Kayaking is the use of a kayak for moving across water. Whitewater kayaking involves taking a kayak down rapids. Sea kayaking sometimes also referred to as Ocean Kayaking involves taking kayaks out on to the ocean or other open water. Sea kayaking can involve short paddles with a return to the starting point or "put-in" or expeditions covering many miles and days.

There are two major classifications of kayaks - "sit on tops" which as the name suggests involves sitting on top of the kayak in an open area and "cockpit style" which involves sitting with the legs and hips inside the kayak hull.

Kayaks are usually propelled by hand-held paddles and can also be outfitted with various types of sails. A special type of kayak using pedals allows the kayaker to propel the vessel with underwater "flippers" .

Kayaks are differentiated from canoes by the fact that they use a two bladed paddle, whereas canoes are propelled by a paddle with a single blade. With todays radical designs in both kayaking and canoeing this is the only real difference between the two.

A kayak is a type of small human-powered boat; a covered variant of a canoe, typically used with a double-bladed paddle instead of a canoe's single bladed paddle.

The user or paddler sits down in the kayak with feet facing forward. The top of the kayak is covered with a deck. The paddler sits in a hole in the cockpit which may be sealed off with a spray skirt (or spraydeck). This stops water splashing over the boat from entering it, and makes it possible that, should the kayak (capsize), the kayak will not fill with water, and the paddler, with skill, can right the kayak again without taking on water. This manoeuvre is known as an Eskimo Roll.

In modern times kayaks have been further developed into several types including: whitewater, playboats, surfing, sea kayaks, flat-water racing, downriver racing, slalom, canoe polo and recreational. These types may also be subdivided. Modern kayaks are made of plastic, fiberglass, kevlar, carbon fiber, canvas, other fabrics, or wood. They come in one, two, and occasionally three person models. Some sit-on-top boats are also called kayaks, as the paddler propels the boat with a double-ended paddle.

The design of different types of kayak is largely a matter of trade-offs between directional stability, or tracking, and maneuverability. Touring kayaks, sea kayaks and flat-water racing kayaks are built as long as possible in order to improve tracking, because the better the directional stability, the more efficiently each stroke contributes to forward motion, but at a cost of reduced maneuverability; solo touring boats are typically 16 or 17 feet long while a cruising or racing boat can be 20 feet or longer.

(Longer boats also have a higher maximum non-planing hull speed, but the effect is largely offset by increased friction, and only becomes a significant factor at racing speeds.) Whitewater kayaks, which generally depend upon river current for their forward motion, are built quite short, to maximize maneuverability; whitewater boats rarely exceed eight feet in length, while playboats are generally about six feet long. The design of recreational kayaks is an attempt to compromise between tracking and maneuverability, while keeping costs reasonable; their length generally ranges from nine to fourteen feet. There are, of course, many more elements of kayak design?see the external links for more information. Most kayaks are rigid hulled, although folding kayaks that can be transported easily, and inflatable kayaks are not uncommon.

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