My neighbor invited me to go kayaking the other day. It’s one of the things I’m pursuing more since I decided to work fewer hours. I love kayaking. Though it is an excellent workout, there’s no need to go fast. No matter what the weather is like, it’s always beautiful because you are floating, a leaf upon the water. Sea kayaking is my favorite. Waves are no bother. A long, thin shape cuts right through them. You can choose a size and type of boat to fit your intended purpose. Kayaks can be made so stable that you can fish and dive from them, or add a sail and pontoons.
The meaning of the word is matter-of-fact. In the language of the Inuit it means “man’s boat” or “hunter’s boat”. When Europeans first encountered the Inuit, they were mystified at how to measure for building a kayak. Each one was different. It’s because originally they were made by men to fit their own bodies. The correct size would be three times the length of the outstretched arms, the width of the hips plus two fists, and just deep enough for the pelvis. Where there was wood, it was used for the skeleton of the boat. Where there was no wood, they used whalebone. Over the bones of the boat, they stitched the skins of seals.
Modern kayaks are often made of modern materials like plastic or fiberglass, though some beautiful ones are made of wood using tribal and traditional methods. There are inflatable ones, and folding ones designed along the old skin-on-frame idea. For warm water, there are self-bailing kayaks called “sit-on-tops” that can be shaped for surfing. In colder waters you need one with a porthole to put your legs inside. I’ve owned and used several kinds.
Nomadic hunters invented kayaks. Their use was integrated into their way of surviving. I don’t have to hunt food to survive. I hunt for inner peace. The boat is small enough to feel like an extension of my body. When I enter the water, there are no roads. There is no traffic. There is only the flow, the lift, and the endless horizon. I’m unborn and buoyant. The womb is wide enough to encompass the sky.