When it comes to extreme sports, nothing can fully describe the adrenaline rush of whitewater kayaking. In whitewater kayaking, one slices through the water at high speeds, battling waves sometimes twenty times the kayaker’s size. It is a sport of balance, not just in a literal sense. One must have good balance to level the boat and prevent it from capsizing, but kayaking also requires a balance of strength and grace, a strength to push one’s self through the currents and a grace to maneuver out of tight situations. One must also have a balance between intelligence and stupidity, with the need for enough intelligence to know how the raging currents will affect the boat, but enough stupidity to go out into the raging waters anyway. Many people take years to perfect their skills in this difficult and demanding sport. Although it has become quite popular in recent years, whitewater kayaking has had a long and illustrious history that has brought it to its present day popularity.
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The exact time at which the kayak was invented is not known; however, archaeologists have found records of kayaks dating back 4,000 years. The first kayaks were invented by the native Alaskans, the Inuits. These early kayaks were made of a driftwood or whalebone frame covered with animal skins. The most common woods used were fir, pine, spruce, and willow, while the animal skins were either seal or walrus. These kayaks lacked many of the safety precautions now found on most kayaks, such as rudders, hatches, and bulkheads. The main use of these kayaks was to hunt animals that lived in rivers, lakes, or in the ocean, and they were designed to travel quickly over long distances and handle rough ocean water.
Some Alaskan peoples, such as the Aleuts, even had the ability to do modern maneuvers, such as rolling over, in their kayaks. Most early kayakers wore waterproof animal skin jackets that closed tightly around the face and hands to prevent the icy water from leaking into their clothing. Although these arctic people did not use their kayaks in whitewater, they set the groundwork for the sport, inventing the boats and gear that would be used for centuries.
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