typical depth was his fist plus the outstretched thumb (hitch hiker). Thus typical dimensions were about 17 feet long by 20-22 inches wide by 7 inches deep. This measurement style confounded early European explorers who tried to duplicate the kayak because each kayak was a little different.

Because the user was sewn in, the boat was almost like a piece of clothing 'worn' by the boater. This meant that what is now known as a 'wet exit' (getting out of a kayak that has overturned, righting it, and getting back in) was impossible, leading to the importance of the eskimo roll maneuver, where the kayak is righted without leaving the cockpit.

Contemporary kayaks trace their origins primarily to the native boats of Alaska, northern Canada, and Southwest Greenland. Wooden kayaks and fabric kayaks on wooden frames (such as the Klepper) were dominating the market up until 1950s, when fiberglass boats were first introduced. Rotomolded plastic kayaks first appeared in 1973.

Modern kayaks
Modern kayaks have evolved into numerous specialized types, that may be broadly categorized as sea kayaks , whitewater (or river ) kayaks , surf kayaks , and racing kayaks , though many hybrid types exist as well. Sea kayaks are typically designed for travel by one or two paddlers on open water and trade manueverability for seaworthiness, stability, and cargo capacity. Sea-kayak sub-types include open-deck "sit-on-top" kayaks, recreational kayaks, and collapsible "skin-on-frame" boats. Whitewater kayaks are highly manueverable boats, usually for a single paddler, and include such specialized boats as playboats and slalom kayaks. Surf kayaks , often called "surf skis", are specialized narrow and long boats for surfing breaking waves and surf-zone rescues. Racing kayaks are designed for speed, and usually require substantial skill to achieve stability, due to extremely narrow hulls, though downriver racing kayaks are a hybrid style with whitewater boats.

Modern kayaks are typically constructed from rotomolded plastic, wood, fabrics over wooden or aluminum frames, fiberglass, kevlar, or carbon fiber. They come in one, two, and occasionally three or four person models.

Sea Kayaks
The sea kayak, though descended directly from traditional designs and types, is implemented in a wide variety of materials, and with many distinct design choices. Sea kayaks as a class are distinct from whitewater kayaks and other boats by typically having a longer waterline (emphasizing straight travel through the water over extreme maneuverability), and provisions for below-deck storage of cargo. Sea kayaks may also have rudders or skegs (also for enhanced straight-line tracking), and such features as upturned bow or stern profiles for wave shedding. Modern sea kayaks often have two or more internal bulkheads to provide watertight internal sections for flotation and waterproof storage. Sea kayaks, unlike most whitewater kayaks, may be built to accommodate two or sometimes three paddlers.
A Sea kayak or touring kayak is a kayak developed for the sport of paddling on open waters of lakes, bays, and the ocean. Sea kayaks are seaworthy small boats with a covered deck and the ability to incorporate a spraydeck. They trade off the extreme manueverability of whitewater kayaks for cargo capacity, ease of straight-line paddling, and comfort for long journeys.

Sea kayaks are now used around the world for marine journeys from a few hours to many weeks, as they can accommodate one or two (occasionally three) paddlers together with room for camping gear, food, water, and other supplies. The sport of sea kayaking (sometimes called ocean kayaking ) combines much of the appeal of hill-walking with a maritime aspect, few access issues and an almost infinite area to enjoy.

Strip Built Kayaks
Strip built kayaks are similar in shape to commercially available rigid fiberglass kayaks but much lighter. These hand built kayaks are both a work of art and a light weight durable craft. Like their fiberglass counterparts the shape and size of the strip built kayaks determine how they perform and what uses are optimal. The kayaks are built with thin strips of lightweight wood, often Cedar, Pine or Redwood. The strips are glued together around a form, stapled or clamped in place, and allowed to dry. The boats strength comes from a layer of fiberglass cloth and resin, inside and out. Strip built kayaks are sold by a few companies, prices start from around $4,000 and up. Anyone who is somewhat handy with tools could build one for about $400 in 200 hours. The exact cost and time will be determined by the builder's skill, materials chosen and design of the kayak.

