The ‘Yak Back’ is a popular name given to a condition caused by paddling traditional sit-in and SOT kayaks, and fishing from them.
The ‘Yak Back’ symptoms include leg numbness and cramps, discomfort in the hips and buttocks, pressure and pain in the lower back (lumbar) area, and premature fatigue.
Paddlers and fishermen suffering from Yak back feel a strong urge to change positions, stand up, walk, and stretch. Early Yak Back symptoms can appear as early as half an hour from launching, and they tend to aggravate as the hours go by.
It is not uncommon that people who paddle sit-in and SOT kayaks and fish from them develop a chronic Yak Back condition, manifested mainly as an acute sensitivity to pressure on their lower back, and sometimes even chronic lower back pain that forces many of them to abandon kayak paddling and kayak fishing.
The Yak Back is the result of being seated in an unnatural position often called the ‘L position’, in which your own legs push your lower back against your kayak seat’s backrest. The pressure applied is constant, and generated by the most powerful set of muscles in your body, which is why cushioning the seat’s backrest is quite useless.
Traditional sit-in and SOT kayaks offer too little stability to begin with, which is why as a paddler or fisherman who uses them, you’re required to keep your center of gravity (CG) as low as possible by sitting as low as possible and throwing your legs forward. As you do that, your legs change roles from naturally supporting your upper body to actively pressuring it in your spine’s lower part, which is a vulnerable place.
Native people of the Arctic who invented kayaks never used backrests, because they were used to sitting this way, so they didn’t need lumbar support. However, this is not an option for you because without a backrest you’re likely to find it impossible to keep your body in the L position for more than a few minutes.
The W kayak is the only kayak that offers your legs their natural role in supporting your upper body in your balancing, control, paddling and fishing efforts. Since your legs support your upper body you don’t need a backrest to support your back, and therefore there is nothing that can cause you discomfort, fatigue or pain.
The W kayak also offers you the possibility to switch between a variety of different paddling and fishing positions, including standing, which helps you stay fresh and comfy, and avoid Yak Back symptoms.
For these reasons the W got its nickname ‘Back Saver’.
Read more about ergonomics in kayak design.