Choose Between Two Options
- $45 for a St. Michaels Harbor kayak or stand-up paddleboard tour on a Friday evening ($65 value)
- $33 for a two-hour kayak or stand-up paddleboard rental ($44 value)
Kayaks: Lightweight Masters of the Waves
Better navigate the wide world of the narrow boats known as kayaks with Groupon's exploration.
In September 2011, 1,902 narrow, human-powered boats eased into the waters of Fourth Lake in upstate New York, setting the Guinness World Record for the largest raft made of canoes and kayaks. Overhead photos show that the densely populated temporary island, with its confetti of bright colors, must have been largely made of kayaks, and with good reason. Shaped like the eye of a needle or an uptight banana, the fiberglass or plastic vessels sit low to the water and tend to be more stable and easy to maneuver than their cousin the canoe. The double-bladed paddles that propel them come in a range of styles: feathered blades cut down on wind resistance during a stroke, curved blades increase stroke power, and flat blades direct the water around the surface upon contact.
Whitewater kayaks, with short, rounded hulls and soft chines (that is, the curve of the sides) enable pilots to execute tricks and rolls in rough water. Surf kayaks are similar, but their front ends curve up more sharply for better maneuverability in higher waves. Sea-touring kayaks, used in coastal waters, such as those off the shores of Hawaii, possess flat hulls and sharp chines to stay upright in choppy waters. Kayaks with enclosed cockpits allow the pilot to roll upright when capsized, and, stretching the limits of the form, sit-on-top kayaks leave paddlers exposed but free to exercise greater mobility.
Though historians have traced the boat's invention back more than 4,000 years to Alaskan seal hunters—who made theirs by stretching animal skins over a wood or whalebone frame in order to mimic the great whale-boned seal—modern kayaks are primarily used for recreation. Kayaking is popular for vacationers due to the boat's ability to silently sneak up on wildlife, and athletes are drawn to the sport for its emphasis on upper-body strength. Competitive kayaking took off in 1936 when flat-water racing—which encompasses canoes and kayaks—became an official Olympic sport. Despite its North American origins, today about 90% of Olympic kayaking medalists hail from Europe.