Oldest Kayak in the World

Oldest Kayak in the World

Believe it or not, but kayaks are actually one of the world’s oldest inventions. These watercrafts were invented by the indigenous Inuit, Aleut, and Yup’ik people, who used them to hunt for food. Since kayaks have been around thousands of years, it’s safe to say that there are several old kayaks located all over the world! In this article, we’re going to look more closely at some of the oldest kayaks in the world. Let’s get right into it! 

2 Oldest Kayaks In The World

1. Oiled Sealskin Kayak

Year made: Approximately 1850
Current location: Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska
Made by: Alutiiq artisans

Oiled Sealskin KayakPhoto Source: NY Times

This preserved oil sealskin kayak is an important piece of indigenous and Alaskan history. This watercraft was displayed at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, but belonged to the Altuiiq community, which was why it was loaned back to the the Altuiiq Museum. 

This kayak has an interesting history behind it. It was most likely made by a group of Altuiiq women, who would have used yarn to set animal sinew around the kayak’s frame. It’s also worth noting that this kayak’s wooden frame was most likely made from driftwood, and each piece of wood would have been attached to another with pieces of spruce root fibers.

You can also read our article on youngest US Kayak Olyampians.

Did you know?

This oiled seaskin kayak has human hair in it! A curator at the Altuiiq museum explained that human hair signified the family’s loved ones that remained on land and their spirit that travels with those at sea.

2. Folding Kayaks

Year made: 1905
Current location: All over the world
Made by: Klepper Manufactuers

Folding KayaksPhoto Source: Openverse

Folding kayaks were first invented by Alfred Heurich, who was a student of architecture in Germany. After trying out his design on the Isar River, he patented his design. A few years later, a man named Johannes Klepper took Heurich’s design and made it commercially successful, introducing the world for folding kayaks as we know them today. The reason that these kayaks were so popular is because of how compact they were and how easy they were to transport. 

Folding kayaks were commonly used during World War Two, particularly by the British forces and the Commonwealth forces. Every country’s special forces, such as the Combined Operations Headquarters and the Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment, used folding kayaks to help them with military tactics. Additionally, during the Cold War, a special form of kayak was created for military use. 

Did you know?

Folding kayaks are popular due to how durable, longlasting, and stable they are.


Although we’re certain there are several old kayaks all over the world, tracking them down was a harder task than we expected! In this article, we took a closer look at two types of kayaks that have been around for several decades. The oiled seaskin kayak has played a hugely important role in Alaskan indigenous history, and it’s wonderful that is it being preserved so well today. We hope you learned something new and exciting today! 

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