Why North American-style Kayak Outfitting Is So Suited To Europe*

Why North American-style kayak outfitting is so suited to Europe*

*And other things you may not know about sea kayaks


Now appearing on European shorelines near you – North American sea kayaks!

Popular in the “New World” for decades, these big, comfy vessels are creating waves as they ply the coastal Continental waters. People are going crazy for their stability and security.

But where did they originate? And why are they causing such excitement? Read on for the full story!


Sea kayaking – in the beginning . . .

Okay, let’s be clear here. Kayaking out in the ocean as a popular recreational pastime has existed in England, and by extension in Europe, since the 1960s. Heavily influenced by the Greenland-style kayaks – those long, narrow, single-person vessels that can be prone to tipping – it’s seen as an activity that’s restricted to the trained enthusiast.

And this has resulted in the fact that much of Europe perceives all kayaking to be something demanding skill, and therefore its popularity has been limited.

But there’s a new kid on the Continent, in the form of the North American-style sea kayak.

Built for steadiness, comfort and all levels of ability, these larger multi-person boats allow for outfitting trips and a whole new perspective on touring. And while it’s still a bit of a novelty, their popularity is making inroads in Europe.


What is a North American-style sea kayak?

In North America, historically the traditional way to move about on the water was in canoes. Consequently, kayaking in the region was influenced by those large, comfortable vessels as well as the Aleutian Island (Alaska) style kayaks.

Those canoes and Aleut kayaks (also called baidarkas) were bigger boats than the ones coming out of Greenland, largely because there were big trees – and lots of them – all over the western coast of the North American continent. Longer materials allowed for larger boats with more room for supplies, perfect for multiple days’ worth of food and equipment. Built to be comfortable in wilderness situations, they also had to act as a decent platform to fish from, which helped increase the amount of time one could venture out.

So, with this kind of vessel as the basis, Western kayak outfitting began in the 1980s as a sport that was seen to be fairly accessible and safe. You didn’t have to be a major athlete, just take a basic introductory class in strokes and self-rescues, and then rely on the guides to lead the way. And in large part, that’s as easy as it is due to the design of the kayaks.

Seen as a vehicle to get away from the crowds, off the trails and off the grid, it particularly appealed to those looking to explore. (As a side note, because of its ability to discover remote beaches, early in the sport’s growth it became very popular with nudists…insert your joke about what’s under that kayak skirt here.) Accessibility and the capability to transport people away from the usual spots is what propelled kayak outfitting, and thereby kayaking in general, in popularity.


Bringing North American kayak outfitting to Europe

Primarily, kayak outfitting in Europe is still enjoyed mostly by people from North America, though that’s starting to change. As outfitters, our goal in kayak touring in Europe is to offer a new perspective on the way to see an area’s culture and history. We’re not there to grind off tons of mile, it’s about the experience.

So much of Europe was built along the water, so what better way to take it all in? See fortresses and castles built along the coast more than a thousand years ago. Observe spectacular land forms in a different sort of light. You can actually imagine yourself as a 14th-century explorer with new worlds to conquer – it truly is remarkable. And doing that in a stable, roomy vehicle that offers a good base from which to take photos and doesn’t demand constant attention to balance allows for a unique travel experience that is so very memorable.


Experience sea kayaks with Tofino Expeditions’ award-winning tours

We offer an unparalleled range of multiday kayaking tours in Europe. All our tours highlight unique regional culinary and cultural elements and feature carefully chosen accommodations. Whether you want to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites or explore ancient fishing villages, our kayaks and guides will transport you in a whole new way.

Please visit our website for details about all our kayaking tours and have a look at our new online catalog with loads of spectacular images and info on our other one-of-a-kind trips. To ask questions about any of our destinations, please get in touch through our website, call (800) 677-0877 or email us at info@tofino.com.

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