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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not overload your W kayak, whether you’re going solo or in tandem, paddling or motorizing.
- 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.
- 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.
- Read the questions and comments below –