UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
How do you kayak? we can't find anything on that subject. How do you teach beginners?
Question Date: 2003-05-23
Answer 1:

While I do not know how to kayak myself, I can still tell you something about the physical forces that apply when you kayak. - After all this is a science website and we answer science questions!

If you really want to learn how to kayak you should start taking classes . Maybe there is a summer camp in Santa Barbara this summer. Also, I am not quite sure if you want to learn to kayak or canoe. I will explain the differences to you.

There are three main distinctions that separate a canoe from a kayak: A kayak is a decked boat, while a canoe is not. When using the boat, a kayaker will sit flat with his legs extended under the deck and his upper body rising from a central hole in the deck. On the other hand, a canoer will kneel in the boat. A third difference lies in the paddle, a canoe utilizes a shorter paddle with a blade on one end only, sort of a shortened version of the oar of a row boat. The kayak, though, uses a longer paddle with blades at both ends of the rod.

Maybe you also like to know who build the first Kayak. The kayak was first created by the Inuit, an Arctic people. The first kayaks were wooden frames covered in sealskin with a small hole in the middle for the user to sit in. They were used primarily for hunting. These early kayaks varied greatly in design from region to region.

And now to the physics behind kayaking:

The second and third law of motion from Newton help us understand how the kayak is moving forward. A kayaker will place his paddle in the water and pull backwards in order to propel himself. While the paddle is being pulled back, it is exerting a force on the water and because of Newton's third law of motion, the water is simultaneously exerting an equal, but opposite, force on the kayaker. Since the kayaker was pulling backwards the force exerted inversely onto the kayaker is in the forward direction. Due to Newton's second law of motion, the force exerted on an object equals the mass of the object multiplied by it's resultant acceleration.

There is a lot more going on. Torque is the reason why the kayak swings in the opposite direction of each stroke. If a stroke is done on the right side, the kayak rotates counter-clockwise, but if the stroke is done on the left, the kayak rotates clockwise. This is because that while a stroke is taking place the paddle acts as a lever arm for the vessel. Torque is the length of the lever arm times the perpendicular force exerted on the arm. Thus the further from the ship that one places their stroke the greater torque that will be made, and the more the boat will rotate from side to side.

Maybe you will remember this when you learn how to paddle. It is actually useful.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use