A Wet Ride
Problem Overview and New
Updated November 2013
This article examines the 'wet ride' issue, which is
sometime viewed as inseparable from all forms of kayaking, kayak
fishing, and types of kayaks. It exposes possible dangers and inconveniences associated
to direct exposure to water, humidity and cold in various
circumstances, and describes solutions based on the new, patented
technology applied in Wavewalk's Kayaks.
What's a 'wet ride'?
A wet ride is a common expression describing a kayaker's experience of
paddling and/or fishing while being wet. The wet ride can be
caused by many
things, including stepping in water while launching, being splashed by
spray and waves, water getting into the cockpit through the scupper
holes in sit-on-top kayaks, condensation under the spray skirt in
sit-in kayaks etc.
most unpleasant sensation associated with the wet ride is sitting in a
wet area (the 'soggy bottom'), but a wet ride can also be hazardous:
The combination of cold water with cold wind can cause hypothermia,
even if the kayaker did not go overboard. Hypothermia is a
condition that significantly reduces the paddler's physical and mental
ability to navigate and arrive safely to his/her destination.
In warm waters a wet ride could cause exposure to jellyfish larvae
('sea lice') in sea water, parasites and bacteria in both fresh and
water etc., and result in unpleasant and sometime severe skin and
Snails infected with certain microscopic parasites found in some birds
and mammals release those parasites into both fresh and salt
water. Swimmer's itch (cercarial dermatitis), which appears as a
skin rash is caused by an allergic reaction to those parasites
burrowing in the person's skin.
The presence of certain chemicals in the water is known to
cause unwanted physical reactions as well.
Contact with sea water can cause a highly pruritic eruption known as
Seabather's eruption (SE).
with warm, stagnant waters such as found in swamps can in some extreme
cases lead to serious bacterial infections.
Vibrio bacteria are usually found in warm waters.
contact with those flesh eating bacteria can cause severe infections
leading to limb loss and even death. Vibriosis is a risk for swimmers,
boaters and fishermen.
infectious diarrhoeal disease usually transmitted through oralfaecal
and by contaminated water was diagnosed in 14% of US paddlers, compared
background level of 4%, according to one study.
Another infection called Leptospirosis and its
more severe form, Weil’s disease, are considered to be typical paddling
hazards. These infections are often transmitted by infected rats’ urine
in the water. The
diseases are characterized by jaundice, fever, headaches, muscle aches,
and enlargement of the liver and spleen. They can be treated with
antibiotics in most cases but sometime they lead to septicemia, organ
damage and even death.
Kayakers risk infections of enterovirus and coliform as well.
And obviously, everybody knows that wearing wet clothes
can cause skin
rash, especially during and after a prolonged physical effort.
This doesn't necessarily mean that getting wet while kayaking is either
unpleasant or hazardous, but it certainly points to the need to provide
kayakers with means of protection in case they don't want to get wet or
come in contact with the water.
Recent research indicates that water in popular subtropical beaches
contains staph and MRSA bacteria that may infect open wounds in your
'Kayaking and kayak fishing are
Some kayakers and kayak fishermen use the term 'water sport' to define
kayaking, and by that they mean to say that getting wet is an
inseparable part of any kayaking activity, as it is of water skiing,
This approach also implies that the kayaker or kayak fisherman should
not expect to be comfortable in his/her kayak, and that the 'wet ride'
This argument is fallacious for a number of reasons:
1. Originally, the native people of the arctic who
invented and developed kayaking tried as much as possible to avoid
getting wet, and for good reasons.
2. Like kayaking, canoing is another group of
traditional, popular paddle sports and activities, but unless practiced
in whitewater it does not involve 'wet rides' since most canoes offer a
better protection to their passengers than kayaks do.
3. Fishing from other small boats (e.g. dinghies,
pirogues etc.) does not involve getting wet as much as kayak fishing
4. Considering the efforts different groups of
kayakers from sea kayakers to kayak fishermen put into avoiding and
minimizing the 'wet ride' it is obviously a real problem.
What's causing the wet ride in
The general cause is insufficient protection but specific causes vary
depending on kayak type and application:
Traditional, or sit-in kayaks (SIKs) have little free board, so that
even paddling in eddies and small waves can result in some water
getting inside the kayak through the open cockpit. As for sea kayaks,
these are normally equipped with a spray skirt, which doesn't
necessarily make them watertight in surf and waves conditions.
Sit-on-top kayaks (SOTs) offer even less protection than SIKs do in
terms of free board, and typically let water into the cockpit through
the drainage holes called 'scupper holes'. This is why SOTs have become
popular only in warm waters.
The wet ride and the dry storage
Another aspect of the wet ride is the difficulty to keep gear dry in a
kayak. Some seasoned sea kayakers say that before they go on a
kayak expedition they simply take into consideration that eventually
all their gear will get wet, even if it's stored below deck. The
solution to that is using watertight bags, which similarly to sea
kayaks are not absolutely watertight…
New solutions to the wet ride
Since the wet ride is challenging many kayakers' well being it must be
addressed by kayak designers and manufacturers. The solution
offered by the new, patented W Kayak concept is simple, and basically
consists of more free board protecting the passengers inside the
W kayakers can also sit change positions on their boat's longitudinal
saddle and sit, ride or stand in the back of the cockpit. By
doing so they raise the bow and avoid much of the splashing and
spraying that other kayakers are forced to put up with when launching
in the surf.
Another good news for kayakers is the fact that even if some water gets
into the W Kayak's cockpit it just gets drained to the bottom of the
hulls and away from the passengers' sitting area on top of the saddle.
This eliminates the unpleasant sensation of sitting in a puddle that
many people who use ordinary kayaks (SOT and SIK) have to put up with.
Since it's possible to enter the W Kayak's from behind and exit it from
the front it is no longer necessary for a W Kayakers to step in water
when putting their boats in and taking them out.
And finally, since W Kayaks have a big, internal dry storage space it
is no longer necessary for the equipment carried on board to get wet.
More W Kayak information: