The Indians and the tribes of the Aleutians, in the Arctic region of North America, were the first people to build and use kayaks. At first, there were two basic types of kayaks: one built of light wood and the other composed of animal skins coating a structure of whale bones. Members of tribes used whale fat to waterproof boats. To improve buoyancy, they filled bladders (seal) air and fit the sections of the stern and the bow.
In addition to individual, similar versions to modern kayaks, they also used the umiaqs, larger kayaks that could carry entire families and their possessions. Some of umiaqs reached length of 18 meters. The smaller kayaks were used primarily for hunting. The word kayak means “hunter’s boat.” The kayaks were ideal for hunting because they were furtive. The Inuit could approach unsuspecting animals on the coast or in the water.
The kayaks arrived in Europe (in English) in the first half of the 19th century, in the form of boats with flexible side, and French and Germans soon began to use them for sporting purposes. Kayaks also maintained its practical uses – explorers of the North Pole and South Pole took them with him on his expeditions. In 1931, a man named Adolf Anderle was the first person to kayak down the rapids of Salzachofen. This adventure may have been the precursor to the modern practice of kayaking in white water. The International River Difficulty Scale (in English) was established not long after, to classify the degree of danger of a certain rapids – and the same system still in use today.
In 1936, in Berlin, the Olympics now include kayaking competitions. The United States (US) joined the sport about the same time when women also began to compete – two years after the Olympics, Genevieve Colmont became the first woman to go down the Green and Colorado rivers in kayaks. The “hard” kayaks, fiberglass, emerged in the 50s and became the standard category until the polyethylene plastic pass to be used in the 80s until the 70s, the kayak was a sport with modest number enthusiasts in the US. In that decade, his practice has gained popularity. Now, the Olympic Games offer over 10 different tests kayaking.
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