Sea Kayaking: 10 Historical Facts You Didn’t Know

Sea kayaking is fast gaining popularity along with the other outdoor adventure sports on the market. It is a venture that boasts a very rich history. Here are 10 interesting facts about sea kayaking and kayaks you might not have known.

1. The Eskimos started sea kayaking in the Arctic region over 4000 years ago. They built the first kayaks to enable swift and easy movement across water using little effort. By adapting to an environment of more water than land and little vegetation or land animals, the Eskimos used sea kayaks as a means of survival to hunt seals, whales and walrus for food, clothing, and shelter. Kayaks were built using animal skin stitched over frames made of wood or whale bones and waterproofed using animal lard.

2. In 1924, kayaking debuted as a demo sport in the Paris Olympics. After 12 years, it officially became an Olympic event in the 1936 Berlin Olympics as the first 10 class Canoe/Kayak Flat-water event.

3. The first solo circumnavigation of Australia via sea kayaking was achieved by Paul Caffyn in 1982. It took him 360 days to complete the expedition, encountering wild surf, cyclones and extreme forces of nature in a 9,420-mile travel. Caffyn’s venture set the benchmark for contemporary kayaking expeditions.

4. It took 332 days for the first female to circumnavigate Australia in 2009 by sea kayaking. Freya Hoffmeister from Germany voyaged 13,000 km and finished the circumnavigation 28 days earlier than Paul Caffyn in 1982.

5. In 1980, Birgit Fischer was the youngest canoe winner in Olympic history at the age of 18. She accomplished a total of 12 Olympic medals by the age of 24.

6. Greg Barton was the first US Olympic gold medalist in the kayaking event in the 1988 games. At the time, he was also the only competitor to take home two gold medals for the event.

7. The first kayaking medal of Australia was won by Dennis Green and Wally Brown in the 1956 Melbourne Games. The duo won the bronze in the 10,000m kayak (K2), an event that failed to continue in the succeeding Olympic Games.

8. Clint Robinson a surf lifesaver won Australia’s first kayak gold medal in the K-1 1000m finals of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

9. Kayak slalom events pioneered at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, but were subsequently removed because of the cost involved in creating man-made courses. It reappeared as the Slalom Canoe/Kayak event in the 1992 Barcelona Games, where Danielle Woodward won Australia’s first medal taking silver. The event was again removed from the games at the end of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The Slalom Canoe/Kayak event did not to return to the Olympics until the 2000 Games in Sydney.

10. German Oscar Speck has long been known as the man who introduced kayaking to Australia when he arrived in 1939. He left Ulm, Germany in 1932 and went on a 7 year sea kayaking expedition on board a foldable kayak. His journey and arrival in Australia was not greatly publicised since during that time Germany was at war with the world. Speck was considered an enemy alien and was detained by the Australian police. The story of his voyage was kept quite for a long time during the era of world adversity.

More than just a great adventure to see beautiful places on earth, sea kayaking has had a history which has shown man’s courage, passion and resilience. Man and kayak have come a long way, from being a survival tool to a vessel that brought man to unsurpassed achievements and epic conquers.

Canoe Or Kayak Camping

This is about some of the basics of river camping. The things and the skills you need to do a simple river trip.

Aha, you have just put in on a somewhat lazy river. The canoe is all loaded up with camping gear. As you paddle ahead you see the mountains rising in the distance and the abundance of rich green vegetation growing along the bank. The water is crystal clear; you could read a newspaper on the bottom in 8′ of water. The morning sun feels rejuvenating on your face. The air is as fresh as it can be. A slight breeze puffs up the river and all of a sudden you see thousands of cottonwood blossoms fill the air. It almost looks like snow. My wife calls them tree fairies. I think she gets euphoric out on the river with all that fresh air. Actually, the blossoms or fairies are cottonwood seeds; they have a fuzzy puff of hair like stuff around them and are lighter than a feather.

You see a rock sticking out of the water to your right. You pick up your fishing rod and cast. Right on the money just behind the rock then the water explodes with a nice Smallmouth bass about a 1 ½’ out of the water in the air. Now, after getting your heart under control, you think to yourself “let the games begin.” After a battle on rod and reel you unhook the bass and release it back into the water.

In the distance we here the roar of water, rapids are coming up. So you check the map and see a set of class one’s coming up. We put on your PFD’s and tie down all loose gear. As we approach we make a plan for how we’re going to get thru them. We pick up our speed and head for the main channel knowing at the bottom we have to cut a little to the right to pick up the channel that drops into a 5′ chute thru an intimidating ledge across the river. As you execute your plan, you can’t help feel the excitement building as you execute each turn. What a great feeling you have as you fly down the chute to still water knowing we did everything right. That’s the third endorphin rush in an hour.

