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Whether paddling or fishing in your kayak, try to stay dry

Abstract

This article examines the problems stemming from prolonged exposure to wet clothing, which is sometime viewed as inseparable from all forms of kayaking and kayak fishing, and all types of kayaks. It exposes possible dangers and inconveniences associated with direct exposure to water, excessive humidity and cold in various circumstances, and describes solutions based on the new, patented technology applied in Wavewalk’s Kayaks, which offers the users a drier way to paddle and fish.

What’s the problem?

The problem, often called “wet ride” can be described as a kayaker’s experience of paddling and/or fishing while being wet. It can be caused by many things, including stepping in water while launching, being splashed by spray and waves, water getting into the cockpit through the scupper holes in sit-on-top kayaks, condensation under the spray skirt in sit-in kayaks, and more.
A most common and unpleasant sensation associated with wetness is being seated in a wet area, but a being wet can also be hazardous –
The combination of cold water with cold wind can cause hypothermia, even if the kayaker did not go overboard. Hypothermia is a condition that significantly reduces the paddler’s physical and mental ability to navigate and arrive safely to his/her destination.

In warm waters,  exposure to water can cause exposure to jellyfish larvae (‘sea lice’) in sea water, parasites and bacteria in both fresh and salt water etc., and result in unpleasant and sometime severe skin and allergic reactions.

Snails infected with certain microscopic parasites found in some birds and mammals release those parasites into both fresh and salt water. Swimmer’s itch (cercarial dermatitis), which appears as a skin rash is caused by an allergic reaction to those parasites burrowing in the person’s skin.
The presence of certain chemicals in the water is known to cause unwanted physical reactions as well.

Contact with sea water can cause a highly pruritic eruption known as Seabather’s eruption (SE).

Contact with warm, stagnant waters such as found in swamps can in some extreme cases lead to serious bacterial infections.
Vibrio bacteria are usually found in warm waters. Coming in contact with those flesh eating bacteria can cause severe infections leading to limb loss and even death. Vibriosis is a risk for swimmers, boaters and fishermen.

Giardiasis– an infectious diarrhoeal disease usually transmitted through oralfaecal contact and by contaminated water was diagnosed in 14% of US paddlers, compared to a background level of 4%, according to one study.

Another infection called Leptospirosis and its more severe form, Weil’s disease, are considered to be typical paddling hazards. These infections are often transmitted by infected rats’ urine in the water. The diseases are characterized by jaundice, fever, headaches, muscle aches, rashes and enlargement of the liver and spleen. They can be treated with antibiotics in most cases but sometime they lead to septicemia, organ damage and even death.

Kayakers risk infections of enterovirus and coliform as well.
And obviously, everybody knows that wearing wet clothes can cause skin rash, especially during and after a prolonged physical effort.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that getting wet while kayaking is either unpleasant or hazardous, but it certainly points to the need to provide kayakers with means of protection in case they don’t want to get wet or come in contact with the water.

Recent research indicates that water in popular subtropical beaches contains staph and MRSA bacteria that may infect open wounds in your skin.

‘Kayaking and kayak fishing are water sports’

Some ‘Pro Staff’ kayakers and kayak fishermen associated with SIK and SOT kayak brands use the term ‘water sport’ to define kayaking and kayak fishing, and by that they mean to say that getting wet is an inseparable part of any kayaking activity, as it is of water skiing, surfing etc. It’s their way to justify the fact that this problem is unsolved for people who use the kayaks produced by their sponsors.
This approach also implies that the kayaker or kayak fisherman should not expect to be comfortable in his/her kayak, and that getting wet is inevitable.
This argument is fallacious for a number of reasons:
1. Originally, the native people of the arctic who invented and developed kayaking tried as much as possible to avoid getting wet, and for good reasons.
2. Like kayaking, canoeing is another group of traditional, popular paddle sports and activities, but unless practiced in whitewater it does not involve getting wet, since most canoes offer a better protection to their passengers than kayaks do.
3. Fishing from other small boats (e.g. dinghies, pirogues etc.) does not involve getting wet as much as kayak fishing does.
4. Considering the efforts different groups of kayakers from sea kayakers to kayak fishermen put into avoiding and minimizing wetness, it is obviously a very real problem.

What causes wetness kayaks?

