Whitewater kayaking is the sport of paddling a kayak on a moving body of water, typically a whitewater river. Whitewater kayaking can range from active, moving water, to demanding, extreme whitewater.
Paddling on rivers, lakes and oceans is as old as the Stone Age. The raft, the catamaran, the canoe and the kayak evolved depending on the needs and environment of the indigenous peoples in different parts of the world. The modern day kayak most likely originated about 8,000 years ago along the Siberian coast line by the Yupik and then transformed from the open canoe, via the Aleut and Inuit, into an enclosed kayak. The first boats made were hard to sink because they contained inflated seal bladders, which made them ideal for navigating whitewater.
The Greek, Herodotus, 484-425 BC, wrote in his travel diaries about boats with which merchandise was brought from Armenia to Babylon. The boats were made of a wooden framework that was covered with animal skins. Mules hauled the precious skins back to Armenia.
The Russian, Grigori Ivanovitch Langsdorff, reported from his trip around the world (1803–07) on the ease and elegance of paddling Eskimo kayaks/canoes. The Scot, John MacGregor, came back from his North American trip full of excitement about the kayak/canoe and in 1860 started building six boats that closely resembled Eskimo canoes/kayaks, weighing app. 80 lb (36 kg). In 1866 he published the book A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe. The timing was right and the book became a resounding success. With the Industrial Revolution leading to more leisure time in the middle of the 19th century, people in Europe started to enjoy floating down rivers in all kinds of contraptions taking in nature previously only available to a selected few.