Initial Review of W500 Kayak, by Jim Addison, Big Guy from British Columbia, Canada

I’m 6’-3”; 235 lbs. I have back and weak leg problems that will keep me from safely balancing in the standing position, let alone jumping up and down. Sitting, I can go all day! (at 70 yrs old that’s probably an hour or so)... The saddle and sitting positions it offers are the big appeal of the Wavewalk for me. Forget about the traditional L position - I couldn’t get up, even if I had managed to get down. The first time out, I went to a lake with a shallow beach where I figured I could walk back to shore if I dumped the boat. I started out cautiously, right from shore, without getting my feet wet. I paddled in the shallow area for less than a minute, then headed down the lake (how's that for quickly gaining confidence?), then all the way up to the other end (a mile?), then back down the . . . oh, oh! The breeze has kicked up. This could be trouble. A couple of mental adjustments and I was paddling into the wind and doing OK. Remember, I'm not a paddler, not ever a rowboat. I rested a bit in the lee of the eastern lakeshore then headed back to the beach 1/2-way down the lake where I dis-embarked, without getting my feet wet.

I’m 6’-3”; 235 lbs. I have back and weak leg problems that will keep me from safely balancing in the standing position, let alone jumping up and down. Sitting, I can go all day! (at 70 yrs old that’s probably an hour or so)… The saddle and sitting positions it offers are the big appeal of the Wavewalk for me. Forget about the traditional L position – I couldn’t get up, even if I had managed to get down.
Once I saw the W500 I knew that was the boat for me, but, being me, and never having tried a W500, I kept thinking I could improve on the design here and there. During the acceptance process I learned a lot, and now I’m happy to accept the hull as it is.

I’m feeling a little guilty that I didn’t have any exciting adventures to relate.
The first time out, I went to a lake with a shallow beach where I figured I could walk back to shore if I dumped the boat. I started out cautiously, right from shore, without getting my feet wet. I paddled in the shallow area for less than a minute, then headed down the lake (how’s that for quickly gaining confidence?), then all the way up to the other end (a mile?), then back down the . . . oh, oh! The breeze has kicked up. This could be trouble. A couple of mental adjustments and I was paddling into the wind and doing OK. Remember, I’m not a paddler, not ever a rowboat. I rested a bit in the lee of the eastern lakeshore then headed back to the beach 1/2-way down the lake where I dis-embarked, without getting my feet wet.
So far, nothing out of the ordinary. I initially found the boat to be tender, but that was me, not the boat. Anything that only weighs 59 pounds is bound to be tender when it’s reacting to a 235 pound novice, and the more I use it, the more compatible we become. It took a bit of adjustment to handle the paddle, which I imagine every new paddler experiences. And even though I got a couple of scares out there on the lake by digging in too hard, I didn’t dump the boat.
I haven’t been chasing fish. I realized I’m not going to be an avid fisherman but the lure is still there, and watching Fisheries pour three tanker trucks of keeper size trout into the lake whets the appetite.

I’ve constructed a rack for my car using the trailer hitch and a roof rack on the 2 door coupe. The T-bar trailer hitch rack is connect to the roof rack by two 2 X 6 spruce(strong and light) boards. Because the car is low, it is an easy chore for me to lift one end of the kayak onto the back rack and then lift and slide the boat into place on the racks. I have the kayak, strapped to the roof rack ,hanging above the car in the garage. Just lower the whole setup onto the car, screw it down and voila!

When I’ve put a few more miles on the boat and had some experience with the different situations that I’m sure will pop up, I’ll pass them on to you.

Jim


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8 Comments

  1. W kayak

    It’s a special pleasure for me to read reviews such as Jim’s. It puts the W in a deeper, more meaningful perspective than that of a toy, which is basically what kayaks are.
    When I designed the W300, many years ago, I was thinking mainly about young, athletic paddlers playing in the surf, standing up.
    But it’s people like Jim I had in mind later, when I designed the W500.
    Clearly, the market educated me, especially W clients who brought to my attention that for many people, paddling the traditional sit-in and SOT kayaks wasn’t an option at all, and by extension, this reality makes these traditional forms of kayak obsolete in the long run, for most people and most applications.

