Why would anyone want to do this?…
Some anglers who practice sight fishing on flat water want to be able to spot the fish in a wider range around their boat, and thus cover a larger area. Additional height serves this purpose by increasing the angler’s field of view. Typically, fly anglers are fond of this fishing style.
Testing the kayak’s stand up paddling platform
I took a W500 kayak outfitted with a stand up fishing platform for some testing on lake Massapoag.
Before going further reading this article, the reader should take notice of the fact that I’m a 6 ft tall, 203 lbs, over-fifty guy who’s not particularly fit.
Why is this information important? Because when very small, personal, human powered vehicles such as kayaks are concerned, the size of the operator and their physical condition play a critical role on the vehicle’s performance in terms of speed, tracking and maneuvering, as well as on what the operator experiences in terms of stability, control, safety and comfort. All these are major factors in Micronautics, or Micronautical Design >
Here is what this stand up paddling, poling and fishing platform looks like:
It is mounted on a light frame made of two saddle brackets connected by two longitudinal beams. No need to attach it to the kayak, since the brackets fit it the grooves forming the top of the saddle (seat).
When someone my size paddles a W500 kayak, it drafts 4 inches, which means that if they paddle standing on the bottom of the kayak’s hulls, their feet are 4 inches below waterline.
This platform is 2″ higher than the 14″ high saddle that supports it, which means that a paddler standing on top of it has their feet 16″ higher than if they stood on the bottom of the hulls. In the case of a guy my size it means standing 12″ above waterline.
Part of testing equipment is making the test realistic as possible. If I asked my 17 or 14 year old boys to test the platform, being much less heavy and more fit than me, their impression would have been different, naturally.
I took a 9 ft Wavewalk paddle for the test, since I figured that if I paddled on one side with a J-stroke (canoeing style), it would perform reasonably well, and I was right. Paddling in a kayaking style while quickly changing sides would have been impractical from such height. Using the extra-long 9’8″ Wavewalk paddle would have added some comfort, but at this height it would still not have been practical for kayaking-style paddling, and it would have not permitted poling, so there was no point in using one.
The Wavewalk paddle is not just longer than other paddles, it’s also more rigid, thanks to its 1.25″ diameter fiberglass shaft. A paddle with a thinner shaft, or one made from another material would have been too ‘soft’ for paddling while being held not from its middle section, as I did, and paddling with a soft paddle is both ineffective and uncomfortable.
Getting up there…
If you’ve paddled standing in a W kayak you’d know that standing up in it is as comparable to standing on land – You just get up from sitting or riding the saddle, and that’s it. No special maneuvers or accessories are required. It’s immediate, easy and intuitive as sitting on a chair in your office and standing up. The W kayak allows for it due to the optimal distribution of its buoyancy along its sides instead of wasting that buoyancy (volume) along its longitudinal axis, and due to the fact that it allows the paddler to stand up with their feet below waterline.
The first factor (twin hulls) is still there when you’re trying to stand on top the platform, but the second factor isn’t, and you have to deal with a noticeable decrease in stability as you raise your center of gravity by 16 inches, and with it the center of gravity of the whole combo including yourself plus the kayak (in this order, since you’re heavier than it is)…
Well, it’s not easy, and it’s not quick or intuitive either.
I practiced it for a while, and while doing so I kept thinking about the myth of fishing standing on a SOT kayak, standing 4 inches above waterline, which is 8 inches higher than standing on the bottom of the W hulls, and with hardly any buoyancy on the SOT kayak’s sides to support your shifting weight and provide you with the much needed stability offered by the W’s twin hulls. -“It would be possible for my kids” I thought -“or for a small, twenty-something, lightweight and athletic dude, but certainly not for a middle aged guy.”
I’ve been paddling standing for over a decade, so this part wasn’t difficult for me. Paddling from such height and while benefiting from much less stability isn’t the no-brainer it is when you paddle the W kayak standing in the regular position, with your feet at the bottom of its hulls. I wouldn’t paddle standing on such a platform in waves over 1 ft, while I would gladly paddle standing in 4-5 ft surf in the regular W standing position. I also have doubts about the results of getting hit by a big wake while standing up there on the platform, while wakes are always fun when you’re paddling standing in a W in the regular, lower position.
The problem of paddling from such height has several aspects:
- The reduced stability decreases the effective power of your paddle strokes, so you have to paddle harder, and you get tired faster.
