Rod Ratzlaff’s Article on the W500 Kayak – Colorado

Rod Ratzlaff, a Colorado kayaker and eclectic outdoorsman, got his W500 earlier this year, and we already published his ‘first impression’ kayak review on this blog.
Since then, Rod wrote a full featured article about his W500 kayak, and kindly contributed a copy to our website.

Rod and his wife Toni worked together on some unique modifications and outfitting projects, including a sophisticated rudder system – Rod needs it when he sails his W500 with an umbrella! , an amazing spray deck (fairing) and an equally amazing cockpit cover, a great looking seat pad, a portable electric motor, and other smart and artistic items…

My favorite work of art is the W logo sewn on the spray deck 🙂


W500 kayak, lake George, Colorado

16 thoughts on “Rod Ratzlaff’s Article on the W500 Kayak – Colorado”

  1. I agree with Rod about the W concept being a new type of watercraft. It’s officially recognized as a new invention, hence the full fledged US utility patent we got, and not a mere design patent.
    The W500 is a bit more canoe-ish, while the early W300 models were more kayak-ish in style.
    Such trend can be observed in traditional (old-style) kayaks as well: The tiny hole and narrow cockpit have been replaced by open cockpits in sit-in recreational kayaks, and with a virtual cockpit in SOT kayaks.
    The W concept (invention) offers to design and produce other small watercraft, such as W dinghies, W Jon boats etc.

    We labeled our products ‘kayak’ because that’s what most people see in them, and it also makes it easier for people who search the web for kayaks to find us – nobody’s looking to find a ‘paddle craft’, really 🙂

    Anyway, a kayak is what most people call a kayak, even if technically it’s a perforated paddle board (a.k.a. ‘sit-on-top kayak’) a pedal-driven craft, or a twin-hulled marvel like our own W kayak 😀


  2. Rod…………………All I can say is………Outstanding!!!
    What you’ve done with your W500 takes it to another level!
    And the Umbrella sailing, how awesome is That!! 🙂

    Thank you for the wonderful details, I fish some pretty windy waters
    here on Ct, looks like I got some work to do this winter. 🙂

    Happy and Safe Paddling!!

  3. Very good article.
    The spray-deck is awesome, and I think I’ll make one for myself!

  4. Nicely done! Tricking out a kayak is a whole bunch less expensive than a car or truck. Hey Yoav, let’s add another section to the site, call it “trick my yak” or maybe “trick my W”.

  5. Well written and interesting review.
    I wish I had such a spray mini-skirt myself! 🙂

    As for the rudder, I assume it’s important for sailing, but there’s really no need for it when paddling is concerned, even under strong wind. This is because it’s so easy to use the W itself as a rudder by changing locations along the saddle: Going forward makes the bow point towards the wind, and going backward makes it point away from the wind.
    Same trick works perfectly in waves too.


  6. fast as a 12-13 ft touring kayak — does it mean the w500 is as fast as a 14 ft fishing kayak? or more??
    thank you

  7. Based on observations from many people who’ve paddled the W500, it’s safe to say that it’s as fast as a 14 ft fishing kayak, which corresponds to Rod’s assessment of a speed equal to that of a 12′-13′ long touring kayak.

    If you take into consideration other factors, such as ergonomics and tracking, which are important in longer trips, you’d get results that are even more favorable for the W500.


  8. I don’t get it, why does changing your position in the w make it turn or go straight in the wind?

  9. Cape,

    When you’re located in the front of the W cockpit, your bow becomes heavier than your stern. Therefore, the bow goes down and the stern goes up.
    This way, the stern is more exposed to the wind, and generates more resistance to it than the bow.
    With side or quarter wind blowing, that makes the stern react like a weathervane to the power of the wind, and your W will tend to point towards the direction from which the wind is blowing (I.E. into the wind)
    Similarly, if you’re positioned in the back of the cockpit, the stern becomes heavier and the bow gets lighter, and your W kayak will tend to point to the direction to which the wind is blowing -that is away from the wind.

    If you’re positioned in the middle of the W cockpit, you can control the tendency of your boat to point into or out of the wind by making small adjustments in your position.

    It’s also important to remember that your can correct your W kayak course and help it track better by leaning into the wind.


  10. I read Rod’s review with great interest (-Great job, Rod!).
    I was struck by the fact he hardly mentions the comfort you feel in a W kayak (OK, he does say “Roomy and comfortable, varied seating positions are possible”)…
    I think it could be because all that outdoors (extreme) activity 365 makes him highly fit, so he’s less sensitive to comfort issues than most of us are.
    The outfitting work he did together with his wife is simply wonderful.

  11. Great job Rod!
    Time to practice some ice paddling up there in the mountains? 😀

  12. That’s serious review, and a serious outfitting job as well.

  13. Rod says -“A large part of my attraction to kayaks is visual. Sleek and curvaceous, I perceive them as a work of art, especially the beautiful composite and wooden ships. They have a distinctive look and feel, you essentially wear a kayak.”

    I share with Rod the admiration for wooden kayaks. Basically, all boat designs look better in wood, because of the natural beauty of this material. As for curvaceous plastic (including “composite”) kayak designs, I must say I don’t appreciate the curved lines and intricate forms, which to me represent an overuse of CAD programs’ capabilities, and the tolerance of modern molding technologies.
    If you look at original Inuit skin-on-frame kayaks, you’ll find their lines to be more straight and simple.

    I fully agree with Rod about the W being a new watercraft. I’d say it’s also a better one… 😉


  14. How can I get more info on the small portable motor Rod is shown holding?

    Thanks for many great ideas!

  15. Your best bet is a cordless drill with a prop, but you can contact Rod through his website, or websites

Leave a Reply