The general cause is insufficient protection but specific causes vary depending on kayak type and application:
Traditional, or sit-in kayaks (SIKs) have little free board, so that even paddling in eddies and small waves can result in some water getting inside the kayak through the open cockpit. As for sea kayaks, these are normally equipped with a spray skirt, which doesn’t necessarily make them watertight in surf and waves conditions.
Sit-on-top kayaks (SOTs) offer even less protection than SIKs do in terms of free board, and typically let water into the cockpit through holes called ‘scupper holes’. This is why SOT kayaks have become popular only in warm waters.

The dry storage problem

Another unwanted effect of water getting into your kayak is the difficulty to keep your gear dry. Some seasoned sea kayakers say that before they go on a kayak expedition they simply take into consideration that eventually all their gear will get wet, even if it’s stored below deck. The solution to that is using watertight bags, which similarly to sea kayaks are not absolutely watertight…Most fishing kayaks come with storage compartments called ‘hatches’, which are notorious for letting water in.

The solution to these problems

Since the wetness is challenging many kayakers’ well being it must be addressed by kayak designers and manufacturers. Wet suits are uncomfortable, and dry suits aren’t that comfortable either. The solution offered by the patented Wavewalk™ Kayak concept is simple, and basically consists of more free board protecting the passengers inside the cockpit.
W kayakers can also sit change positions on their boat’s longitudinal saddle and sit, ride or stand in the back of the cockpit. By doing so they raise the bow and avoid much of the splashing and spraying that other kayakers are forced to put up with when launching in the surf or paddling in choppy water.
Another good news for kayakers is the fact that even if some water gets into the W Kayak’s cockpit it just gets drained to the bottom of the hulls and away from the passengers’ sitting area on top of the saddle. This eliminates the unpleasant sensation of sitting in a puddle that many people who use ordinary kayaks (SOT and SIK) have to put up with.
Since it’s possible to enter the W Kayak’s from behind and exit it from the front it is no longer necessary for a W Kayakers to step in water when putting their boats in and taking them out. Some say that keeping your feet dry is priceless…
And finally, since W Kayaks have a big, internal dry storage space it is no longer necessary for the equipment carried on board to get wet.

Related articles:

More About Dangers To Kayakers and Kayak Anglers in Warm, Fresh Water

Vibrio Bacteria

Cutaneous Manifestations Following Exposure To Marine Life

Swimmer’s Itch

Sea Bather’s Eruption

Bites and Stings: Marine Envenomations

Over-Exposure To Cold

Hypothermia

Injuries and Infections

 

More Wavewalk™ Kayak information

Fishing Kayak reviews

 

Kayak fishing facts

Things you need to know before choosing a fishing kayak

Your overall kayak fishing experience depends first and foremost on your physical well being – You want perfect comfort regardless of where you fish, and for how long.
Fishing kayaks can compete with bigger boats in price, portability, maintenance, ease of use, and in some cases mobility, but they fail when it comes to comfort and other ‘fishability’ factors, with one exception: our patented, well tested Wavewalk kayaks.
Comfort is multi-dimensional – like yourself, and it starts with stability and ergonomics. This article discusses fishing kayaks from a particular standpoint – yours.

What can you really expect from kayak fishing?

-And is it what you really want?…

Native people have been using small, personal paddle craft for fishing out of necessity, as means for survival but this is probably not your case, so what is it that draws you to kayak fishing? Obviously, you like fishing as an outdoor, fun, both relaxing and exciting activity.  That makes you a candidate for traditional fishing from shore or from a motorboat, so why consider fishing kayaks in the first place?
Compared to bigger boats, fishing from a canoe or a kayak offers the following advantages:

Portability– unlike bigger and heavier boats, kayaks can be car topped and do not require a towing trailer, unless they’re ‘barges’, which means so big and heavy that you’d find it hard to move them on land as well as on the water…
Convenience- the hassle of launching and beaching is considerably reduced.
Mobility you can launch and beach kayaks in more locations, and access very shallow waters. However, motorized boats have a bigger range of operation, and they’re more comfortable. Unless you consider the new Wavewalk™ 700 »
Low Cost– both cost of purchase and cost of maintenance of kayaks are minimal.
Physical Exercise -something you get from paddling but not from motor boating.

Why is it that some people prefer kayaks to canoes, and why choose a kayak over other, traditional fishing paddle crafts?

