Snow Kayaking & Were Kayaks the First Sleds?

“Maine has two seasons: winter and 2 months of damn poor sledding,” goes the old joke. The quote betrays a bemused acceptance of long winters. I imagine a cynical Inuit might have said pretty much the same. The Inuit were obviously highly skilled in surviving the extreme conditions of the arctic winter; and many times, it must have felt to them that winter was the dominant force in their lives. What they lived for, however, was to get out in the water in their kayaks.

It occurred to me while cross country skiing today that a kayak was very probably the first “ski.” As a group of nomadic hunger / gatherers moved north and encountered ice, they likely found that they could tow their loaded kayaks across smooth ice with a minimum of effort. From there, it wouldn’t take much of a cognitive leap to lash two kayaks together catamaran style (the first sled) and eventually to lash smaller versions of “kayaks” directly onto their feet as skis.

Kayak touring and cross country skiing do bear a lot of similarities — and not just in muscle groups used. Cross country skiing also involves maximizing glide and minimizing drag while moving across the surface of (frozen) H20. And anyone who has set a kayak down on snow or ice knows that the kayak just begs to go careening down even the slightest slope.

Again proving that you can find anything on the web, there are several sites featuring “snow kayaking.” My adventures in snow kayaking” includes several cool photos and a moving background. The Des Moines Register has an article on snow kayaking in Iowa of all places. Reportedly whitewater kayaks work best, but I still think a touring kayak would give more speed.

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