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Spend any time around Oregon’s numerous bays, rivers or lakes and chances are you’ll encounter a kayaker or two. Kayaking is not only a popular recreational activity in the Pacific Northwest, but a great way to explore Oregon’s numerous waterways without spending a lot of money. Proper training so you know how to kayak safely is always important, however.

Kayaks are a type of one or two-person canoe where the paddler(s) either sit on top or partially inside the boat with their legs pointing toward the front. A double-bladed paddle is used to propel the boat. Early kayaks were invented by the Inuit or Aleutian peoples and were constructed from found items like driftwood or even whale bone, and then covered in animal skins. Traditionally, kayaks were built-to-order to accommodate a particular individual. The sleek, light-weight design allowed the Native Americans to easily maneuver through ocean waters choked with ice, and navigate inlets, bays, lakes or rivers. They could also be easily removed from the water and carried overland when needed.

Modern kayaks have a similar design but are typically constructed of hard plastic or fiberglass. There are separate designs for kayaks intended for rivers and lakes and those used on the ocean. As with any recreational activity that involves water, knowing how to swim and using basic precautions is necessary. For additional information, see our feature on Water and Beach Safety.

Kayaks are most commonly used for fishing, hunting or just recreational paddling. Several organized sports also use kayaks, including whitewater and flatwater racing as well as slalom and wave surfing.


Paddling to Success: The Kayak Shack
Summary: The true story of how some enthusiastic high school students turned their love of kayaking into a success business.

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