Good question indeed, considering most people who fish from paddle crafts still prefer canoes and other traditional boats for fishing since those are usually made bigger than kayaks… Nevertheless, fishing kayaks offer some advantages that most canoe and other traditional boats don’t:

  1. Ease of use- speaking, paddling and controlling your boat with a double blade (‘kayak’) paddle is easier to learn than paddling and controlling it with a single blade (‘canoe’) paddle, especially if you’re paddling solo.
  2. Less windage – Most canoe models are quite big and have an open cockpit stretching all the way from bow to stern, which tends to cause a windage problem: The user finds it difficult to progress and steer his/her boat under wind conditions.  Kayaks are generally less problematic when it comes to wind, unless they are very long and/or wide: Being long increases the wind’s leverage on the boat, and being wide makes it hard to propel it efficiently as well as track and maneuver.  Unfortunately, a reasonably good fishing kayak must be wider than recreational and touring kayaks in order to offer more stability and support.
  3. Portability- sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks are smaller and lighter than the average fishing canoe models since canoes today are usually made for more than one person.

How do you fit into this picture?

You’d probably want to ask yourself a number of basic questions, which are:
-Who am I, and what experience am I looking to have?
-Where am I going to fish, and what am I going to fish?
-What else would I like to do with my kayak besides fishing.

Who am I and what experience am I looking to have?

Sounds pretty obvious, but after all this is about you wanting to enjoy a lasting, good personal experience, and not about you conforming to an image created by kayak vendors:
Factors like your weight, height and age are important as well as physical condition, experience in paddling and experience in fishing from small watercraft.  Needless to say, that the same boat can confer a totally different experience to different paddlers or fishermen. Remember – most adults suffer from some issue with their back, and these same factors (size and age) work against you when you have to spend long hours in a kayak.

First of all, a few words about your personal safety:

The height and weight factors are often discussed but age and physical condition not so- You need to be aware of the fact that in case of very small watercraft ‘expecting the unexpected’ means that sooner or later you may have to face some hazardous situations on the water.
Naturally, the best strategy in planning for such cases is prevention and not reaction, which means you should first think in terms of minimizing the probability of accidents happening.
Reaction is your second line of defense – the one you don’t want to have to reach.  Reaction is a strategy designed to reduce the potential damage in case an accident already happened.
This is where it is useful to understand the term Redundancy in planning:
Redundancy is all but unnecessary – On the contrary, it is a critical factor that must be integrated in any planning for unexpected problems, which eventually never fail to materialize.

Two examples may clarify this:

  1. Redundancy in prevention:  The best example for applying redundancy as part of the first strategy is your fishing kayak’s stability:  You may be a seasoned kayaker and used to paddling fast (i.e. narrow and unstable) kayaks, and you may even be able to use such kayaks for fishing.  However, you are likely to find that the unfortunate yet perfectly expected combination of a moment of inattention when you are casting or landing a fish (and therefore not holding your paddle) with either a wake coming from a bigger boat passing nearby or a sudden lateral gust of wind or wave can easily lead you to lose balance and capsize.  Such event can be perfectly harmless, but in case you’re not in good physical condition it might be dangerous, especially in cold waters and/or weather that can lead to hypothermia and even cardiac arrest. Other factors such as underwater rocks that might injure you as well as marine predators, jellyfish etc. need not be taken lightly.  Planning for redundant stability is your best policy against having to need to use emergency tactics and second lines of defense (i.e. reaction strategies) that may or may not work.  Interestingly, what is the prevalent approach in evaluating the seaworthiness of watercraft of all sizes and types is contested by some in the kayaking world, whose reasoning is that you should rely on the extreme and in most cases inapplicable recovery (i.e. post accident) technique known as the Eskimo Roll…
  2. Redundancy in reaction: The obvious example for applying redundancy in your second line of defense is wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD):  It doesn’t contribute a thing to your paddling performance or experience, but in case you fall overboard and need to get back into the boat or stay in the water for a long time this seemingly redundant object becomes highly necessary, and sometime even vital.

See and be seen:

A kayak is not just a very small boat for others to see, it is also very low above the water and therefor even more difficult for others to perceive.  Your kayak can easily disappear behind the waves, especially if light conditions are not optimal.  As for radar, you shouldn’t count on those devices to detect you since they can’t always do it.
Furthermore, sitting so low limits your own field of view and puts you in double jeopardy…
In view of this you should consider fishing from a boat that’s either yellow, orange or bright red – the three most visible colors on the water.
You may also consider the advantages of fishing standing or sitting in a higher type of kayak.