Skin on frame kayaks
Often an umbrella term for several types of kayaks, Skin on Frame boats are primarily considered a more traditional boat in design, materials, construction, and technique. They are often the lightest kayaks, and were traditionally made of driftwood pegged or lashed together and stretched seal skin, as those were the most readily available materials in the arctic regions. Today, the seal skin is usually replaced with canvas or nylon cloth covered with paint, neoprene, or a hypalon rubber coating.

The word kayak has evolved to be synonymous with “traditional kayak” and often encompasses three subcategories of boats: Baidarkas , from the Alaskan & Aleutian seas, the oldest design, whose rounded shape and numerous chines give them an almost Blimp-like appearance; West Greenland kayaks, with fewer chines and a more angular shape, with gunwales rising to a point at the bow and stern; and East Greenland kayaks that appear similar to the West Greenland style, but are often more snugly fitted to the paddler and possess a steeper angle between gunwale and stem which lend maneuverability.

Most of the Inuit peoples from the Aleutian Island eastward to Greenland relied on the kayak for hunting a variety of prey — primarily seals, though whales and caribou were important in some areas. The Dutch were some of the first Europeans to take interest in the indigenous American boat design, spelling the name for these Inuit & Aleut boats, Qajaq .

Skin on frame kayaks are still being used for hunting by Inuit people in Greenland . In other parts of the world homebuilders are continuing the tradition of skin on frame kayaks albeit with modern skins of canvas or synthetic fabric.

Folding kayaks
A special type of skin-on-frame kayak is the folding kayak, the direct descendant of the original Inuit kayak. A folder is a modern kayak with a collapsible frame, of wood, aluminum or plastic, or a combination thereof, and a skin, of some sort of water-resistant and durable fabric. Many types have integral air sponsons inside the hull, increased secondary stability and making the kayaks virtually unsinkable.

Folders are known for their durability, stability, and longevity: The Klepper Aerius I , a single-seater, has been used successfully for white-water kayaking, due to its durability and excellent maneuverability, while many Kleppers have been in frequent use for more than 20 years.

Folding kayaks exhibit many of the same paddling characteristics as the original skin-and-frame vessels of the circumpolar north. Of all modern kayaks, they are closest relatives to the skin-and-frame boats of the past.

Sealed-hull (unsinkable) craft were developed in the past for low level leisure use, as derivatives from surfboards (e.g. paddle or wave skis), or for surf conditions. Variants include planing surf craft, touring kayaks, and sea marathon kayaks. Increasingly, manufacturers are building leisure 'sit-on-top' variants of extreme sports craft, often with a skeg (fixed rudder) for directional stability. Water that enters the cockpit drains out through scupper holes - tubes that run from the cockpit to the bottom of the hull. Sit-on-top kayaks usually come in single and double (two paddler) designs, although a few models accommodate three or four paddlers. Sit-on-top kayaks are particularly popular for fishing and diving, since participants need to easily enter and exit the water, change seating positions, and access hatches and storage wells. Ordinarily the seat of a sit-on-top is slightly above water level, so the center of gravity for the paddler is higher than in a traditional kayak. To compensate for the center of gravity, a sit-on-top is often wider than a traditional kayak of the same length, and is considered slower as a result.

A Royak is a sit-on-top Kayak (as it is called today) that integrates the features of a surf board with a kayak, and has revolutionized paddlesports. It was invented by Roy Grabenauer in 1968 after years of experimenting with a variety of designs and innovative technologies, although Tim Niemier is celebrated as having popularized the craft with the rotomold process.

Roy needed a boat that would not sink, and that he could get in and out of easily in rough water. He wanted a craft with enough storage for his gear that was also easy to maneuver, lightweight and comfortable. He and his wife were using everything from innertubes to surfboards as their platform, until his wife developed back problems and the search for an alternative became imperative for them to continue to enjoy their sport.

Roy worked as a chief electrical engineer for the Sacramento DMV and began experimenting with a boat fabricated from an airplane wing tank. The result was a torpedo-shaped craft that, to quote an article in National Fisherman from April, 1978 "...resembles a topless kayak going backwards."

