Kayaking is a recreational sport in which participants use specialized boats called kayaks in a wide variety of waterways. Kayaks are boats which take a number of forms, depending on the function for which they are designed. People can take kayaking trips on the ocean, up rivers, in surf zones, and along white water courses. Participants can often have minimal skills and still greatly enjoy themselves. Some people take kayaks with them when they travel to go kayaking, and others rent kayaks or participate in guided kayaking trips at a destination.
A kayak is a boat with a covered deck and a small hole for someone to sit in. The legs of the sitter are concealed, warm and dry, inside the boat. They were originally designed for use in the Arctic, where cold water spilling into a boat could potentially be dangerous for someone using it. Many traditional kayaks were custom made for the individual user. Kayaks are propelled using double bladed oars, and they can be quite rapid and maneuverable.
One of the most common types of kayaking is recreational kayaking in rivers and lakes, using wide, highly stable kayaks. Because the water is usually relatively calm, people do not need much experience to enjoy this type of kayaking, although preparing them for a spill with life jackets is an excellent idea. More skilled kayakers enjoy ocean kayaking, which involves taking kayaks out onto the open ocean. More complex currents and big waves make this type of kayaking more dangerous.
People also use kayaks to go racing, or to navigate white water courses. Both of these types of kayaking require much more skill, along with specialized boats. Another type of kayak enjoyed by some people is the surf kayak, which is designed to be used in areas with breaking waves. The kayak is designed to be highly stable, and can be used almost like a surf board to ride the waves. Some companies also manufacture inflatable kayaks, which can be packed down to make luggage less cumbersome. Several variations on the inflatable kayak exist, including a version which includes an internal frame to make it more stable and safe for ocean use.
The gear required for kayaking is fairly minimal. At the most basic, a kayaker needs a kayak, a paddle, and a life jacket. For kayaking camping trips, waterproof bags which can be stuffed into the kayak are extremely useful. Longer kayaks often have a separate hatch for stowing gear. Kayak camping is a great way to explore the outdoors from the water, pulling ashore to hike, camp, or eat.