Fishing alone:

Sea kayakers have developed a strict and elaborate sea paddling code of conduct, and one of the essential things you learn as a sea kayaker is never to paddle alone.  In fact, even paddling in pairs is not considered very safe, and sea kayakers prefer to paddle in packs.  While fishing in groups may not seem like an appealing idea to you, it’s important to remember that the ocean is too unpredictable and powerful for tiny, under powered vessels such as kayaks, and in this aspect planning for enough redundancy is essential for safety:  Sooner or later fishing by yourself in the ocean is likely to get you in some trouble that otherwise you would have had a much better chance to get out of.

After safety come your well being and comfort.
The main questions you may want to ask yourself are:

  1. Do I feel secure and confident in this kayak, or is it good just for flat water?
  2. Am I going to be comfortable after sitting more than an hour in it? Discomfort, fatigue, leg numbness and back pain tend to amplify with time.
  3. In the likely case I don’t feel comfortable, is there anything I can do to improve the way I feel, such as switching positions or stand up?
  4. Is this kayak fun to paddle or wide and clumsy? Most fishing kayaks are wider than 30″ (76 cm) and therefore don’t paddle well.
  5. Do I want to go through the hassle of manipulating a rudder? No you don’t, but with most kayaks you’ll have to.
  6. If I feel numbness in my legs can I change positions? Some kayak fishermen feel so bad after sitting in or on their traditional kayaks that they jump overboard and swim or walk if the water is shallow enough.
  7. Do I feel any pressure points when sitting? And what about after an hour? Foam cushioned back rests don’t prevent back pain, they just delay it for a while.
  8. Is this kayak easy for me to launch, or do I have to struggle to enter it?
  9. Is it acceptable for me to step in water each time I launch and beach? Well, let’s say you want to be able to decide if and when you’ll step in water, but regular fishing kayaks don’t offer you such choice.
  10. What kind of gear am I going to take with me, and are storage solution offered by ordinary kayaks acceptable for me?  You want to be able to take whatever gear you feel like, and access it anytime you want, but storage hatches won’t let you do that.
  11. Where am I going to fish, and what am I going to fish?  Is that fishing kayak going to protect you in bad weather? wind? cold? surf? Is it stable and reliable enough to enable you to deal with strong fish?

Where and what am I going to fish?

Once you’ve established what the answers to the first set of questions are, you need to think about the type of fishing you’d like to do.  The conclusion may be that you don’t need or want a kayak at all, and you may be better served by another type of paddle craft (e.g. canoe, pirogue), or even a small motorboat.

In case you’re thinking about kayak fishing at sea you need to make sure you understand the risks involved, and realize that ‘stuff happens’ – sooner or later, in a mild or severe form.  Most fishing kayaks don’t handle the surf well, which means you’re likely to capsize either on your way in or out, and even if you don’t capsize you’ll be soaked from the first moment throughout your entire fishing trip:  Traditional kayak fishing experts would tell you that fishing from sit-in kayak (SIK) is not practical since you’d have to use a spray skirt that would limit your access to gear inside the cockpit. They would recommend that you use a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak that has offers practically no protection against the elements and lets water penetrate the cockpit through its scupper holes… In sum, whether you fish from a SIK or a SOT a ‘wet ride’ is a fact you have to accept, unless you wear waders, which can be very dangerous if you go overboard in water that’s too deep for you to stand in.

You may also want to consider the fact that traditional, native kayak fishing was done mainly in protected waters such lakes, rivers, estuaries and bays, while native arctic fishermen were more likely to use large-size and stable canoes called Umiaks for their Ocean fishing and whale hunting expeditions.

The ocean is challenging not only in the surf zone, but practically everywhere and at any time:  While you’re sitting peacefully in your kayak a motorboat passing nearby may fail to perceive you and either run you over or what is more likely simply cause you to overturn by the effect of its wake hitting your kayak.  Such event may turn out to be anything from funny to fatal.