Recreational kayaks
Recreational kayaks are designed for the casual paddler interested in fishing, photography, or a peaceful paddle on a lake or flatwater stream; they presently make up the largest segment of kayak sales. Compared to other kayaks, recreational kayaks have a larger cockpit for easier entry and exit and a wider beam (27–30 inches) for more stability on the water; they are generally less than twelve feet in length and have limited cargo capacity. Using less expensive materials like polyethylene and including fewer options keep these boats inexpensive (US$300–$800). Most canoe/kayak clubs offer introductory instruction in recreational boats as a way to enter into the sport.

A Recreational Kayak is a special type of kayak that is designed for the casual paddler interested in fishing, photography, or a peaceful paddle on a lake or flatwater stream; they presently make up the largest segment of kayak sales. Compared to other kayaks, recreational kayaks are characterized by having larger a cockpit opening for easy entry and exit and a wider beam (27–30 inches) for more stability on the water and are generally less than twelve feet in length, which makes them slower than a longer boat would be, but lighter, easier to handle in and out of the water, and less expensive. Due to the wider hull, recreational kayaks will not track (maintain a straight line) as well as longer, narrower models. They generally have limited cargo carrying capacity. Using less expensive materials like rotomolded polyethylene and including fewer options helps keep these boats inexpensive ($300–$600 USD).

Whitewater kayaks
Whitewater kayaks are generally made out of rigid, high impact plastic; usually polyethylene. They are shorter than other types of kayaks, ranging from 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 metres) long. Modern design has moved toward shorter boats, which make them very maneuverable but slow. However, whitewater boats do not need inherent speed, because they move downriver with current. In "freestyle" competition ("kayak rodeo"), whitewater kayakers use features of rapids to do tricks, typically while remaining in one place on the river.

Ultra-low-volume kayaks that are designed to be paddled both on and below the surface of the water are used in Squirt Boating.

Whitewater kayaking
Whitewater kayaking
is the sport of paddling a kayak on a moving body of water, typically a river. Whitewater kayaking can range from a fun, carefree, splishy-splash float trip to a challenging, adrenaline-filled sport.

The kayak (or just 'boat') used in whitewater kayaking is different from those used in Whitewater Racing or Sea Kayaking. Traditionally, kayaks were made of animal skins stretched over wooden frames. Early whitewater boats were fiberglass or kevlar. Today boats are typically made of a tough plastic that is slightly flexible and very durable. Boats can range in size from barely long enough to hold the paddler (around 6 ft/1.8 m long), up to 12 ft (3.6 m) or longer.

There are four 'sub-categories' in whitewater kayaking: river-running, creeking, slalom, and playboating.

  • River  Running can be thought of as a tour down a  river, to enjoy the scenery as well as experiencing challenging whitewater.  River running includes short day  trips as well as longer multi-day trips. Multi-day kayak trips  often entail the use of gear-toting rafts to allow a more comfortable  experience without a heavily-laden kayak. Whitewater Racing is the competitive  aspect of this sub-category, racing canoes or kayaks down a river as fast as  possible.
  • Creeking is perhaps best thought of as a subcategory of River Running , involving very technical  and difficult rapids, typically in the class IV to VI range. While people will  differ on the definition, creeking generally involves higher  gradient (approaching or in excess of 100 feet per mile), and is likely to  include running ledges, slides, and waterfalls on relatively small and tight  rivers, though some will allow for very large and big volume rivers in their  definition. Kayaks used for creeking usually have higher volume (more gallons  of displacement) and more rounded bow and stern, as these features provide an  extra margin of safety against  the liklihood of pinning , and  will resurface more quickly and controlled when coming off larger drops.  Extreme racing is a competitive form of this aspect of whitewater kayaking. 
  • Slalom is another technical form of kayaking. Racers attempt to make their  way from the top to the bottom of a designated section of river as fast as  possible, while correctly negotiating gates (a series of poles suspended  vertically over the river). There are usually 20-25 gates in a race which must  be navigated in sequential order. Green gates must be negotiated in a  downstream direction, red gates in an upstream direction. This is typically  done on class II to class IV water, but the placement of the gates, and  precision necessary to paddle them fast and "clean" (without touching a pole),  makes the moves much harder than the water's difficulty suggests. (It has been  described as performing class V moves with class III consequences.) Pro level slalom competitions have  specific length (350cm - new rules) and width requirements for the boats,  which will be made out of kevlar/fiberglass/carbon fiber composites to be  light weight and have faster hull speed. (Plastic whitewater kayaks can be  used in citizen-level races.) This is the only form of whitewater kayaking in  the Olympics.
  • Playboating or Freestyle is perhaps more a gymnastic  and artistic kind of kayaking. While the other varieties of kayaking generally  involve going from Point A to Point  B , playboaters often stay in one spot in the river (usually in a  hole, pourover or on a wave) where they work with and against the dynamic  forces of the river to perform a variety of maneuvers. These can include  surfing, spinning, and various vertical moves (cartwheels, loops, blunts, and  many many others), spinning the boat on all possible axes of rotation. More  recently, aerial moves have become accessible, where paddlers perform tricks  having gained air from using the speed and bounce of the wave. Kayaks used for  playboating generally have relatively low volume in the bow and stern,  allowing the paddler to submerge the ends of the kayak with relative ease.  Competitions for playboating or freestyle are sometimes called whitewater   rodeo in the US, but more frequently just referred to as  freestyle events in UK and  Europe.