Sounds nice!

Canoe or kayak camping is a great way to camp. It is our favorite and we spend as much as 4- 5 weeks a year on rivers. We often put in for a week or 10 days at a time. We plan ahead of time for re-supply stops, ice, sodas fresh foods (if close by), dry meals and swap out our used clothes for clean. Sometimes, we leap frog our vehicles to an access point downriver. You lose a little time shifting vehicles around but get gain clean cloths, fresh food, ice and things you forgot and left in the truck.

We don’t paddle every day. Usually, we’ll make camp by a rapid. The sound of them at night is fantastic plus the fishing is usually good. It seems that a lot of wild life frequent rapids particular Otters. Rapids are entertainment too, we like watching others come thru. Some are very funny, while others are very skillful. We swim in the rapids when it’s hot, sometimes we tow 2-stacked sit on top kayaks behind our canoe to play in the rapids, fish, explore or do day trips out of camp. I do a little fly fishing from time to time and rapids are a prime spot. We may stay an extra day or two, and then push on to another spot. Canoe or kayak camping is a relaxing way to camp; we are never in a hurry.

Before you jump off and rent a canoe or kayak for your first trip down the river, there are some things you need to know. First off, knowing how to swim or at least be very comfortable in moving or rushing water. Second, having canoe or kayak skills from packing to paddling. Third, experienced camping skills, as these will pay off later. You need to see a raw site and make it home for a night or couple of days without harming the environment. Being able to handle a rainstorm, or other adverse weather. Having the right equipment, like dry bags instead of backpacks. Know how to maintain a fresh water supply and how to make a campfire with wet wood. You need a little more than KOA skills. And lastly, having the right attitude. Not everything is going to be perfect but you make it perfect or the best you can. Remember this is a water sport as well as camping. You might get wet from time to time and you have to be OK with that. Canoes and kayaks sometimes turn over or a sudden rainstorm comes up and your rain gear is in the bottom of the pack. No time to pull a “chicken little” thing.

Setting up camp in the rain or a storm can be challenging, it isn’t that hard just an inconvenience. By the numbers, first set up the campsite rain fly, next the tent under the campsite fly. Then after your tent is up with the tent rain fly on, you move it to where you want it to be. Next, is gathering firewood, and drying it out as in the article on “Campfires.” Next is unloading the rest of the gear you will need for now. Sleeping gear, cooking kit & food bag, cooler, clothes bag, and chairs if you have them. Next, get that fire going and get on dry clothes. I can’t tell you how good a cup of hot chocolate would taste at this moment sitting by a warm fire.

Hey, come on guy’s this is fun. It’s the adventure, the challenge; you made it happen, anybody that knows how can set up a camp on a bright sunny day. In the rain and blowing wind it’s different, but that hot chocolate will never taste as good as it did above, that’s what we call “right on.” While you don’t plan on a storm they sometimes happen and you can’t run from them. With good camping skills you can deal with it. What separates a good camping trip form a bad one is how you handle the things that go wrong. And you know, that’s the trip you might remember most. Remember that time we set up camp in the rain, or the trip when we left the tent poles in the truck.

It’s good to always plan a rain day on long trips, as it’s hard to get an accurate weather forecast that far in advance. It will rain, we just don’t know when your are going to have it until our NOAH radio tells us. Once we were out on a 10 -15 dayer and we had a good spot to hold over for a day while the rain passed. The next day our weather radio predicted more rain. Rather than lose a day, we elected to pack up and paddle on. This is where having good rain gear helps the comfort zone. We traveled 5 miles, shot 3 rapids and caught a bunch of bass that day. Late afternoon, the rain stopped, as we neared our planned camping spot. We are often GPS guided. We set up and had another nice night in the neighborhood.

So, now you have it, we think canoe camping is the greatest. We love it.

1. Knowing how to swim or at least be comfortable in moving or rushing water
2. Experienced camping skills
3. The right equipment
4. Canoeing or kayak experience with light white water if doing any.
5. The right attitude. We are going to have a good time if it kills us.

You put all that together and you got a great trip. Leave out one ingredient and you could be inviting a disaster. Read the “Bloopers” when it’s finally written, an article on every thing that has gone wrong and how we handled it and hear about our experiences as well as our friends, this could be funny. We have no regrets, as this is our experience as to how we got to where we are today.

Try renting a canoe for a day trip and see you like it. While you are out there try to imagine what it would be like camping out for a night. Most likely you may not have any neighbors (fellow campers).

If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can contact me thru the website below and I can hook you up with one of half dozen-affiliate outfitters along the upper Potomac River WVA or the Shenandoah River in VA & WVA. They have canoes to rent and river maps and can transport you to your put in. If you are on your own I can give you directions to or Waypoints for Put in’s and Takeouts.