Before getting their Wavewalk kayak, many of our clients had tested or owned common fishing kayaks, and they weren’t too happy with the way these kayaks performed with regards to several basic requirements which are essential to paddling. In contrast, the same people find the Wavewalk 500 very easy to paddle and handle.
This article explains some of the technical differences between the W500 and all other fishing kayaks, and how these differences work to the advantage of W kayakers.
What makes common fishing kayaks special as a class of kayaks?
If you walked into a store that sells all kinds of paddle craft (e.g. canoes, touring kayaks, sea kayaks, recreational kayaks) and you looked at at the fishing kayak models side by side with the other kayaks, you’d notice that fishing kayaks look chubbier. In other words, they are wider than the other types of kayaks, and some of them are almost as wide as the big canoes displayed in the store.
The main reason for this is that fishing kayaks are required to be more stable than other kayaks, and the only way to make a mono-hull kayak stabler is by widening its hull.
This gain in stability comes at a price, and you as a paddler pays it by having to paddle harder since your kayak is slower and tracks poorly – It zigzags and responds better to the wind that deflects it from its intended course than to your efforts to go straight forward.
For this reason, fishing kayaks have a bad reputation among kayakers, who call them barges, and rightfully so.
What makes the common fishing kayak design so problematic?
Poor tracking – To begin with, a wide kayak hull compels the low-seated paddler to move their paddle more horizontally than vertically. This drives the paddle blade in a curved trajectory rather than an efficient straight trajectory in parallel to the kayak’s direction on travel. As a result, each paddle stroke changes the kayak’s direction in a way that’s easily noticeable, and the paddler must correct it with a paddle stroke on the kayak’s opposite side, which in its turn would deflect the kayak to the other direction… Such alternation between left and right is known as zigzagging, and it’s a most inefficient way to go forward because it increases the actual length of your route, and on top of this, changing course in itself requires acceleration, which is lossy in energy terms, especially when it’s done repeatedly with every paddle stroke.
Poor tracking under wind – This is a special case in which the wind works to deflect the fishing kayak from its course, and since these kayaks neither paddle nor handle well, they become particularly hard to paddle, to a point where getting back to shore may no longer be guaranteed… This difficulty in tracking is why practically every high-end fishing kayak is outfitted with a rudder, which can help the paddler track, but further slows them down – Using a rudder slows the kayak by 10% in average.
Low speed – A boat’s speed is closely associated with its hull’s length – The longer the faster. It’s also associate with its hull’s width – the narrower the faster.
In hydrodynamic design terms, a hull whose Length to Beam (length to width) ratio is below 6:1 is considered to be slow, and a hull whose L/B ratio is over 20:1 is considered as optimal for speed. Typically, recreational boats’ hulls have a L/B ratio somewhere between the two.
To better understand this, let’s check a few examples –
- a typical sea kayak (fast touring kayak) can be 18 ft long and 24 inches wide. Its L/B ratio of 9:1 makes it fairly quick.
- a large size fishing kayak that’s 14 ft long and 30 inches wide has a 5.6:1 L/B ratio, which is rather slow.
- a fishing kayak that’s 12 ft long and 36 inches wide has a 4:1 L/B ratio, which is extremely slow and pretty much impossible to paddle to a long distance.
- a fishing kayak with a 12 ft long and 41 inch wide hull has a 3.5:1 L/B ratio, which makes it really hard for a one person crew to paddle to any distance, and –
- a fishing kayak that’s only 10 ft long and 38.5 inches wide has a 3.1:1 L/B ratio, which could make paddling a stack of plywood easier, if you wanted to try paddling either of these floating objects.
In other words, the chubbiest among fishing kayaks are unfit for paddling, unless your plan is to fish in ponds or in small, protected lakes.
How does the Wavewalk 500 compare?
Unlike mono-hull kayaks, the W invention offers a totally different way to make the kayak stabler without making it excessively wide. This offers advantages in speed and tracking as well –
L/B and speed – In comparison, the W500 is 11.4 ft long, and each of his twin hulls is 8 inches wide. This 17:1 L/B ratio for one hull and 8.5:1 ratio for the two hulls joined together is far better in speed terms than the fastest fishing kayak hull out there. In real life terms, this design allows the W500 to be as fast as a 13 ft touring kayak, which is a narrower and faster design than fishing kayaks of similar size and even bigger size. More info on kayak design for speed >
Easy tracking – The W500 is just 29 inches wide, which makes it the world’s narrowest twin hull (a.k.a. catamaran). It also allows the paddler to paddle it from a higher position. The combination of these two attributes makes it easy for the paddler to apply vertical strokes and have the paddle blade travel efficiently in parallel to the kayak’s direction of travel, instead of moving in a curved trajectory. This in itself improves the W kayak’s tracking, but the fact that the paddler rides the saddle in a position that’s more powerful and ergonomic than the L kayaking position offered by other kayaks adds another dimension of efficiency and power to the paddler’s ability to handle their kayak and make it go where the want.
Catamarans have a longer wetted length (WL) than mono-hull kayaks of similar size, and this feature makes them track better. In this sense, the W kayak is a catamaran, and indeed it tracks better than any other kayak out there, including sea kayaks that are much longer. In fact, no paddler ever found it necessary to outfit their W kayak with a rudder.
Great tracking under wind – One the the W kayak’s unique features is its long saddle that offers the paddler a simple and easy way to relocate for and aft in the cockpit. By doing so, the paddler can instantly change the kayak’s center of gravity (CG), and with it the way the kayak reacts to strong wind. In other words, the W kayak enables the paddler to use the power of the wind to help them direct the kayak, I.E. to stay on track. This simple, unique and most effective steering method is explained in an instructional article entitled W kayaking in strong wind >
Other considerations – Ergonomics and bio mechanics
Since all mono-hull kayaks offer variations on one paddling position known as the L position, these considerations are not useful for understanding differences between mono-hull fishing kayaks and other types mono-hull kayaks, such as recreational kayak, touring kayaks, etc.
In contrast, W kayaks offer several paddling positions, including the Riding position, which is both more powerful and more comfortable than the L position. This offers yet another advantage to the W kayaker, in the sense that they don’t suffer from back pain and leg numbness that are typically associated with traditional kayaking, and for this reason they don’t have to struggle with premature fatigue and discomfort, and thus dispose of more energy to keep paddling even in adverse weather and water conditions.
This is why the W kayak is favored by paddlers and anglers who suffer from disabilities, are middle aged or elderly, non-athletic, and by those who don’t benefit from a high level of physical fitness.
Indeed, W kayakers can often be seen out there on a river or a lake in poor weather conditions that drive other kayakers back to their homes, or discourage them from going on water to begin with.