This allows the kayaker to keep his or her hands free for fishing or other activities, but introduces a somewhat delicate mechanical component into the boat and eliminates the paddle as a tool for capsize-prevention and self-rescue.


is a discipline of kayaking or canoeing where the paddler performs various technical moves in one place (a playspot), as opposed to whitewater canoeing or kayaking where the objective is to travel the length of a section of river (although whitewater canoeists will often stop and play en-route). Specialised canoes or kayaks (boats) known as playboats are often used, but any boat can be used for playing. It is the paddling equivalent of skateboarding or BMX.

Playboating is also known as Rodeo.

Playspots are typically stationary features on rivers, in particular standing waves (which may be breaking or partially breaking), 'holes' and 'stoppers', where water flows back on itself creating a retentive feature (these are often formed at the bottom of small drops or weirs), or eddy lines (the boundary between slow moving water at the rivers' edge, and faster water). Playboating is sometimes performed on dynamic moving features such as haystacks (large boils) and whirlpools, or on flat water (this is often referred to as flatwheeling). Playspots are found on natural whitewater, on artificial weirs, on artificial whitewater courses, and occasionally on tidal races in the sea.

Basic moves consist of front- and back-surfing, spins through any of the three axes (Air screws, cartwheels and air loops), stalls with the kayak vertical on either end, and getting airborne (bouncing the boat on a wave, or submerging part of the kayak so that it pops out when it re-emerges). The playboater usually aims to stay surfing the feature after performing each move (as opposed to being washed off). More complex moves are made up of combinations of these moves. Playboating has grown massively in popularity in recent years due to innovations in boat design. Modern playboats are made from plastic which is much more robust than glass fibre or wood. Playboats typically have much less volume in the bow and stern than dedicated river running kayaks. This allows the paddler to easily dip either end underwater.

Playboating is mainly done for fun, but competitions are also popular. Paddlers have a set time to perform as many different moves as possible, and score additional points for style.

Whitewater paddlers often resort to playboating when they live a long distance from any real whitewater rivers, for example in the South East of England.

Visiting a playspot where you do not need to paddle a river to get there (which involves shuttling cars to the bottom of the river) is often referred to as 'Park and Play'. Playboating is often considered less effort and safer than whitewater river running (this is not always the case).

Popular playspots
Popular playspots at weirs include:
  • Hurley  Weir on the Thames, near London
  • Hawaii-sur-Rhone on the Rhône River, in Lyon, France. 
Popular playspots on tidal races include:
  • Skookumchuck Narrows in  Canada 
  • The  Bitches in Wales
  • The  Swellies on the Menai Strait
  • The  Falls of Lora in Scotland
Popular big volume rivers often run for their playspots include (these often feature on playboating videos):
  • The Slave  River in Canada
  • Garberator , Baby Face and Screaming Beaver on the Ottawa River, in  Canada 
  • The White  Nile in Uganda
Popular natural playspots include:
  • The  Rabioux wave on the Durance in France.
  • Rock Island State Park in the Cumberland  Mountains of Tennessee 
  • School  House Rock "KRH" playhole in California.
Man-enhanced playspots include:
  • The Salida playhole in  Colorado  
The Tryweryn in Wales, the Dee near Llangollen in Wales, the Washburn in England, and Hambledon Weir on the Thames have been modified (by moving boulders on the river bed, or in the case of Hambledon by installing pneumatic kicker ramps on the river bed) to create better playspots.

