The first kayaks were engineered over 5000 years ago when Inuits used them to hunt and travel across large waterways. In today’s world, kayaks are used almost exclusively for pleasure, whether it be for sport or casual use. How can we connect with our kayaking ancestors and live a simpler life in 2021?
The history of kayaking
The history of kayaking is very old and goes way back. It is also important to understand this history to fully get a grasp on the activity as it is in modern day.
Somewhere between 5000 and 4000 years ago, the first version of the kayak was produced. They were exclusively used for practical purposes such as moving groups of people between landmasses, going out to hunt, and exploring new areas.
The first types were constructed from driftwood and whale bones covered in various animal skins. Both of these aspects worked together in harmony to provide structure and waterproofing. Obviously, today’s kayaks are nowhere near this design, but it goes to show how much we have progressed over time.
As time went on, the structure changed and became smaller. The first iterations would fit multiple people so they could all move at once. Then, it began to switch to one and two person models. This is much closer to the version we see today.
Kayaking, the progression to the mainstream
The first use of a kayak for leisure purposes did not come around until the 1800s. So, a huge amount of time passed before people even looked at kayaks as things that could be used for anything that isn’t practical to everyday life. Since that transitional point, a ton of advancements have been made in the industry.
In 1936, kayaking became an Olympic sport which catapulted the activity into the mainstream. Ever since then, there has been an entire industry around kayaks for personal, leisurely use. Now, you can find kayaks in just about any sporting goods store, and technological advancements have made them rather affordable.
What started with skin-wrapped whale bones is now really light polyethylene plastic that is cheap to make and easy to distribute. The switch to plastic was the real gamechanger. Once kayaks could be produced affordably, the flood gates opened.
So how can we take inspiration from our kayaking ancestors?
In today’s digital age, we are more distracted as a people than ever before. Cell phones and LCD screens run our lives daily, and it is so hard to break out of that loop. Our kayaking ancestors had real dangers to worry about like the basic survival requirements that we take for granted today - Staying safe, being fed, and protecting the home. This kept them grounded and grateful. Now, we are heavily distracted with our hectic social lives, work pressures, and mounting mental illnesses that are plaguing the world.
In 2021, we should strive to reconnect with simpler times and come out a stronger people. One of the best ways to do this is being outdoors. Nature does a great job of destressing us and melting away everyday anxiety.
There are tons of things to do in nature, but one of the best is kayaking. Kayaking puts you right in the thick of it and connects yourself with the outdoors in a very unique way. It isn’t for everyone, but it is a great medium for anyone who is looking to try something new and has a convenient place to do it.
Kayaking also strengthens your cardiovascular and upper body health. So, not only are you relaxing, but it can be a great source of exercise.
Australia’s Better Health Channel says that not only does kayaking bring physical health, but it improves our mood and decreases anxiety. If you truly enjoy kayaking, it will be nearly meditative. Meditation is a key to living a simpler, more fulfilling life.
The holiday season is great for a lot of reasons, but it can also be one of the toughest times of the year for a lot of people. When the new year approaches and comes, it forces us to take a step back and analyze ourselves. For some reason, this is the only time of the year this happens, but it is necessary. With a year like 2020 behind us, it is crucial for us to reflect and try to return to simple times in 2021, taking inspiration from the way our kayaking ancestors lived.
As a people in the 21st century, we have a tendency to overindulge. Whether it be with our natural resources, food and water, technology, or anything else, as humans, mostly in the first-world nations, use an incredible amount of everything. This overindulging is something that has to be addressed if the world as we know it will continue. Our excess use of things has resulted in climate change, a world food crisis, and increased rates of mental illness.
Now at the start of the new year it is a good time for us to take stock and reflect and see in what ways we can cut down the overindulging in our lives. Whether it's to conserve more energy, donate more to charity, or anything else, a lot of these issues could be solved if we spent time outdoors.
A lot of this lifestyle that many people have taken on is because of our cramped, busy lifestyle that is a result of being inside so much. Getting in touch with nature is a medicine that cannot be replicated.
Who knows? Maybe our hunter and gatherer ancestors used kayaks for both practical uses and means to escape whatever drama is in the village that day. We may be more connected to our predecessors than we realize, but there is a lot of work to be done.
So, as you start the new year, especially after the challenging one that just finished, see what areas of your life can be cut down to live a simpler one. This will increase your mental and physical health, make you a more well-rounded person, and put your life into a different perspective. All of this can be accomplished by going outside and engaging in an activity like kayaking. So, the next time you are feeling down or stressed, grab a kayak and a paddle and hit the water.