kayak (kĪˈăk) [key], Eskimo canoe, originally made of sealskin stretched over a framework of whalebone or driftwood. It is completely covered except for the opening in which the paddler sits. Since the paddler wears a waterproof skin shirt which is laced to the boat, he can turn all the way over without sinking. The kayak is propelled by a double-bladed paddle and is primarily a hunting canoe. Because of its maneuverability in ice-infested waters, it is still in use over a great extent of the Arctic. The modern versions of the kayak are also popular as a sporting boat. Kayak events have been a feature of the Olympic games since 1936. See also canoe; canoeing.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.