Construction has begun on Brennan's Wave a project in Missoula, Mt that is converting a broken diversion dam into a playpark for kayakers.

Squirt Boating
Squirt Boating
is a form of Whitewater kayaking or canoeing where the boat is designed to be as low in volume as possible while still allowing the paddler to float. Squirt boats are designed to utilize both surface and underwater currents to maneuver within the water. These maneuvers can be used to effect navigational control or to perform tricks.

Physically, a typical squirt boat is similar a whitewater kayak or covered canoe (C-1) but is distinct in the following ways:
  • The side  profile of a squirt boat is very flat when compared to a whitewater kayak or  C-1.
  • The volume  of a squirt boat is generally less than half of the volume of a normal kayak  of the same length. This often ranges from 24-35 gallons for a squirt boat,  but 50-70 gallons for a typical kayak.
  • Squirt  boats often have foot bumps that enable the boat to maintain an ultra-low  volume while still providing room for the feet.
  • When in  the water, 80-90% of the boat will be underwater.  
Squirt boating originally evolved from slalom kayaks. Racers found that if they let the upstream hip drop into the current and slide the stern of the boat under water, they could decrease the amount of time required to make large degree turns (90+ degrees). This maneuver was dubbed a squirt because of the way the boats squirted forward with extra speed thanks to the trapped buoyancy of the stern and the shape of the hull and deck. It is analogous to squeezing a pumpkin seed in between your fingers and having it shoot out away from you.

After this original maneuver was developed, a number of paddlers noticed that squirting was a lot of fun and introduced a new method of playing on the river. Squirts allowed the boats to get vertical even in flat water. The problem was that the predominant kayak designs of the 1980s were not conducive to doing squirts. Most kayaks at the time were more than 10 feet long and had a volume greater than 70 gallons. Jesse Whitamore, a kayak designer, designed the first chopped boats based on race boat designs that were intended to squirt. Then, one fairly well known paddler, boat designer, and paddle maker by the name of Jim Snyder decided to try and create a shorter boat that was designed to squirt that could also be used for running and playing on the river. The result, after many years of trial and error, was a radically low volume boat.

  • Squirts -  'Squirting,' moves the boat from flat to vertical. The feeling of the boat  doing a squirt is similar to the feeling of your hand at an angle, out the  window of a fast moving vehicle, rising or falling and turning against the  flow of air. There are several hydraulic river features that facilitate this  maneuver. what
  • Screw-Around/Screw-Up - This is a vertical or past  vertical maneuver where the kayak is pivoted around its long axis. It is  usually performed after a squirt.
  • Blasts -  "Blasting," is typically done in a vertical pourover, although it can be  accomplished in a less vertical hydraulic (or hole), the effect is less  fantastic. The effect of the move is to have either the bow or stern of the  kayak sandwhiched between the upstream flow of the river and the reversal flow  of the hydraulic. In vertical features, the kayak is balanced vertically. 
  • Mystery  Moves - This is the Holy Grail of squirt boat maneuvers. In a mystery move,  the kayak and paddler submerge entirely into the flow of the river via total  immersion into downward flow.
  • Cartwheels  - The kayak transitions from vertical to vertical, sideways, utilizing the  "smash" technique of rotating your hips and boat against the paddle-torso  configuration.
  • Double  Enders - Similar to a cartwheel, but older in origin. The transition in a  double ender is performed utilizing squirt, rather than smash, principles. 
  • Zero to  Hero - When surfacing from a mystery move upside down, the paddler executes a  "screw around,"/"screw-up," and effectively surfaces vertically. 
  • Clean  Wheel - A variation of the carthweel, executed without the usual paddle  strokes.
Surf kayaks
Surf Kayaking uses kayaks that are similar in design to whitewater kayaks, except they have a planing hull (flat side to side) to carve into a wave face, like a surfboard. While typically seven or eight feet in length, competition surf kayaks can be nearly twelve feet long to increase both planing speed while on a wave and to provide faster paddling speed for catching waves.

