A kayak is a flat, narrow water vessel that is usually propelled either by a single, double-reed paddle or by two, single-reed paddles. The word kayak comes from the Greenlandic term qaj [qauj] (IPA: [quaijaujau]. The original kayak had a single covered cockpit and a single, open deck; these days, kayaks have open cockpits with at least two seats, although some have as few as one). Kayaks range in size from kayaks for two people to massive craft, such as the 150-foot-long yacht race boats that compete in international tournaments. Kayaks are generally motorized and set up on a specially designed kayak platform that contains plumbing and electrical components.
Smaller kayaks are used for short recreational cruises and fishing, and some even make ocean crossing from North to South America, but the most popular kayak is the canoe, often called a Kayak canoe or Kayak boat. Kayaks are versatile and many models can be paddleboard-able. The advantage of the kayak over other smaller watercraft is its relatively low level of gear storage. One canoe carries enough supplies for an overnight stay on many rivers and lakes to support a party of twenty or more.
Skin-on-frame kayaks are built on a sloped metal frame similar to ski boats. The advantage is that there are no protruding screws or bolts to deal with. Skin-on-frame kayaks are especially good for river cruising because they are so stable and sturdy. They can also accommodate a variety of paddlers and, of course, a wide variety of water conditions. Some even come with skis attached.
Sit-on-tops are a variant on the kayak, and are much more compact than their forerunners. It is essentially a small inflatable kayak that fits either in a car or a house. It has the advantage of being able to be stored away easily, but has none of the durability of its skin-on-frame counterpart. Some of these models are equipped with a rudder to make it easier to move, but it is not always necessary.
Other kayak varieties include, but are not limited to, slalom, freestyle, and rigged. A slalom is a type of freestyle kayak where the paddle acts as the paddle wheel in freestyle. A slalom differs from a straight line in that it usually has a side-cutout or “tow-behind” bow. In a straight line, the bow of the boat would obstruct water circulation around the bow and, therefore, cut off airflow leading to less friction. This would cause the canoe to act slower than if there was no obstruction. However, in a slalom, there is an open bow which allows the canoeist a greater degree of control.
Freestyle kayaking is the simplest form of water sports, and to attain this level, means utilizing the smallest and most maneuverable paddleboat possible. In a freestyle kayak, the paddle is used to “stick” (or “go”) in one direction, rather than “turn” or “sideward” in the same direction. A smooth turn is more common among flatwater fishermen using inflatable kayaks, due to the ease of dealing with small wakes. Rigged kayaks are a variation of freestyle kayaks, wherein the bow is stowed within the boat, similar to how traditional kayaks are loaded on top of the kayak.