Do Not Overload Your Fishing Kayak

Understanding What Overloading a Kayak Means

Total Load VS. Max Recommended Load

You can pour 500 lbs of sand into your W500 kayak, and it will keep floating, providing you distribute the load evenly between its two hulls. You could even tow this sand-filled kayak on flat water, although it would be somehow hard to move, because the waterline would reach higher than the gussets (reinforcement ribs) in its saddle, and that would create some extra drag.
So the W500’s Total Load Capacity is 500 lbs, but this is a theoretical figure, and not a realistic one, and we grade our kayaks for real people in real-world situations.
In real life, the kayak is loaded by a combination of passengers and gear, and these two types of load affect the kayak differently, which is why the maximum weight we recommend is lower than the kayak’s total load, and it varies according to the type of load.

Understanding The Difference Between Passengers and Gear

A person sitting in a kayak has a higher center of gravity than gear being stored at the bottom of the kayak’s hull, and this fact can make a difference in the way such tiny vessels handle, especially for novices.
Furthermore, a person operating a kayak can react to external changes in a way that would further destabilize the kayak (e.g. overreact, or attempt a wrong maneuver), while gear stored in this kayak doesn’t create such problems.
The same is true for various activities that the passenger may be engaged in while on board (e.g. fishing, sailing, motorizing, etc.) – Such activities can distract the passenger, and cause them to make a false step – literally.
We rate our kayaks for stand up paddling and fishing, which is why we need to take such situations into account, and be careful not to use unrealistic numbers.

Understanding How a Passenger’s Size Affects the Kayak

A very heavy person might be hard for the W saddle to support, but two lighter passengers are less likely to present such an issue, even if their aggregate weight is higher. Gear stored at the bottom of the hulls can’t affect the saddle.
Such potential issues can be solved by outfitting the kayak with a saddle bracket . It takes 5 minutes to outfit a W kayak with such a bracket, and W kayaks from the new 508 series come already outfitted with one.
The passenger’s height could be meaningful if they’re very heavy: A 5’5″ tall and a 6’6″ tall passenger who weigh 260 lbs each would feel differently, as well as affect the kayak differently.
Note that we have many ‘big and tall’ clients who are very satisfied with their W kayak (see our Kayak Reviews section), and would not be able to use other kayaks, but we’d rather clarify things as much as possible, in order to avoid potential misunderstanding.

What Happens When You Load a W Fishing Kayak?

The illustration below shows a W500 kayak in three load points –
The left image shows it unloaded.
The image in the middle shows it loaded with around 200 lbs (91 kg). The load is distributed evenly front and back, so the kayak stays level, which offers optimal speed and control. The draft is shallow.
This load results in a slight splaying of the hulls, and no problem at all. Flex is built into the W design.

3 kayaks loaded

The image on the right shows the kayak loaded with around 360 lb (163 kg), which is the maximum load recommended for it. Assuming the load is distributed evenly front and back, the kayak stays level, and it’s still fast, agile, and easy to paddle.
-Watch tandem paddling demo video >
The hulls are noticeably splayed, but sitting on the saddle is still very comfortable, and stability is good. This amount of flex in the kayak is still perfectly normal, and part of its design.
Waterline is considerably lower than the saddle’s gussets (reinforcement ribs), so there is no hydrodynamic problem, since the water between the hulls flows without restrictions.

Recommendations I:

  1. For optimal performance, keep your kayak level. In order to keep it level, paddle it from the middle of its cockpit, not its rear. This is especially true if you’re a heavy person.
  2. Do not paddle your W kayak from its rear, unless it’s just for a specific purpose, such as surf launching, beaching, or going over an obstacle.
  3. When motorizing, drive the kayak from the middle of the cockpit, using a long, articulated (jointed) tiller extension. If possible, avoid driving it from the cockpit’s rear.
  4. When paddling in tandem, try as much possible to distribute the load evenly between the front and the back of the kayak. Do not overload the back.

What Happens If You Overload The Kayak?

It’s important to realize that you can overload the kayak even if you don’t load it with more than its maximum recommended load capacity. This can happen if you’re a heavy person (over 240 lbs), and you paddle it, or fish from it while being seated in the back of its cockpit, and not its middle. If a heavy person operates their W kayak from the rear of its cockpit, they can cause the stern to draft too much, and the waterline to reach the saddle’s gussets, which would slow their kayak. Overloading the stern could also result in excessive splaying of the hulls there, and if this is done repeatedly, over a long period of time, it might damage the kayak. A person weighing over 240 lb (109 kg) must outfit their W kayak with a saddle bracket.

Overloading the W kayak with passengers and gear in excess of 360 lb can be hazardous –
Although the passengers may still feel comfortable and stable, and enjoy plenty of free board on flat water, their kayak would draft too much, and the regular flow between its hulls would be disturbed by the saddle’s gussets. This would make the kayak slower and harder to paddle. Furthermore, the splaying in the hulls might increase to a point where they could be damaged by the extra stress, and the kayak crew might need to stop the trip and paddle to shore because of water seeping in. Such damage to the kayak is easy to fix later with a saddle bracket, but you definitely don’t want to take the risk of finding yourself in such a situation.

Recommendations II:

  1. Do not overload your W kayak, whether you’re going solo or in tandem, paddling or motorizing.
  2. Do not paddle this kayak in tandem, unless both yourself and your paddling partner have each paddled it solo before, and gained sufficient experience as solo W kayakers.
  3. Take the time to learn how to paddle this kayak when it’s loaded – Like any vessel or vehicle, the W kayak behaves differently the more it is loaded.
  4. Read the questions and comments below –

22 Comments

  1. Marco

    Does this mean that now anyone could tell how much weight I lost just by looking at my W when I’m paddling it??… 😀

  2. Tammy K.

    I’m a little confused, so just to make sure, if I weigh 108 and my husband 235, can we paddle this kayak together?

