Choosing a kayak


You might have noticed that the kayaks used in Hawaii vary greatly from their counterparts used in the mainlands rivers, lakes, and oceans. Here is a little history to explain the difference.

The first kayaks were designed thousands of years ago to keep the paddler insulated from freezing cold water in the northern hemisphere while they fished and hunted seals and whales from their boats. The Inuit people were so at home in their kayaks that they could sleep and move their families hundreds of miles in them. They sat inside of the kayak and wore a spray skirt so that the only part of their body that was exposed was the upper part which they kept well insulated. Kayak materials changed from skin, wood, and bone to space age materials like fiberglass, kevlar, and carbon graphite fibers. The basic kayak design didn't change much except for adding hatches and rudders and using neoprene instead of skins for the spray skirt. In the last few decades plastics began to be used with the kayaks being molded in an oven in one piece instead of hand laying the composite materials in two piece molds and glueing the two halves together.


Some enterprising designers saw that kayaks where you sat on top of were much easier to use than the kayaks you sat inside of because you no longer needed to know how to do the "Eskimo Roll" to right a capsized kayak. you just climbed back in.

A sit inside or decked kayak requires you to have advanced knowledge of roll techniques, re-entry techniques, and rescue techniques in order to safely paddle them. With sit inside kayaks you have to get inside of the kayak on shore or at the waters edge and stay inside of the kayak until you finish your journey where you have to remove your spray skirt at the waters edge or after you've driven your kayak up on shore as far as possible to climb out of the kayak.
A sit-on-top kayak has the seat molded into the top deck of the kayak allowing the paddler to climb in to or out of the kayak regardless of water depth. This new design was probably one of the most important things to happen to kayaks in this century. Now a complete beginner could fall out of the kayak and climb right back on in a matter of seconds reducing the time they spent in the water. It also allows the kayaker to snorkle or scuba dive from their kayak. I also feel more confident surfing a sit-on-top knowing that I can dive for the bottom if the surf zone gets to hairy. In the decked kayak I used to get "maytaged" (hammered viciously) because my lower body was connected to the kayak with little to no ability to swim free. In my sit-on-top I wear kneestraps and stay in the kayak as long as I'm comfortable but if I get into the wrong spot and I'm going to get hammered by a wave I can choose to swim free just by letting my knees drop out from under the kneestraps and diving overboard.

Kayaks aren't just for paddling anymore, they offer a convenient way of getting out on the ocean that's faster than swimming, less expensive than a motorboat, easier to get in to or out of the water, hauls a lot of gear, and it is a great way to exercise your upper body. You can fish, freedive, camp, scuba dive, surf, and sail from them. You can paddle solo, with the one you love, or with your entire family.


The only limit seems to be your imagination.