Common Kayak Injuries

Paddling a common kayak, be it a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak or a sit-in kayak (SIK) involves being seated in the non-ergonomic L position, as well as paddling it in the traditional kayaking style that requires typical, repetitive motion. Both can lead to various injuries.

Paddling a common kayak, be it a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak or a sit-in kayak (SIK) involves being seated in the non-ergonomic L position, as well as paddling it in the traditional kayaking style that requires typical, repetitive motion. Both can lead to various injuries.

Lower Back Pain

Traditional kayak paddling technique, a.k.a. kayaking is based on torso rotation initiated from your hips. This motion is impossible to perform while you’re leaning backward (“slouching”) and it’s best performed while you’re sitting straight or preferably, slightly leaning forward. The combination of leaning with continuous, repetitive rotation puts strain on the lower part of your spine, known as the lumber spine, because it has to support your upper body even while rotating. What makes things significantly worse is the fact that while your lumbar spine is constantly rotating, your legs compress it against the backrest of your seat in order to transmit your paddling effort from your paddle, through your body, to your kayak, so as tom propel it forward through the water. This considerable force is applied constantly on your lower spine, a vulnerable area that has no other bones to protect or support it.

Regardless of how much padding your so-called “ergonomic” kayak seat my have, you will always feel discomfort to some degree, as long as you paddle either sit-in or SOT kayaks.

Only W kayaks do not require from you to be seated in the L position, and only W kayaks offer a wide range of paddling positions that you can switch to anytime you feel like it. The ability to introduce change into your posture offers to reduce stress levels from particular areas in the body, and provides relief. In addition, the W kayak’s saddle offers you the ability to stretch your body, and this feature is highly beneficial in this regard.


The L seated position in a kayak forces the lowest part of your spine, known as the tailbone, down onto the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve is formed by nerve roots coming out of the spinal cord in the lower back, and it runs from the lower back down through the buttocks to the feet.

Prolonged sitting in the L kayak position can result in pinching of the sciatic nerve. As a result, you will feel an acute pain starting deep in the rear that could travel down the leg. Before such pain is felt, you could experience other, milder symptoms in your legs, such as leg numbness.

Needless to say that being unable to stand up, stretch, or merely switch to another sitting position will increase the severity of the problem.

Shoulder Pain

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles in your shoulder, which connect the upper arm (humerus) to the shoulder blade (scapula).

In kayaking, the rotator cuff has to withstand a great deal of torque (twisting motion), especially in turning maneuvers and paddle strokes aimed at controlling your kayak. Such force applied on the shoulder can result in injury in the the rotator cuff tendons and muscles.

Here too, being able to change paddling positions and paddling styles is beneficial, as well as changing paddle strokes, but only W kayaks offer a variety of options that are sufficiently different from each other.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Wrist Injury

Carpus is a Latin word derived from the Greek word karpos, meaning ‘wrist’. The wrist joint is surrounded by a band of fibrous tissue that normally supports it. The Carpal Tunnel is tight space between this fibrous band and the wrist bones. The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel and receives sensations from the thumb, index, and middle fingers.

Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include numbness and tingling of the hand in the distribution of the median nerve, that is the thumb, index, middle, and part of the fourth fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome may be a temporary condition that completely resolves, or it can persist and progress.

Traditional kayaking technique involves repeated, typical wrist flexion in combination with wrist torsion, and can result in carpal tunnel syndrome. In order to minimize the risk for such injury to occur, you need to be able to change paddling styles and paddle strokes as often as you feel like, but the range of change and motion that common sit-in and SOT kayaks present is minimal.

Only W kayaks enable you to switch between a wide variety of paddling styles and paddle strokes, and paddle from positions that are totally different from each other , including standing up.

Foot Pain and Ankle Pain

When you sit in a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak, your feet are positioned at an unnatural angle, and they serve to lock you in the kayak, so that you keep being well connected to it at all times. This is especially true when you’re paddling and controlling the kayak, but it’s true for when you’re just fishing.

This position and activity of your feet frequently leads to injuries known as Pain in the Arches (I.E. the arches of your feet), Achilles Tendon (in the back of your ankle), and Ankle pain.

6 thoughts on “Common Kayak Injuries”

  1. Sadly what you have written is true. The thing that stands out most of the time in real life is the frequent “rests” or “breaks” many kayak anglers need to take. That is the only way a full day on the water can be done with any sort of comfort. I’ve done hours in my W500 with many fellow anglers waving from shore as they step out for a bit of relaxing. Sometimes to be kind I’ll even suggest a little shore time so they don’t feel bad. Of course there is one big advantage to the sit on top L position. After a while your butt gets so numb you forget it’s soaking wet.

  2. Jeff,
    Some SOT yak anglers may argue that diaper rash is rejuvenating experience, as it can make one feel like they were a newborn baby 😀

  3. Yeh, guys, and that diaper rash is even more irritating in the winter when the water and air temps down here in Florida get pretty cool, unless, of course, you put on a wetsuit, which is about as uncomfortable as getting wet. How great it is to be able to dress warm with no fear of getting wet.

  4. Being a baby presents some non-negligible advantages, like getting as much sleep as you want, and eating as much as you can 😀 😀
    But as far as diaper rash is concerned, it’s a bummer…

    I have an idea for a poll on one of the regular (i.e. SIK and SOT yak) discussion forums – The question would be: -“Does your diaper rash feel worse in cold or hot weather?”… 😉

  5. I’ve worn a wetsuit many times when surf playing with my W300, because New England ocean water temps can be low even when it’s not winter time.
    I can’t say I like wearing it although it protects from the cold, since after some time you realize that you’re completely wet because your sweat is caught between the suit material and your skin, and it stays there until you remove your suit.
    Maybe dry suits are the answer, but a good dry suit can cost almost as much as a kayak, and you certainly don’t want to wear a dry suit on a nice, sunny day, because you’ll cook inside it…
    Waders? Not a good idea by any standard.

  6. Clothes should keep you dry, and so should boats, including kayaks, IMHO

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