  3. W kayak

    No problem, as long as you don’t take too much gear with you on board.

  4. Daniel Moser

    Someone told me there was a wooden bracket you can install in this yak that would completely prevent any splaying in its hull even when a chubby guy like myself spends an afternoon fishing in it
    I don’t care about speed I just have a bad back and I don’t want to sit in an old style yak
    Dan

  5. W kayak

    Dan, we offer saddle brackets, and this is basically what they look like:

    Brackets for fishing kayak saddle

    Bracket for fishing kayak saddle

    Bracket for fishing kayak saddle

    You stick the bracket in the gusset, and fix it in its place with a couple of screws. Then you waterproof the screws with an all-purpose, water resistant adhesive.
    You could make such brackets yourself, or buy them from us.

    Note that applying this bracket adds neither to the W kayak’s stability, nor to its total load capacity. It just helps heavy users to keep their W kayak in good shape, literally.

  6. Dan

    Pretty clever
    Cutting this shape with a jigsaw shouldn’t be a problem I think
    Dan

  7. John Fabina

    Do the bolts go through the gussets above the water line?

  8. W kayak

    Yes, they do. In general, we recommend not to drill below waterline.
    The best place for the screws is as shown in the picture.
    Before putting the screws in, make sure the bracket is all the way in the groove, and doesn’t slip out. It should be all the way in to assure the screws have enough grip on it.

  9. Gary Rankel

    Hey Yoav………those brackets look strangely familiar!!

  10. W kayak

    Progress never ends 🙂

  11. PerceyP3025

    The bathroom scale tells me I weigh 345lbs, and after testing a couple of large size fishing kayaks it dawned on me that sitting in the L posture isn’t for me, regardless of what “ergonomic” seat the yak comes with.
    Now here’s a tricky question –
    If I managed to get that scale to stop at 300 and stay there, and I outfitted a wave walk 500 with a pair of these brackets, would I be able to paddle it on small lakes and ponds?
    Percey

  12. W kayak

    Hi Percey,
    This is a good question, since 300 lb is 60 lb less than the max recommended load for the W500, and applying a pair of brackets on its saddle would prevent any amount of hull splaying in it.
    Nevertheless, for a plastic kayak such as the W, one big passenger is a more difficult load to handle than two smaller passengers, even if the combined weight of the tandem crew is bigger.
    Therefore, I’d prefer to encourage you to keep losing a little more weight before getting a W500, rather than experimenting with solutions that might not work perfectly for you and your boat.
    Yoav

  13. Pete

    I wonder what would happen if Percey sat on a lawn chair tucked in the W cockpit, such as this thing here http://wavewalk.com/blog/2012/03/10/lawn-chair-in-fly-fishing-kayak/
    Could it be the solution?

  14. W kayak

    A lawn chair’s legs are shorter than the saddle’s height, so they won’t reach the bottom of the hulls, and therefore would be of little or no help in redistributing the passenger’s weight.
    But the legs of a regular plastic chair are long enough for that, and together with a pair of plywood brackets, may offer Percey the solution he’s looking for.
    Having said that, a plastic chair would also place his center of gravity a little higher than if he sat directly on the W saddle, and the chair’s handles are a bit in the way when paddling is considered.

  15. Percey P

    Thank you for the info.
    I have one more question. If I outfitted this yak with outriggers, would it increase its load capacity?
    Percey

  16. W kayak

    Yes, it would, if the outriggers are big enough.
    Yoav

  17. Dan M

    Why do I need to attach that thing with bolts? Doesn’t it stay in place through friction?
    Would screws do instead of bolts?
    Dan

  18. W kayak

    The friction between the bracket and the gusset (groove) in which it’s inserted isn’t enough to counteract the upward push from the saddle walls, as they’re slightly pushing sideways.

    Screws are OK too. Seal the screws’ heads with all purpose adhesive.

  19. Paul Z

    Well explained, and I like the way this bracket looks. It’s simple and effective, as stuff should be when you’re out on the water.

  20. Mike P

    Thanks for all this info. I was elated to find the W Kayak, and subsequently dismayed to read about the weight limits. This info gives me hope that it will work well for me.(284 lbs.hobble-weight). I am putting my fishing boat back on the market. This will quadruple the area I can fish near my house. I will be able to launch at my back door. (literally). How will the W Kayak handle fast water, such as larger streams and smaller rivers?

  21. W kayak

    Mike,
    Please read the weight specifications carefully.
    The W500 handles fast water better than any fishing kayak out there, whether in large streams or smaller rivers.
    Here is some reading and video:
    http://wavewalk.com/blog/2012/08/05/w-kayak-flyfishing-the-norfork-river-the-jewel-of-the-ozarks-arkansas-by-ricke/
    http://wavewalk.com/blog/2011/07/31/john-king-son-running-rapids-in-fishing-kayaks-on-a-river-in-ohio-movie-trip-report/
    and this video showing the older, smaller and less stable W300 kayak handling the surf:

    This is a more recent video, showing the W500 on a small lake during tropical storm Irene:

  22. W kayak

    Currently, we offer brackets made from 3/4″ MDO (Medium Density Overlay) panel, which is an exterior plywood product with a weather-resistant core of overlapping veneer, and resin overlay bonded to the wood by heat and pressure. The overlay, which has at least 27% resin content resists water, weather, wear and degradation. MDO is sometimes called “signboard”, since it’s commonly used to make outdoor signs that are required to withstand harsh weather conditions.

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