The world is a fast paced and noisy place. In a typical day, we run the gauntlet from one noisy environment to another. We're bombarded by noise at work. We travel through noise to and from work. Even when we get home, we're surrounded by noise, from our modern conveniences, from our pets, maybe even from our kids. For many, this causes the pressure to build, until they feel like they're going to explode. They feel a desperate need to decompress. Of course, there is certainly no shortage of entertainment in our modern world. This is especially true in the United States, which is a big exporter of entertainment. However, much of the recreation and entertainment that is available is a reflection of the fast paced and noisy world from which we may be fleeing. Even fishing, which used to be the epitome of a lazy summer afternoon, now often involves a noisy motor boat. There is another way. Why not try canoeing or kayaking? There's no better or more peaceful way to enjoy a day on the water.
Compared to other boats, canoes and kayaks are lightweight and fairly economical. They can usually be transported in a truck or on the roof of a car, eliminating the expense and inconvenience of a boat trailer. This makes them easier to get to the water, and easier to launch once you're there.
While small watercraft have been used by native people around the world for thousands of years, canoes and kayaks, as we know them, can be considered an American invention. It is commonly believed that the word canoe itself comes from a Native American word that means dugout. While other people used careful cutting and controlled burning to fashion small boats or dugout canoes from logs, many of the Native American tribes took another approach. They would cover a ribbed frame with animal skin or tree bark, to create a lightweight, yet remarkably useful small craft. When Europeans first arrived in the New World, they quickly saw the advantages of the birch bark canoes used by the woodland tribes of the northeast. Their adoption by traders and explorers played a large role in opening up the Great Lakes region to settlement.
Meanwhile, in the far north, the Arctic people were making a special type of canoe. By covering a wooden frame with sealskin, they created what we now know as kayaks.
Although it is still possible to buy canoes and kayaks made in the traditional way, most modern examples are usually constructed of newer materials, such as wood, plastic, or fiberglass.
A Scottish lawyer named John MacGregor is usually credited with establishing canoeing as a recreational sport. In 1866, he and other enthusiasts founded the Canoe Club, which became the Royal Canoe Club in 1873. Competitive canoeing began with the club's first regatta in 1867. In 1924, canoeing was a demonstration sport at the Paris Olympics. It became a regular Olympic event in 1936. Competitors today compete in several distance events, as well as whitewater slalom events.
Whether you are an Olympic caliber kayaker or just a weekend paddler, canoeing is a good way to spend a quiet afternoon. It's good exercise and a good way to unwind, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. When you see the mirror-flat stillness of a placid lake on a warm afternoon, with the tranquility disturbed only by the small sound of your own paddle breaking the surface, you may come to realize that in spite of the highway over the hill, we're really not that far removed from the natives that paddled that water a short time ago. Such a gentle sensory experience may be just what's needed to heal raw nerves and overloaded senses. What better reason can you find to try the soothing pastime of canoeing?