A kayak is a little, narrow watercraft which is normally propelled through a double-bladed paddle. The term kayak hails from the Greenlandic word qajaq (IPA: [qajɑq]).
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The traditional kayak includes a covered deck and a number of cockpits, each seating one paddler. The cockpit may also be included in a spray deck that prevents the entry of water from waves or spray, differentiating the craft from a canoe. The spray deck allows for suitably skilled kayakers to roll the kayak: that’s, to capsize and right it without it filling with water or ejecting the paddler.
Man sitting with legs covered in a boat that tapers to a spot at each end holding long, pointed, wooden pole
Inuit seal hunter in a kayak, armed with a harpoon
Interior 360 degree photosphere of a kayak at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Click for an immersive 360 degree view
Some modern boats vary considerably from a normal design but nonetheless claim the title “kayak”, as an example in eliminating the cockpit by seating the paddler along with the boat (“sit-on-top” kayaks); having inflated air chambers surrounding the boat; replacing the single hull by twin hulls, and replacing paddles with other human-powered propulsion methods, such as for example foot-powered rotational propellers and “flippers”. Kayaks are also being sailed, and also propelled through small electric motors, and even by outboard gas engines.
Photo of a person sitting in a boat holding a paddle with otters swimming in the foreground. The boat is approximately 12 feet long and only slightly wider compared to the paddler.
Kayaks can be used to get nearer to marine animals, such as for example sea otters
The kayak was initially employed by the indigenous Aleut, Inuit, Yupik and perhaps Ainu hunters in subarctic parts of the world.