A kayak is a unique water vessel that was originally used by the Inuit people in Greenland. The Inuit used the kayak as a hunting and fishing vessel – the name kayak actually means a hunting man’s boats. The kayak was made using a frame made of whale bones and seal skins which were tightly wrapped around and made water tight using whale and seal fat.
This original kayak had a small opening where the pilot had his cockpit. The cockpit allowed the pilot to sit in the deck where there was a seat. When sited inside the kayak, the pilot’s lower body was concealed in the deck while the upper body would be exposed above. When sited in the kayak, the pilot had a water tight skirt that he could tightly tie to his body. The skirt prevented water from getting into the kayak.
This original design of the kayak, popularly known as a sit-in kayak, is still being used today although there are modern materials that are being used to make the new kayaks.
Sit in kayaks are quite superior when it comes to handling. The intricate way in which the pilot fits in the kayak helps him to be able to control the kayak using his entire body especially using his legs. A pilot in a sit in kayak can turn and steer the kayak in tighter angles as compared to a pilot on a sit on top kayak. Sit in kayaks are also many times more slender as compared to sit on top kayaks and hence they are able to cut through water faster.
These features make the sit in kayak ideal for hunting and it is still a very good vessel for fishing especially in rough waters or when one wants to fish for more challenging species.
The design of the sit in kayak was very important for the native Inuit people because they needed a kayak that was very agile in the water that would make them good vessels for hunting. They also needed vessels that were safe for the hunter even in the heat of the hunting frenzy. The sit in kayak provided these features since the pilot could easily restore a capsized kayak using his body and the kayak would not let water into the deck which could drown it.
Sit on top kayak are kayaks that were introduced much later and they were introduced mostly as vessels for recreational purposes. Unlike the sit in kayaks, sit on top kayaks do not have a covered deck and the kayaker has his entire body exposed at the top of the kayak. This is a preferred feature for the recreational user who prefers having more freedom to move around at the top of the kayak. It also allows the kayaker to enjoy the sun better.
The sit on top kayak has multiple advantages including the fact that sit on top kayaks can be designed to carry two or three people at the same time. These are called tandem kayaks. Sit on top kayaks can also be used to accommodate pets such as dogs.