The kayak is believed to have originated from Greenland where it was used by Eskimos. The Inuit Eskimo word was “qayaq” – spelt like kayak except q’s instead of k’s. Eskimos used kayaks to hunt and explore and carry their possessions.
The word “kayak” came into European language in the 17th or 18th centuries, having been brought into circulation by Dutch or Danish whalers working in Greenland. The word kayak means “man-boat” in Eskimo.
In the early days there were two types of kayak – one made with lightweight wood and another made by stretching animal skin over frames made of whale bone. Whale fat was used to waterproof the vessels. Seams on the skins remained waterproof as the stitching would not go right through and the skins were treated with oil every 4 – 8 days.
Once in Europe kayaks started to be used as a form of sport and also by explorers in icy conditions such as at the North and South Poles.
The design of the kayak is so near to perfection it has hardly been changed over the centuries!