On the waterways of Great Britain and elsewhere in the world, there are common sightings of men, women, whole families and friendship groups kayaking. Paddling up and down rivers, around bays, on lakes and even in caves is an ancient activity that’s evolved over many centuries.
First created in the 1500's by the Inuits of the Arctic, kayaks were a simple mode of transport and means of catching dinner. Made originally from from driftwood or whalebone, the meaning of the word 'kayak' is literally translated as 'hunter's boat.'
Fast forward to today and kayaking is multi-purpose leisure and sporting activity that can be enjoyable, relaxing, hardcore and exhilarating. It can give the adventurers amongst us the opportunity to discover parts of the world that cannot be accessed from dry land.
We have plastic kayaks and inflatable ones; solo and multi-person ones. Extreme kayaks for mountainous white water events, thrill-seeker kayaks to battle the ocean waves, kayaks for competitive river races and leisure kayaks for taking families out with picnics.
The strong sense of community amongst kayakers is apparent, whether an amateur or an expert, we are ‘all in the same boat’ in the sense that we must respect each other and the waterways.
Whatever the level, buoyancy aids should be worn. Helmets are a good idea too. As with all leisure and sporting activity there is risk attached: Water flow can be unpredictable and even the strongest of swimmers can get into trouble in dangerous currents that don’t always appear obvious from the surface.
A fitness lover, kayaking to me means a full body workout. The action of using a single paddle to propel oneself on the surface of water offers not only a cardiovascular workout, but a strengthening and toning session for the core, the muscles of the back, shoulders, chest and arms as well as the buttocks and legs.
Kayaking also means therapy. Breathing in the fresh air of the river or sea, witnessing the sights of the great outdoors and its elements, enjoying early morning or sunset views on the water; all of these typical pleasures bring about a huge sense of calm and feeling alive.
It can elevate the mood to a happy place, relieve the mind of tension. A feeling of boldness combined with the desire to go forth and explore, nourish the soul in the process of working the body to be better conditioned.
The big buzz of kayaking for me is the sense of escapism it brings. A break from hectic family home life to a peaceful little haven of nature and freedom.
Just a couple of hours on a quiet stretch of river serves as the perfect pick me up for a frazzled mum, or dad; or better still, as a way of grabbing some much needed quality time together.