- Being less stable also means you have less leverage on the paddle due to simple mechanical reasons.
- Furthermore, you need to pay more attention to paddling, steering, balancing etc., which effectively takes away from your ability to observe and notice what’s going on around you: Your attention span is smaller.
Safety (or lack thereof)
Even after you get used to this extreme paddling style, you still don’t feel safe because you’re not really safe – You know that if something made you lose balance, be it a fish, a wake, an awkward movement or a moment of inattention, you’d fall overboard. No plan B, and in other words, you’d inevitably have an accident. If you’re lucky, you’d fall in deep water and you won’t get hurt. If you’re less lucky, you’d fall in shallow water, hit the bottom, and if the bottom is soft (sand or mud), you could be unharmed. And then, you might be unlucky and fall in shallow water, hit a rocky bottom, a rock, an oyster bar, etc., and the consequences of such an accident could be grave.
Simply put, paddling standing so high isn’t safe.
In comparison, if you lose balance when you paddle a W kayak standing on the bottom of its hulls, you simply drop onto the saddle between your legs and find yourself in the very stable Riding (straddling) position. Regaining your balance in such case is instantaneous, easy, and intuitive – no biggie. Therefore, paddling a W kayak standing in the regular position is about as safe as paddling it seated – You have a pretty reliable Plan B that kicks in when you need it.
The absence of a Plan B makes paddling standing on a SOT kayak, or fishing from it in such a position the equivalent of riding a bicycle knowing its brakes are faulty. It’s a no-no, and no sensible person should ever attempt it.
And what if I lost balance while standing up there, on that platform? I didn’t feel like testing the concept to that extent, but I figured that if I was lucky (and agile) enough, I could attempt to fall back into the cockpit, and try to stabilize myself in the Riding position. While I have no doubt a young, lightweight, athletic and agile paddler could do it after getting some practice, an older, heavier and less fit paddler (like myself) should not try it, as a failed attempt could aggravate the results of such accident, and that’s the more likely outcome… And just in case I’m not clear enough on this subject, an average Joe should not attempt to paddle standing on a SOT kayak, nor fish in such position, because it’s unsafe for them. More reading about stand up paddling and fishing from kayaks >
I didn’t test any real fishing on that trip, but I tried to simulate what it would feel like if I did. It’s called a ‘thought experiment’ – a term coined by no other than Albert Einstein, who was a big fan of this mode of experimentation, and used to recommend it to his students 🙂 I observed that the increased attention required by paddling from such towering heights somehow decreased my ability to stay focused on what was going on in the water. To put it in scientific or technical terms, what I gained through improved optics was partially offset by what I lost through my brain’s limited ability to process sensory information 😉
Using the paddle, I tested my upper body’s range of motion, and as expected, I found it considerably reduced in comparison to what I’m used to when I stand on the bottom of the kayak’s hulls. This is to say that all fishing activities, such as casting, reeling, landing the fish, etc. are much harder. Even the action of putting down the paddle and swiftly grabbing your fishing pole upon sighting a fish would require from you much more attention as well as some additional skill.
All in all, getting that extra height for sight angling is far from being a win-win situation, and I wouldn’t recommend it to the average angler who’s neither seeking risk nor gifted with particular balancing or other athletic skills. This is a stark contrast from the regular W kayak standing position on the bottom of hulls, which almost anyone can enjoy, including big and tall anglers, as well as middle aged and elderly ones, and anglers suffering from a broad range of disabilities.
Let’s all stay safe and get back home safely.
Getting back to shore
No particular problem with that, except that beaching and getting out of the kayak were somehow tricky, in contrast with the absolute ease and comfort in which they’re done normally when paddling a W kayak riding or standing on the bottom of the hulls.
Footnote: Using the platform for seated paddling
I couldn’t help myself from trying what it’s like to sit on the platform with my feet going all the way down to the bottom of the kayak’s hulls, and paddle in this higher sitting, or riding position. Well, it was a pleasure: The stability was great, and so were comfort and ease of paddling – A true W experience! 🙂 No doubt fishing this way would have been perfect, and so would motorizing, except for the part of reaching the controls on the outboard motor itself.
I also paddled sitting on top of the platform with my legs crossed, just for the heck of it, and no big news here for someone like me, but it could be fun for a younger and less heavy person.