Kayaking is a safe and enjoyable way to cruise Sarasota waters and explore our natural environment. While many love paddling as a hobby, they may not realize just how cool kayaking is. Here are 10 of the most interesting kayaking facts we found  – we invite you to learn something new and then get out on the water for yourself.

kayaking facts and kayaking rentals

10 Fascinating Kayaking Facts

  1. What does the word “kayak” actually mean? Linguists disagree on this most basic fact. The New World Encyclopedia defines “kayak” as a “hunter’s boat” or “man’s boat”, both of which make sense (see fact 3 below.) However, the Macmillan Dictionary claims that the word “kayak” originated from the Greenlandic Inuit word “qayaq,” which means a “small boat of skins.”
  2. Kayaks are an ancient form of travel: Although we don’t have any real way of knowing exactly when the first kayak was fashioned from a tree trunk, we estimate that kayaks have been used for at least 4,000 years. However, using them for recreation is relatively new. For most of their existence, kayaks were used for transport.
  3. Kayaks were invented by indigenous people groups: Kayaks originated right here in North America, with the Inuit, Yup’ik, and Aleut peoples being the first to utilize them. The Inuit kayak was typically made specifically for one person, with the dimensions tailor-made for the owner. As mentioned, kayaks were used on lakes, rivers and coastal waters for transport as well as hunting. With their ability to glide silently through the water, kayaks were ideal for tracking prey. Using harpoons, the hunter would go after waterfowl, sea mammals and reindeer for sustenance.
  4. Kayak frames were made from wood or whale bones. Skin from seals or land mammals was stitched together and stretched over the frame to create a waterproof boat. In warmer climates, early kayaks were often made from driftwood.
  5. The oldest surviving kayak is 450 years old. With its history dating back four centuries, it may seem odd that the earliest specimen we have is approximately 450 years old. Although North American in origin, the kayak is displayed at the Five Continents Museum in Germany.
  6. A South African citizen holds a Guinness World Record for kayaking: Specifically, Quinton Rutherford kayaked 141.2 miles in 24 hours – the longest recorded distance in a single day. The feat is made even more impressive because Quinton took his paddle in the open ocean on the north end of his country, not on a calm lake or river.
  7. Kayaking is an Olympic sport: Kayaking/canoeing has been an Olympic sport for nearly 100 years. However, it should be pointed out that canoeing and kayaking differ quite a bit. While people use the two words interchangeably, canoes are both larger and wider than kayaks, often with benches to seat additional people. Kayaks are smaller, lighter, and more agile, making them ideal for recreational use.
  8. Kayaking is relatively new as a popular pastime: Although kayaking has existed for thousands of years for hunting and fishing, kayaking as a sport or hobby didn’t really take off until about 50 years ago. Since the 1970s, kayaking has been steadily growing in popularity. It is estimated that in 2023, approximately 18 million Americans participated in kayaking – up from 6 million only 15 years ago.
  9. Kayaking provides an excellent workout: While you don’t need to be an athlete or bodybuilder to take up kayaking, the sport provides a great cardio workout and strengthens important large muscle groups. The best part is that you can start out slowly and with little effort and build the intensity of your paddling as you become accustomed to the activity.

#10: Kayak Rentals are Available in Sarasota and Siesta Key

This region of Florida offers some of the most beautiful kayaking in the country – from spotting manatees to sunset paddles. The best way to try kayaking is to rent your equipment and learn from experts.

Ride and Paddle has been providing quality kayaking gear and expertise to visitors and Sarasota residents for decades. If you are interested in trying out some paddling of your own, call today to schedule a rental or guided kayak tour of Sarasota Bay.