Another factor that should not be taken lightly is marine life:  Every year there are divers, surfers, swimmers, wind surfers and paddlers being attacked by sharks.  Fishing in shark infested waters from a small watercraft that offers no protection at all is risky by definition, especially in view of the fact that sharks are attracted by the shape of the kayak that similarly to the shape of a surfboard resembles that of a fat seal, and by the scent of bait and fish. Jellyfish, worms and bacteria are sometime abundant in warm waters, and may present other risks.
Cold water can be extremely dangerous, as well as exposure to cold from the combination of spray and wind – Water and weather can kill, and they do.
Currents and wind can easily carry you where you don’t want to go, without you being able to do anything about it.

Bottom line:  Unless you use an appropriate boat (primary – prevention strategy) and are perfectly capable of dealing with emergency situations (secondary – reaction strategy) you should abstain from fishing at sea and in large-size bodies of water such as big lakes, big rivers etc.

What’s a fishing kayak, actually? –

The common ‘fishing kayak’ is in most cases a wide, stabler recreational kayak accessorized with ‘special’ features for kayak fishermen such as rod holders and hatches. But while recreational kayaks are normally very affordable, fishing kayaks are considerably more expensive.  No wonder many kayak fishermen prefer to purchase recreational kayak models and outfit them for fishing with off-the-shelf fishing accessories and sometimes even home-made fishing accessories created from inexpensive materials offered in hardware stores.
So, do you really need a ‘fishing kayak’ or could you be satisfied with a self outfitted recreational kayak?
This is a question that only you could answer.

How to test a fishing kayak?

Leg numbness, back pain etc. are problems that usually appear after some time.  Don’t think that because you felt comfortable paddling a certain kayak for half an hour and casting from it a number of times that you’ll be comfortable after two or three hours in or on that kayak.
Test kayaks in real life conditions i.e. wind, and if you’re planning to fish at sea you must check how you’re doing with the kayak in the surf and with some real waves… -The reason for this is that even if you decide to fish only on beautiful and windless days the weather may change by the time you go back home, which can mean difficulties in the surf zone and even at sea.  Remember – the wake of a motorboat passing by can overturn your kayak, especially if you didn’t notice it because you were too busy fishing, which means you can’t stabilize yourself using your paddle.
Check if the boat is stable enough to support you when you’re struggling with a strong fish -Do you feel safe and confident enough?
Ask yourself in all honesty:
-“Am I going to like this in a year from now?”  (many don’t)
-“How do I really feel about sitting there in wet clothes for hours?” (few would admit it, but nobody does)
-“Do I miss casting standing?” (yes, of course, but don’t try standing in or on a regular kayak, or you’ll learn the hard way that pictures on vendors’ websites and forums are one thing, and your reality is another)
-“Do I really get along with paddling, carrying and car topping this wide, heavy, 14′ long kayak?” (you probably don’t)
-“Would I rather spend this time in a more comfortable boat?” (indeed you would)

After all, fishing should be about you enjoying your free time safely and comfortably, and not about trying to accommodate yourself to an inadequate and greatly over hyped craft.

What else would I like to do with my kayak besides fishing?

Go on long touring, camping (and fishing) trips, take passengers on board, play in the surf, stand up paddling (it’s fun!) and more. There’s no reason why such an expensive toy shouldn’t offer more than just fishing, but most fishing kayaks barely do that.
This the dimension we call Versatility. After all, when you own a motorboat you don’t just cast lines from it, but you’re supposed to do other things as well. Although kayaks are smaller and cheaper than motorboats, they should be versatile enough. A kayak that’s not versatile is an under performing one, and nearly all fishing kayaks on the market are such.

***

List of Busted Fishing Kayak Myths:

First fishing kayak myth busted:-“A kayak can get you where other boats can’t”

-This statement is not very accurate since those who claim so ignore a wide range of small water crafts including motorized and human powered pirogues, canoes, dinghies, rafts and more. Both whitewater canoeing and down river canoeing are still practiced by many, and so is fishing from canoes, dinghies etc.

Second fishing kayak busted: -“A kayak is faster than a canoe”

–This statement is based on an erroneous comparison between some faster kayak models and the most common canoe models that are usually large and very stable, while in fact fishing kayaks are rather slow by nature and some racing canoe models are very fast.

