Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What is the definition of a "kayak"?

Over the years, there have been several major crossings of oceans by people using "kayaks". However, if we look at each of the actual boats used, these "kayaks" would look quite different from each other.
Of these seven expeditions, only Ed Gillet used a totally stock sea kayak without modifications. Andrew McAuley's kayak had some modifications to increase volume so he could carry enough food and gear. Romer and Lindemann used stock folding kayaks that were only modified somewhat, but they mostly sailed their kayaks and only used paddles occasionally. Bray, Doba, and Castrission/Jones paddled, but had kayaks that included a sealed cabin for sleeping.

When McAuley and the team of Castrission/Jones were making their preparations to cross the Tasman Sea, the sea kayaking legend, Paul Caffyn, expressed his feeling that using a 29-foot kayak with a cabin was essentially "cheating". It wasn't really a "kayak" in his estimation.

How do you feel about this question? What is the definition of a "kayak" for the purposes of doing a major crossing for the record books? Does it matter? And what about all the new communication technology that is available to today's adventurer? We'll address that specific issue another time. For now, let's focus on the definition of a kayak. What do you think?



  1. With all due respect to Paul Caffyn (undoubtedly the greatest sea kayaker of all time), what a ridiculous thing to say. Paddle craft come in all shapes and sizes, their key defining factor being that they are "paddled". They built a kayak that was designed to keep them alive as they crossed one of the most dangerous seas in the world and then paddled it for 60+ days. No one else has done that. My total respect to the boys for their achievement.

  2. I can't speak for Paul Caffyn, but it is interesting that you chose the term "paddle craft" not "kayak" saying that they come in all shapes and sizes. I don't think you would get an argument from Caffyn that Justin and James were using a "paddle craft". I suspect that his argument is that a "kayak" does not contain a sealed cabin for sleeping. (Just my interpretation of Caffyn's objection.) Although it is interesting that Andrew McAuley's "kayak" was modified with a dome that could be pulled over the cockpit to make it a sealed sleeping cabin.

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