A variation on the closed cockpit surf kayak is an open cockpit design called a Waveski . Although the waveski utilises similar dynamics, in terms of paddling technique and surfing performance on the waves, construction can be very similar to surfboard designs. Elite waveski surfers are able to more closely imitate surfboard manouveres.

Racing kayaks
Flatwater racing kayaks
Flatwater racing kayaks are generally made out of very lightweight materials. They are not intended for anything other than flat water on a relatively calm day. They are thin, extremely unstable, and expensive, with a competitive K-1 boat running in the $4000 range. They require a good level of expertise to paddle well, but are extremely fast in the hands of proficient users. The beam of a flatwater boat is typically barely wider than the hips of the person who paddles it, allowing for a very long and narrow shape to reduce drag. The most common types of flatwater racing kayaks (sometimes termed 'sprint boats') are K-1 (single paddler), K-2 (two paddlers) and K-4 (four paddlers). These boats are raced at the Olympic level by both men over courses of 500 m and 1000 m and women, over courses 500 m only.

Due to their length (a one person sprint kayak is 17 ft (5.2 m) long), sprint boats come equipped with a rudder to help with turning. The rudder is controlled by the feet of the paddler (the foremost paddler in multiperson designs). In spite of this, these boats still make fairly large turns.

Flatwater racing kayaks are closely related to flatwater racing canoes, and are usually paddled out of a common club or team, although it is rare for paddlers to compete in both canoes and kayaks.

A highly specialized variant of flatwater racing kayak called a Surf Ski has an open cockpit and can be twenty-one feet long but only eighteen inches wide, requiring expert balance and paddling skill. Surf Skis were originally created for surf and are still used in surf races in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. They have become very popular in the United States for both ocean races, lake races and even downriver races.

Slalom kayak
Kayaks designed for Slalom canoeing have a hull for manouverability and—since the early 1970s—low profile decks.

Specialty and multi-type kayaks
Inflatable kayaks
Another special type of kayak is the inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks usually can be transported by hand using a carry bag. They are made of hypalon (a kind of neoprene), pvc, or polyurethane coated cloth. They can be inflated with foot, hand or electric pumps. Multiple compartments in all but the least expensive increase safety. They generally use low pressure air, almost always below 3 psi.

Until recently, inflatable kayaks have been non-rigid boats, essentially pointed rafts, and best suited for use on rivers and calm water. However, recently some manufacturers have combined folding kayak design princicples (notably the use of an internal frame) with Sit-on-top kayak overall design using multiple inflatable sections to produce a seaworthy inflatable sea kayak.

Besides being portable, inflatable kayaks generally are stable and easy to master, but they take more effort to paddle and are slower than traditional kayaks.

Pedal kayaks
A special type of kayak using pedals allows the kayaker to propel the vessel with a propeller or underwater "flippers" attached to pedals in the cockpit, rather than a with a paddle

Modern kayak design
The design of different types of kayak is largely a matter of two dimensions of trade-off: between directional stability ("tracking") and maneuverability, the second between primary and secondary stability .

Length: As a general rule, a longer kayak is faster while a shorter kayak may be turned more quickly - but the higher potential top speed of the longer kayak is largely offset by increased friction. Kayaks that are built to cover longer distances such as touring and sea kayaks are themselves longer, generally between 16 and 19 feet. A flat water racing K1's maximum length governed by the ICF is 17 feet. Whitewater kayaks, which generally depend upon river current for their forward motion, are built quite short, to maximize maneuverability. These kayaks rarely exceed eight feet in length, and some specialized boats such as playboats may be only six feet long. The design of recreational kayaks is an attempt to compromise between tracking and maneuverability, while keeping costs reasonable; their length generally ranges from nine to fourteen feet.

Rocker: Length alone does not fully predict the maneuverability of a kayak: a second design element is rocker : the curvature of the kayak from bow to stern. A heavily "rockered" boat has more lengthwise curvature than a boat with little or no rocker, meaning that the effective waterline of the rockered boat is less than for a kayak with no rocker. For example, an 18 ft. kayak with no rocker will be entirely in the water from end to end. In contrast, the bow and stern of an 18 footer with will be out of the water, so its lengthwise waterline may be only 16 ft. Rocker is generally most evident at the ends, and in moderation improves handling. Similarly, although a whitewater boat may only be a few feet shorter than many recreational kayaks, because the whitewater boat is heavily rockered its waterline is far shorter and its maneuverability far greater.

