What makes these little boats so versatile? Modern sprint kayaks are constructed from carbon fibre, fiberglass or wood. This ensures a light weight and therefore higher speed.
Kayaks are small, narrow boats – most commonly single-seater – designed to transport their user over a variety of watery environments, be that calm, flat lakes, choppy coastal waters or torrential river rapids.
Due to their ability to traverse such varied terrains, kayaks can take many forms. For example, racing kayaks are long and narrow- often exceeding six metres (19 feet) in length – to reduce drag and maximize the distance per stroke generated by the paddler’s oar. On the other hand, white-water kayaks are short and squat, often measuring in at no more than 1.5 metres (five feet) as stability and the ability to turn sharply are the key requirements when navigating jagged rocks and steep drops.
Indeed, when you consider this diverse usage, it won’t come as a surprise to discover that there are over six main categories of kayak, including: recreational, oceanic, white-water, racing, surf and hybrid types.
Many of these categories are then further split into subcategories, as demonstrated in the white-water set. Here, both playboat and creekboat kayaks are available, the former offering a scooped bow and blunt stern to trade speed for stability- key for performing stunts and tricks, while the latter offers a higher float point and larger volume to mitigate against the threat of collisions when rapidly shooting down narrow gullies.
Today, the majority of kayaks are built from composite materials such as carbon-fibre and Kevlar, however older or speciality types are typically built from wood.
Rudder – Due to their great length, sprint kayaks can be fitted with a rudder to aid turning, which is controlled by the paddler’s feet.
Beam – The beam, or widest part, of any flatwater kayak, such as the sprint variants, is rarely much wider than the width of the kayaker, greatly reducing drag.