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This measurement system confounded early European explorers who tried to duplicate the kayak, because each kayak was a little different.

Traditional kayaks encompass three types: Baidarkas, from the Bering sea & Aleutian islands, the oldest design, whose rounded shape and numerous chines give them an almost Blimp-like appearance; West Greenland kayaks, with fewer chines and a more angular shape, with gunwales rising to a point at the bow and stern; and East Greenland kayaks that appear similar to the West Greenland style, but often fit more snugly to the paddler and possess a steeper angle between gunwale and stem, which lends maneuverability.

Kayaks are believed to be at least 4,000 years old.

The oldest existing kayaks are exhibited in the North America department of the State Museum of Ethnology in Munich, with the oldest dating from 1577.

Aleut: Iqyax) were originally developed by the Inuit, Yup'ik, and Aleut.

They used the boats to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic, Bering Sea and North Pacific oceans.

The traditional kayak has a covered deck and one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler.

The cockpit is sometimes covered by a spray deck that prevents the entry of water from waves or spray and makes it possible for suitably skilled kayakers to roll the kayak: that is, to capsize and right it without it filling with water or ejecting the paddler.

Typically, kayak design is largely a matter of trade-offs: directional stability ("tracking") vs maneuverability; stability vs speed; and primary vs secondary stability.

Native builders designed and built their boats based on their own experience and that of the generations before them, passed on through oral tradition.

The word "kayak" means "man's boat" or "hunter's boat", and native kayaks were a personal craft, each built by the man who used it—with assistance from his wife, who sewed the skins—and closely fitting his size for maximum maneuverability.

An umiak is a large open sea canoe, ranging from 17 to 30 feet (5.2 to 9.1 m), made with seal skins and wood.

It is considered a kayak although it was originally paddled with single-bladed paddles, and typically had more than one paddler.

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