Appearing for many years on the catalogs of tour operators specializing in trekking, stays combine discovery on foot and sea kayaking and open up new horizons. From the warm seas of Oman to the icebergs of Spitzbergen, passing by the Mediterranean shores, the sea kayak offers travelers promises of discovery with an original point of view. But what is really this activity, what to expect, how and with whom to prepare … With Fanny, I mix with happiness trekking and sea kayaking for many years and offer to share my experience.
In the heart of the Aland archipelago, Baltic Sea In the heart of the Aland archipelago, Baltic Sea
In the heart of the Aland archipelago, Baltic Sea
The origins of sea kayaking
More than 4000 years ago, the kayak was born on the Arctic coast, a craft originally used by the indigenous peoples of Greenland, Aleutians and Alaska. Intended for hunting seals and whales, generally constructed from skins sewn and stretched over a wooden structure, its shape evolved according to the epochs, the regions and the uses. But its main features, like its Inuit name ᖃᔭᖅ qajaq, have been perpetuated until today.
If the use of motor ships by the Arctic peoples gradually led to the abandonment of the kayak as a hunting craft, it was the development of the leisure society that in the 1970s gave a second boost to the kayak. Intrepid explorers and actors of popular education – especially the Paimpol youth hostel for France – contributed to the development of the practice and the emergence of more comfortable ships and a more “safe” use. And the sea kayak to know, since the 1990s, a new development until becoming a complementary activity of the hiking with which it shares some characters.
Kayak under the snow. Kayak under the snow.
Kayak under the snow.
Neither canoe nor rowing …
A water craft, with which the user is body, and propelled, directed and balanced with a paddle with two blades, the kayak is a marine craft. And it must not be confused with the canoe, intended for lakes and large rivers, nor with the boat propelled with oars. The sea kayak, unlike its river cousin, is a large craft – between 4.5m and 6m – which allows it to move quickly and keep a course. Insubmersible due to its waterproof bulkheads, it has such a marine character that, in accordance with the French regulations for category 6 kayaks, if one has the equipment and especially the necessary experience, s ‘To engage in crossings up to 21 km at sea, almost twice the crossing Corsica – Sardinia!
Crossing Corsica – Sardinia Crossing Corsica – Sardinia
Crossing Corsica – Sardinia
Hiking in sea kayak
The interest of the sea kayak does not lie in these great crossings but in a coastal navigation which is much like the hike. It is a slow, regular effort, not engendering physical constraints too big and allowing to envisage days of 15 nautical miles (27 km approximately) like one would make a hike of 15 km on the plateaus of Vercors. And it is thanks to a huge storage space in the front and rear caissons, and a carrying capacity often over 40 kilos that great roaming becomes possible. If the coastlines offer beautiful day trips, it is quite possible to leave for a stay of two to three weeks with luggage and food on board. Then the pleasure of discovery, bivouacs in small coves and paradisiacal beaches … without the constraint of portage or the armada of animals of packs.
The orientation with the aid of a map and a compass, the daily taking of the weather, the preparation of its “bottom of bag” with food and small wool finish comparison with the hiking.
Orientation with map and compass on deck, compass in hand. Orientation with map and compass on deck, compass in hand.
Orientation with map and compass on deck, compass in hand.
Practiced contemplatively, the sea kayak offers unprecedented views on the coastal landscapes, on an original geology exposed by the waves. But it is also the thrill of happiness of the encounter with the fauna that marks in an indelible way the memory of the hiker in kayak. Would you tell me about our narwhal navigation in a Greenland East Fjord, our observation of the big dolphins in the National Park of the Calanques or our encounter with the gray seals of Brittany or the Baltic that I can not describe to you the emotions That there is to live, in all tranquility, these unique moments.
Unique view on the nature reserve of Scandola (Corsica). Unique view on the nature reserve of Scandola (Corsica).
Unique view on the nature reserve of Scandola (Corsica).
What if I turn around?
It is the angst of the beginner! In reality the anguish of the unknown because the sea kayak is an astonishing boat stable for its dimensions and capsize are rare. Rare and unimportant since in a few seconds you will be extracted alone and without learning (Ah the survival instinct!) Of your kayak and that the guide will help you to re-embark. No need to know how to practice sea kayaking, at least as long as your practice is not engaged in violent sea conditions.
Going with an agency?
The unreal blue of the icebergs of Spitzbergen, the breath of the whales of the St. Lawrence, the sun-drenched ribs of the fjords of Oman … the catalogs of tour operators open to dream destinations, mixing hiking and sea kayaking. Invitation to travel is all the more tempting as it is specified that no experience of sea kayaking is required!
Bivouac in the North-East of Greenland Bivouac in the North-East of Greenland
Bivouac in the North-East of Greenland
And it is true that these destinations – large bays and deep fjords – particularly sheltered from the winds and swells, as well as the instructions given to the guides not to sail as soon as the sea rises guarantee your safety and serenity. It is also true that most of the agencies will take you aboard two-seater kayaks, excessively stable and above all much less physically demanding. But as soon as they arrive there, everyone wants to enjoy the destination and the learning time can only be short.
Unless the technical bases of sea kayaking are not difficult to acquire, they require at least a few days. A few days to discover the activity, to overcome its possible apprehension, to master the stroke of paddle to advance without fatigue and to easily manage its kayak. A few days that I can advise you to take on the coastline nearest to you, with a qualified guide who will not only allow you to discover otherwise this coastline but to take full advantage of your future stay, The other end of Europe or the world.
Turquoise waters of Sardinia Turquoise waters of Sardinia
Turquoise waters of Sardinia
From beginners to experienced practitioners
That’s it. After a short course of a few days you learned the basics that allowed you to enjoy this destination that made you dream so much. On these exotic water you slipped without difficulty and you are to return . Thin, hiking, trekking, you feel you have caught a new virus. You feel the call of the sea, the itchy paddle … you want more.
Very intimate picnic break in the heart of the Baltic Intimate picnic break in the heart of the Baltic
Very intimate picnic break in the heart of the Baltic
The sea is, like the high mountain, a universe where man can only be passing. And if it is necessary to patiently learn the mountain or to lean on a guide to cross certain paths, it is the same for the sea. Practiced by calm sea and framed professionals sea kayak is without risk or difficulty. But that the wind rises, that a strong swell settles wherever you are in tidal currents and you will have to be able to mobilize skills, sense of observation, ability to evaluate the conditions and its own level that alone A patient and exciting learning will offer you. And if after learning the idea of leaving the bosom of the guides you itch, then would open to you the same pleasure of autonomy as in mountain. Pleasure to go in couple or between friends, to assume its choices of navigation, safety, bivouacs.
Departure in the shorebreak … a fun exercise that requires a strong experience
To know more
On the Web. The V ery friendly and well illustrated seakayakermag offer you a thousand and one explanations for sea kayaking does no more secret for you.
In bookstore. Kayaking and sea , Bernard & Michel Moulin Gu gan é, é conditions of the Boater’s the French bible of sea kayaking.
Newsstand. Apart from a few items sometimes said é é s in the books magazine Adventures, that is h e las to the language of Shakespeare that you will have to turn up for a playback quality é. Ocean paddler is the r e f e rence across the Channel and beyond to.
And to learn?
Without pretending to be exhaustive, two excellent addresses tested for you.
M é é e diterran, near the national park of the Creeks