Hull form: Kayak hull designs are divided into categories based on the shape from bow to stern and on the shape of the hull in cross-section. Bow-to-stern shapes include:

  • Symmetrical: the widest part of the boat is halfway  between bow and stern.

  • Fish form:  the widest part is forward of the midpoint.

  • Swede  form: the widest part is aft (in back) of the midpoint.  

The presence or absence of a V bottom at various points affects the kayak's tracking and maneuverability. A V tends to improve the kayak's ability to travel straight (track), but reduces the ease of turning. Most modern kayaks have steep Vee sections at the bow and stern, and a very shallow Vee amidships.

Beam profile: Hull shapes are categorized by the roundness (or flatness) of the bottom, whether the bottom comes to a "V" at various points on the hull, and by the presence, absence, and severity of a chine, where the side and bottom of a hull meet at an angle, creating another edge below the gunwales. This design choice determines the tradeoff between primary and secondary stability. The hull design determines the relative primary stability and secondary stability of a kayak, the resistance of the boat to tipping and to ultimate capsize, respectively.

Primary and secondary stability: Although every kayak will rock from side-to-side, wider kayaks with more buoyancy away from the centerline will present more resistance to tipping and thus feel less likely to capsize than a narrow one with less buoyancy away from the centerline. Flat-bottomed boats that push their volume away from the centerline will also feel more stable than rounded or V-shaped hull shapes that distribute buoyancy more evenly.

While flat-bottomed boats have more primary (sometimes called "initial") stability, and feel more stable to the beginner they usually have less secondary stability . Once they do begin to tip, they capsize quickly and suddenly. Rounder-bottomed boats are quite the opposite - having lower intial or primary stability and (usually) greater secondary stability. The chine in some boats increases secondary stability by effectively widening the beam of the boat when it is heeled (tipped).

Secondary stability refers to final stability, or additional resistance to capsizing as a kayak approaches capsizing. Rounder-bottomed boats present a greater cross-section to the water as they are tipped from level ("heeled"), while very flat-bottomed boats present less. Sea kayaks, designed for open water and rough conditions, are generally narrower (22-25 inches) and have more secondary stability than recreational kayaks, which are wider (26-30+ inches), have a flatter hull shape, and more primary stability. Kayaks with only moderate primary, but excellent secondary are, in general, considered more seaworthy, especially in challenging conditions.

Until recently, whitewater kayaks had very rounded and rockered hulls, but changes in design philosophy have lead to whitewater kayaks with very flat planing hulls that allow them to sit on top of the water rather than in the water (displacement hull).

The Flyak is a hydrofoil adaptation to the conventional kayak. Twin hydrofoils are designed to raise the hull clear of the water and increase the speed. Speeds of up to 27.2 km·h-1 (7.6 m·s-1, 16.9 mph) can be achieved on calm water.[1]

The Flyak has two hydrofoil fins below the surface of the water to create lift. At high speeds the entire hull is lifted 15cm from the water, reducing the drag and allowing even greater speeds, reportedly more than twice that of a conventional kayak.

The Flyak was designed by Einar Rasmussen and Peter Ribe in Norway and released in 2005.[2] Hydrofoil lift method is well established for motored and man-powered water craft, but the Flyak is the first to incorporate the design into a commercial kayak.

Comparisons and Records
A 200m sprint was performed pitting Olympic athlete Andreas Gjersøe in a Flyak against the four-man Norwegian National Team in a K4 kayak on Sunday November 13, 2005.[3] This race was featured on "Beyond Tomorrow" broadcast on Wednesday February 8, 2006.[4] It was reported that the Flyak won by a boat length. A K1 sprint specialist in a conventional kayak would expect to be some five seconds slower than a four-man boat over 200m.

Surf skis
A surf ski (or surfski or waveski ) is a light recreational water craft with an elongated open cockpit kayak used for surf kayaking , surf lifesaving, or flat-water racing. Surf kayaking is sometimes called "surf canoeing" in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Surf skis combine charcteristics from both kayaks and surfboards.