  2. Pete

    It’s an excellent review. The number of people who can’t stand being in a kayak exceeds by far the number of people who are willing to tolerate the inconvenience that comes with it. I find it amazing that organizations such as the ACA haven’t done anything to promote the w design for the benefit of the broad public. It’s a failure on their part, and a proof that public interest is not necessarily their main concern.

  3. Nahar

    Kayaks have existed for hundreds, and possibly thousands of years, before non-Inuit people living in Western, industrialized countries began to consider them for recreational paddling and fishing. Traditional kayaks were useless for the new, Western users, because they have lost to ability to sit comfortably on the floor with legs stretched forward… So early kayak designers came up with a “fix” for the problem, in the form of a system combining backrest and footrests that lock the paddler in the L position by means of their legs forcing the feet to be in contact with the footrests, and the lower back to be in contact with the backrest. This unergonomic solution has somehow been working for small, young, lightweight and very fit people, but not for the majority of paddlers and fishermen. The fact there’s a new kayak offering to eliminate all discomfort indeed makes the popular, common traditional kayak obsolete.

  4. April

    Pete, the American Canoe Association (ACA) is a trade organization that promotes the interests of its members, which are kayak companies, and kayak outfitters. The ACA will never promote the w design, simply because it competes with the common kayaks that other companies make, and those companies happen to be the ones that control the ACA. 🙁

    April

  5. Knucklewalker

    I agree. The ACA is doing a fairly good job as far as representing paddlers’ interests in having places where they could launch and paddle, but it’s also promoting irresponsible forms of paddling such as whitewater in class IV and V rivers, paddling in very low temperatures, and last but not least, paddling very narrow and unstable kayaks that virtually lock the paddler inside their cockpit by means of a tight spray skirt.
    It’s all done under programs that are said to promote safe paddling, but it’s just a coverup, if you ask me 🙂

  6. Jim Addison

    The more I think of it, the more I realize that I’m going to be enjoying just, ‘mucking around in boats’. Ever since I sold my 13′ whaler, I’ve thought about kayaks – easy handling, lightweight, mobile, the ability to launch from almost anywhere, and storage; then I laughed when I imagined myself trying to get in or out of a ‘kayak’. I looked at rowboats but they were too bulky and I decided that, for my situation, I would need a trailer, even for a 7 or 8 footer.. Weight isn’t the only factor that makes handling a water craft out of the water, difficult.
    With the W500, I just pull it off the back of the car rack, drag it to the water and launch. To protect my investment, and prolong the hull life, I have devised a pair of plastic skids for the end of each hull that will be in contact with the ground. Just a cut up kids snow glider plastic sheet ($2.99-tough and flexible) with some holes punched in it, a 1/4″ piece of rope from the leading end, over the hull to the other side and held from sliding back by a small hook on the top of the hull. The back of the slide is held in place by running another piece of 1/4″ rope over the individual hulls, through the handles and lashed to a piece of bungee cord on the other side to keep tension on the rig. The slides are quickly installed, have minimal storage requirements and protect the hulls from abrasion under the limited dragging that i’ll be doing. Longer cross country treks would probably require a bit more engineering to keep the sliders in place where various other forces where working on the sliders – probably best to look at wheels.
    I just realized how silly all of this must sound to a guy who can just pick the damn thing up, throw it on is shoulder and walk to the water, while carrying and his paddling and fishing gear in the other hand, like I used to do, not that long ago. Have fun with your baby! I will!

  7. W kayak

    Jim,
    The kind of portaging you imagine, where some super dude picks up his kayak, swings it on his shoulder, and walks a couple of miles up the river is the stuff you read about in glossy paddling adventures magazines – not a high fidelity description of people’s everyday reality.
    In reality, paddlers and anglers struggle to drag their barge-yaks to the launching point and from it, and in many cases they struggle to haul the kayak up to the spacial kayak rack on top of their car.
    What you describe as your experience in handling and carrying your W500 reaffirms the fact that it’s an owner friendly boat 🙂
    Yoav

  8. Fish Wiz

    ACA is yet another interest group who fails the broad public while pretending to represent it.
    FW

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