Seven Kayak Facts You Didn't Know

Tuesday, 01 October 2013
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Here are seven random fun-facts or stories related to kayaking that you likely haven’t heard of.

Kayaks have been used many times in battle

The Cockshell Heros

Back in World War II, the British Special Forces first conceived the idea of using kayaks during military raiding missions and they proved to be quite useful due to the fact that they were fast, quiet and easy to fold and store when the mission was over.

Jump forward to today and you will be pleased to know that, kayaks and canoes have been used for special mission by the US Marines, British Commandos, and the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command.

Some publically available examples of their use in military operations include early reconnaissance missions by the British in the 1982 Falklands War and a 1992 raid in Somalia where US Marines snuck into the country unannounced to set the stage for a full-force siege.

 

In 1932, Oskar Speck paddled over 50,000km in a kayak

Speck Expedition Map

Arguably one of the greatest kayak expeditions you have never heard of started back in 1932 when Oskar Speck decided to take the bus to the Danube River in Ulm, Germany and start paddling towards Cyprus. Over the next 7 years he continued working East paddling over 50,000 kilometers and eventually making his way to Australia where, September 1939, he was promptly arrested on suspicion of being an enemy alien (after all, Australia was at war against Germany at the time). He was sent to an internment camp where he stayed until the end of the war in 1945.

There is no word Oskar participated in any other major kayak expeditions after the war but several artifacts including compass, personal diary and video clips he took are now on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.

Image credit: wikipedia.org

 

Pope John Paul II loved to kayak

Pope John Paul II Kayak

Back around 1949, a young Pope John Paul II (before he was the Pope of course) was introduced to kayaking when he was working at Saint Florian's parish in Kraków, Poland.

He fell in love with kayaking so much that he quickly bought his own folding kayak (a Klepper) to take on vacations and meditation retreats. John Paul was also quite competitive and entered several downriver races including one on the Dunajec River in 1955 where his boat got a hole in it and promptly sunk just before the finish line.

Image credit: Fr. Rick's Sabbatical

 

Saint Innocent of Alaska: the patron saint of kayaking

John Veniaminov was born in near Irkutsk, Siberia in 1797 and knew he wanted to be a priest from an early age. Over the years he traveled between Siberia and what is now Alaska spreading the good word and it wasn't long however that he discovered the importance of becoming an expert in kayaking so he could travel solo during the summer months.

At six-foot-three inches tall, he was both imposing and highly respected by the local people for his skills. For example, there is a story of him traveling out to minister to his people in 1828. Things were going well as he kayaked his way out along the Aleutian Islands until trouble found him while he was between the Unalaska and Akun Islands. During that trip he was forced off the water twice due to storms and then almost capsized by a pod of whales. When he got back he told the story as if it was a routine trip.

He was canonized on October 6, 1977 by the Russian Orthodox Church and while "patron saint of kayaking" isn't his official title, I'm going to start lobbying that it should be.

 

The farthest distance paddled in a kayak by a female in 24 hours was how far?

Robyn Benincasea from the US of A currently holds the Guinness World Record for the farthest distance a woman has ever paddled in 24 hours when she paddled down the Yukon River in Yukon, Canada back in June 2011. Over a 24 hour period, she covered a distance of 371.92km (231.1 miles). Yes, she had the current helping to push her along but I'm 100% confident she went farther than you ever could.

 

The largest group of kayaks & canoes ever to raft up was over 1900

kayak flotila world record

The official world record was broken on September 24, 2011 when 1,902 boats formed the world's largest raft of canoes/kayaks in Inlet, NY. That being said, the record might not stand to much longer as an attempt to break it was just held in Suttons Bay, Michigan with 2,099 people registered. They are still waiting for the official verification from Guinness.

The Guinness rules stated that the flotilla must be a contiguous floating raft of touching kayaks held together for at least 30 seconds. The count is verified using aerial photos.

Image credit: National Geographic

 

Remember that time somebody made a kayak essentially out of poo? Yep.

Kayaks have been made with a variety of weird things over the years including concrete, aluminum and even pumpkins but I think one of the weirdest has to be the kayak manufactured from paper that came from sheep poo. Back in 2009, Lez Paylor, a partner in the UK paper business SheepPooPaper.com took an old Folbot frame and replaced the standard canvas skin with the poo paper (which had been waterproofed soy based marine grade waterproof resin).

Sadly their maiden voyage didn't inspire confidence as it started to leak within about 5 miles and they had to make a quick dash to shore.

 

 

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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