Surf skis are very long and thin for kayaks, typically about 20 feet (6 meters) long and 20" (50cm) wide. As such, they excel at going fast and tracking well, but at the expense of maneuverability and stability. Most surf skis are made of composite materials, such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, or kevlar, in order to minimize weight.

Surf skis are used worldwide, but are most popular in warmer coastal regions, notably Australia, California, Hawaii, and South Africa, as paddling a surf ski inevitably involves contact with the water. In cooler waters, paddlers often choose to wear a wetsuit.

The earliest reports of surf skis originate from Newcastle Beach in Australia in the 1920s, though other accounts are reported from South Africa. Surf skis were originally designed to be paddled out through surf in order to rescue drowing swimmers. Until the 1960s, surfboats -- lightweight rowing boats with a crew of five -- were responsible for the rescue work in and behind the surf line. These boats were expensive and require a huge amount of skill to be used effectively. It was soon realised that a double surfski could do almost everything that a surfboat could do, and in 1946, the importance of surfskis was noted by the surf lifesaving associations and they were included in lifesaving competitions and championships. Riders could stand up on them to surf them back to shore. These early surf skis were very wide and have little in resemblance to their modern counterparts.

Surf skis were quickly introduced into surf lifesaving as a competition event. Over time they became narrower and narrower to maximise speed. Despite their appearances a surf ski (with an experienced paddler) is a very effective craft for paddling in big surf. Its narrow width makes it great for cutting through large broken waves. The front of the modern surf ski is often flared to prevent nose diving on returning to shore when surfing down large steep waves.

The surfski/waveski is a mix of kayak and surfboard. The hull shape is similar to native Sea kayak designs, though surf skis lack of a cockpit, with the paddlers sitting in hollows shaped into the deck. Early surfskis were constructed in the same way as early surfboards, being laminated from light wood and sometimes covered with fabric. In the 1960 the first foam surfboards and surfskis were made, being carved from a single block of expanded polystyrene foam, strengthened with wooden stringers and covered with a thin layer of fibreglass. As the demand for surfskis grew in the 1970s, this custom method of production proved too costly and moulds were made from the most successful surfskis so that moulded craft could be made more cost effectively out of glass-fibre. At the same time, there was a divergence in ski design, one type becoming known as the lifesaving spec surfski and the other being the long distance racing surfski.

The hull shapes on modern long distance racing surfskis differ from the lifesaving spec surfskis in that they are longer, have sharply pointed bows and understern rudders. Surfskis also differ from long distance racing kayaks in that they are much longer, have more longitudinal curvature (rocker), are more stable and the paddler is seated more towards the centre of the craft. A long distance racing surfski must have enough volume in the bow to provide buoyancy when punching through surf, a long waterline to make use of ocean swells, a sleek, narrow shape to reduce water resistance, as well as enough stability to make paddling in rough conditions feasible.

Waveski's are short and have fins/skegs and riders are strapped onto the board to perform radical and extreme surfing of waves.

The Surf Ski is used in a number of surf lifesaving competition events in countries such as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Since its introduction, surfski racing has been managed by the International Lifesaving Federation . The standard ILF surfski race is about 700m, from a start in the water, out around a series of buoys and back to the beach. It was not long before people began going further afield in these new, extremely seaworthy craft, and long distance racing began to emerge. The earliest races were the Scottburgh to Brighton in South Africa, a 46km event first held in 1958; the PE to East London in South Africa, a 240km event held every two years since 1972 and the most famous of them all, the Molokai race in Hawaii, a 60km event first held in 1976.

Waveski Surfing is an offshoot of the surfski that officially occurred in 1984 with the formation of the World Waveski Surfing Association.

More recently, there has been a huge growth in long distance surfski racing in USA, Australia, New Zealand and other pacific countries. There has been a move in many of these active surfski racing countries to transfer the long distance events to the Canoe Federations as the Lifesaving Federations often do not have the resources to manage long distance races with up to 500 competitors.

Events include:

  • Ski  

  • Run-Ski-Run

  • Double Ski  

  • Ski relay  

  • Taplin  Relay

  • Ironman  

Also, surf skis have become popular for races that take place in an ocean or bay, lake or rivers as well. One benefit to the surfski is that if the conditions toss the kayaker into the water, a "wet entry" is possible, by simply climbing back onto the boat and continuing kayaking without having to drain the boat of water.