By MEL NEWELL, Gulf Coast Kayaks, PineIsland-Eagle, com, link to original post
So you’re at a picnic and you hear the word kayak. You go over to the small crowd and join in on the conversation and you find out you had no idea about how many kinds of kayaks and kayakers there are. Not wanting to be a bonehead and not knowing what you are talking about, the next time you are in front of a dictionary or a computer with Google, look it up. The first thing you will find out is that it’s not spelled like it sounds ki–ack? Try kayak.
The dictionary says it’s a small human- powered boat. It typically has a covered deck, also, and a cockpit covered by a spray deck also known as a skirt.
Native Ainu, Aleut,and Eskimo hunters in sub-Arctic regions of northern Asia, North America and Greenland use the kayak. It historically was, and is often still, propelled by a double bladed paddle in the hands of a sitting paddler. Modern kayaks come in a wide variety of designs and materials for specialized purposes. Kayaks are, in some parts of the world like the United Kingdom, are referred to as canoes and vice versa.
We first look at the far-end river running and waterfall dropping. Yes, I said waterfall dropping. (Just the sound of it scares the heck out of me.)
Jesse Sharp — ever hear of him? In 1990 at Niagara Falls [Horseshoe Falls], a 28-year-old bachelor from Tennessee attempted to ride over the edge of the falls in a kayak, and paddle four miles down stream. It would have been one heck of a stunt to add to the many others he had done before, as he was an up-and-coming stunt man. Sharp’s kayak paddle is in a museum in Niagara; sorry to say Sharp has never been found to this day.
Palouse Falls is a Washington state park. Tyler Bradt is a record holder for waterfall descent. Palouse falls 186 feet from the top pool to the main drop to the plunge pool, and he now has the world insane record, shattering all other records for this kind of drop.
Whitewater kayaks are rotomoulded plastic, usually polyethylene. This is one tough yak, as it can withstand repeated bouncing off rocks and scraping on the bottom.
Kayakers doing this kind of kayaking use a boat called a “rodeo” boat to ride down swift currents and rapids. The other boat is a Creek boat, very stable used in downstream races. Then one more for fast down river running and flipping over is the Squirt boat filled with foam and custom fitted to the paddlers so he or she can ride in the boat completely submerged.
Racing is your thing? Then you could get a flat water-racing kayak. They come in single, two paddler and four paddlers models; you may have seen them in the Olympic races on TV. They are made of fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar and run for a modest $4,000 each.
Another racing boat is the surf ski — open cockpit and about 21 feet long, but only 18 inches wide. [Not made for us big guys].
Let’s get back on the river … a new boat that is getting a lot of attention is the “ducky.” It is an inflatable kayak pointed on each end and is a very slow mover but also a lot of fun.
Still talking about inflatable, there is the multi-hull kind with outriggers. They come so you can inflate it with two large tubes, one on each side, with a seat or webbing between. They are great for river fishing and sailing.
How about a folding kayak? This is one amazing little boat. They come from ancient boats made of animal skins stretched over frames made of wood and bones. Combine modern technology with ancient design and you have a boat that can be packed in two small packages — small enough for the trunk of a compact car. The military forces of many nations use them for their strength and portability.
New on the scene are motor powered kayaks with small electric motors, and foot paddle models also; they are good for when you are trying to get close in the mangroves fishing. You can keep your hands free to do casting as you work your way up along side the mangroves with foot pedals or an electric motor.
Now for the kind you see right here in Matlacha. Sea kayaks are the long thin ones with rudders or without. They are for going long distance; they have a small cockpit, foot pegs and usually a few hatches for gear.
Next you have the smaller recreational kayaks around 9 to 12 long and are great for the back bay.
Let’s not forget the SOT or sit on top. This is a very good kayak for fishing — one in every three kayaks sold is a SOT, which is basically a paddle board equipped with a seat.
A few weeks ago I was on the beach at the Jersey shore riding the waves in my sit on top when I saw a new kind of kayaking, well maybe not new, but not something you see every day here in Matlacha. It was a stand on kayak, like a surfboard and a long single blade paddle. The guy who was on it was just learning how to catch the waves. It looked like a lot of work, but he was having a good time. After a few days time I saw him again and he had it down. He started out off the beach waist high, then hoped on and started to paddle over the waves standing up. Once out there, he looked over his shoulder like a surfer to catch the next wave. That day the surf was good and we had some good rollers. He was having a good time, and that is what kayaking is all about.
Is this kayaking or surfing? Who cares what you call it, board and paddle? Surf yakking. I know if I was younger and thought I could get up on the board? Yep, I might be crazy enough to try it.
Well I know we will be getting some e–mails saying, “But what about this or that kind of kayaking, single, or double up stream, or down stream?” Folks, it’s all good.
And remember, it’s always a great day in Mat-La-Sha.
(Editor’s note: Matlacha, pronounced Mat-La-Sha, is a small fishing village/artist colonly on an island in the Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida, north of Fort Myers.)