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Kayak not Canoe

This describes the history and evolution of the modern kayak. It is suspected that WWII interrupted the earlier development when Gino Watkins brought kayaks to England and demonstrated their use in the 1930s.

See Gino Watkin’s Greenland (PDF) with pictures of him kayaking in England. Also his bio Gino Watkins.

From Valley Sea Kayaks, the evolution of the modern sea kayak.

In 1959 Ken Taylor was in Greenland to study its people and in particular the kayak hunting that was then still part of their traditional way of life. Whilst there, he drew and studied many of their traditional hunting kayaks. As a kayaker himself, he always intended returning home with one of these and it was Emmanuele who produced that kayak. If Ken had based himself in a different part of Greenland and used a different kayak builder, the style of the sea kayaks we paddle today might well have been subtly different. This, because different areas with different hunting requirements, resulted in different ‘local’ styles of kayak. However he was based in Igdlorssuit and Ken’s kayak, made to the local design by Emmanuele Korneliusen. This eventually went on to shape a company that wasn’t yet formed, Valley. It also shaped the design of the sea kayaks many of us use recreationally today.

At the time, there were no commercially made sea kayaks in the UK, so several industrious individuals made kayaks loosely based on photos and sketches of Ken’s kayak. In 1964, when Ken went to study anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, he left his kayak with paddling friends Joe Reid and Duncan Winning. Duncan took this opportunity to make proper, measured, scale drawings of the kayak and made these available to other enthusiasts. One of these enthusiasts was Geoffrey Blackford, who made a slightly lengthened plywood version and called it the Anus Acuta. Shortly after, a fiberglass mould was taken from this and in 1972 Valley was approached to make it commercially available. In doing so, Valley became one of the very first companies to produce a dedicated sea kayak.

Whilst the design of the Anas Acuta benefited from those thousands of years of evolution, built into Ken’s original skin on frame kayak, it was its commercial production in fiberglass, that led to sea kayaking gaining its popularity as a pastime. However, a few years pushing the limits of these new craft soon led to the pioneers of our sport realizing further development was required. Their most pressing need was the accommodation of equipment for the sustained and unsupported trips that they dreamed of making. However, they wanted this without sacrificing performance. This led to the development of the Valley Nordkapp. It was designed by Frank Goodman for the British Norway expedition in 1975. The Nordkapp was also famously used for the first rounding of Cape Horn by kayak and has since been used for many other ‘firsts’ around the globe.

KASK's aims are to:

1. Promote and encourage the sport of sea kayaking
2. Promote safety standards
3. Develop techniques and equipment
4. Deal with issues of coastal access and protection
5. Organise sea kayak forums around the country
6. Publish the Sea Canoeist Newsletter and the KASK Handbook