It’s hard to deny that kayaking is a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon out on the water, but have you ever wondered how kayaking came to be? In this post, we give a brief overview of the history and evolution of the kayak.
Though no one knows the exact date of birth of the kayak, historians are generally in agreement that kayaks were invented around the year 1000 by the Inuit and Aleut tribes of arctic North America. The first kayaks were made from animal skin (typically seal) stretched over driftwood or whalebone frames. The skin was generally rubbed in some kind of animal fat, especially at the seams, to make it waterproof and seal bladders filled with air and attached to the boats aided in buoyancy. We at Folbot follow this same technique of wrapping skin (or, in our case, fabric infused with the polymer Elvaloy for advanced durability and toughness) around a frame. Our material is puncture and abrasion resistant and can withstand years of hard use, while still allowing you to feel at one with the water, as you can actually feel the movement of the water through the skin.
Kayaks were originally created to serve as hunting vessels, and in the Inuit language, the word “kayak” means “hunter’s boat.” While there have been many modifications made to construction materials, and other various comforts, the basic sea kayak shape and design principals have remained relatively unchanged from original Inuit designs. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the Inuit model vs our modern Folbot design.
In the early to mid-1800’s, the kayak was introduced into Europe, and German and French men soon began kayaking down rivers for recreation and adapting and modifying kayaks to be faster and more durable for long treks. Canoe and Kayak clubs began popping up around Europe, and in 1866, the Royal Canoe Club held its first regatta.
In 1933, in London England, Jack Kissner founded the folding kayak company Folbot (hey, that’s us!) and differentiated himself as manufacturing sturdy and stable folding kayaks. In fact, the first circumnavigation of the UK in a folding kayak was done in a Folbot.
In many parts of the world, canoes and kayaks are still used as a necessity, rather than a form of recreation, aiding in hunting, fishing, farming, transportation, and religious rituals. Today’s kayaks come in different shapes, sizes, materials, and colors and there are thousands of different accessories that are available, depending on your needs.
Every time you launch your kayak out into the water, you’re continuing a tradition over 5000 years old. Times may change and who knows how kayaks will change in the future, but one thing is certain: kayaking is a great way to be one with the water, get a great workout, and discover the wonders of the natural world around you. It’s our humble opinion that the skin-on-frame style of kayak is the best kind of boat for paddling, and we at Folbot are happy to continue improving upon this centuries-old tradition.