Kayak, =kane wa’a
What is a Kayak, really?
I’m goin nuts in Kaua’i without my boats. We rented a raft at an ungodly rate and played around on the Wailua the other day. The plastic raft I was standing on had a sticker on the side that said “Ocean Kayak”. Having actually seen and paddled around in sea kayaks, I thought this was humerus.
When I returned the boat, the nice Islanders in Kapa’a asked if I had fun, if I had gone as far as the waterfall. (short trips in a boat like this are a big workout) I told him about the trip and playing around in the bay. I mentioned that I built some kayaks. He asked “like these?” I didn’t want to be rude, so I just told him what a kayak is:
“Kayak” means men’s boat, like “Kane”; as opposed to an Umiak(You know, kinda like “wahine”), or women’s boat. The women’s boat is designed to carry lots of stuff because in that culture, women do all the work. The Kayak is designed for really dangerous stuff like seal hunting. They are designed to carry one strong guy, roll over without getting him so wet he freezes to death, and get out through surf and back in. If you harpoon a seal in freezing water from a canoe, your gonna have a bad time. In the 60’s people started making modern river kayaks, which are short and strong, for rapids. Modern technology has resulted in boats that are easy to market. Re-adaptation of First Nations Kayak technology has resulted in a proliferation of modern skin on frame kayaks. They are wonderful things.
The marketing part of my brain couldn’t help but notice that Kaua’i has some of the best waters in the world, and almost no knowlege of kayaks. They have wonderful surfing canoes, but like my own ancestors, the Kanakas developed a technology that relies on old lumber. The modern surfing canoes are all fiberglass, and not the kind of boat that one person can have fun in, or even drag into the water easily.
So I hope I don’t come across like a snarky assoul who thinks he knows everything. It just kinda strikes me as odd, when such un-kayaky rafts are called “kayaks”. I hope I make some boats here someday. They have tons of bamboo, very little koa left. In my mind, I’m thinking of how to adapt bamboo to Aleut style boats… I will obsess on this idea and build another boat when I get back to Spokane.
The next time you want to get out in your kayak and think it’s too cold, think of those arctic seal hunters who invented the first kayaks. Just get out there and have fun any way you can.