Third fishing kayak myth busted: -“Kayaks are more stable than canoes”

-This statement is false, and canoes are still popular for fishing, mainly because they are usually wider and offer more stability.  You can sometime see people casting standing in a canoe if water and weather permit, but have you ever seen someone fishing standing in a kayak?  (in reality, not on a vendor’s website or brochure) -It is said that very small and lightweight people can, but this is certainly out of the question for the overwhelming majority of people. Try it (in shallow, clean and warm water…) and you’ll see for yourself.

Fourth fishing kayak myth busted: -“The Sit-On-Top (SOT) is a new type of kayak”

–Wrong. The first commercial SOT models were introduced on the US market in the beginning of the seventies. Native peoples all over the world have used small sit-on-top paddle crafts for millennia, often with double blade paddles.

Fifth fishing kayak myth busted: -“Kayaks were the fishing boats of choice for native people of the arctic circle.”

-In fact these people preferred large and stable canoes called Umiaks. Kayaks were used more often in protected waters, and mainly for hunting.

Sixth fishing kayak myth busted: -“Modern kayaks are both stabler and faster”

-Totally false: Paddle sports are generally slow, and the slowest kayaks are those designed for fishing.  The reason for that being that the monohull design is constrained by the laws of hydrodynamics to a trade off between speed and stability, and since fishing kayaks are required to offer more stability than other kayaks they are slower.  Furthermore, Sit-On-Top (SOT) kayaks are even slower than sit-in kayaks are since their scupper holes substantially increase drag.

Seventh kayak fishing myth busted: -“A good kayak seat is very important”

–In fact, the original native people’s kayaks never had seats, and the whole concept of kayak seat is rather misleading since leg numbness is the result of bad circulation in the legs coming from being seated in the “L” kayaking position, which most of us stopped using since we were toddlers.  As for lower back pains, they result from the legs pushing your body against the seat’s backrest (AKA ‘lumbar support’) in an attempt to prevent your body from sliding down.  Expensive, cushioned seats advertised as being ‘ergonomically designed’ or adjustable-height canvas seats may delay these annoying and potentially dangerous physiological symptoms, but eventually they will appear simply because kayaks offer you just a single, unusual and non ergonomic and therefore problematic sitting position, without any option to switch to other paddling or fishing positions. More reading about kayak back pain »

Eighth fishing kayak myth busted: -“Kayak fishing is a water sport and therefore you have to get wet!”

-Not acceptable. First of all kayak fishing doesn’t necessarily have to be wet if you use a sit-in kayak on flat water.  Second, getting wet and staying wet for long hours is not an option in colder climates and waters, that is in about half of the US territory.  Third, being wet for hours is unpleasant even in warm climates and waters, and can cause rashes and infections.  Conclusion: You don’t have to listen to SOT manufacturers’ excuse for not having found better solution to “wet ride” and “soggy bottom” problems that are plaguing people who fish from SOTs, and are a main turnoff for those who want to fish from kayaks.  And just for the record, you don’t really want to wear waders while in your kayak, not just because it’s uncomfortable but because it’s dangerous.

Ninth fishing kayak myth busted: -“SOT kayaks are self bailing.”

False. ‘Self Bailing’ means equipped with a special device that allows water in the hull to be sucked out through a valve at the stern, as a result of negative pressure applied there while the hull moves swiftly forward. Such devices are used in motorboats and sailing boats.
The hulls of SOT kayaks are not self bailing, and there’s no means to drain water out of them unless you pump it out, or drain it out through a hole while the SOT is on dry land.
The only part in a SOT that’s continuously drained is its deck, through water flowing down its sides and down the scupper holes, which in many cases conduct water up onto the deck… By the way, those vertical tunnels’ real mission is to serve as support for the kayak’s deck so it won’t collapse under the weight of the user sitting on it. Those support elements were misleadingly dubbed ‘scuppers’ for some unknown reason, probably to make the paddle board dubbed ‘SOT Kayak’ more like a boat.
SOT kayaks’ hulls are neither self bailing nor offer proper means for seeing water that gets in through the hatches, deck rigging holes, and cracks, and this means you could find yourself paddling a sinking kayak when it’s already too late to do anything about it.
More reading about SOT kayaks’ safety, or lack thereof »

Tenth fishing kayak myth busted:   -“Kayak stability is important only for beginning fishermen.”

–Not when it comes to fishing kayaks, since the overwhelming majority of North Americans have neither the skills nor the physical attributes that Inuit and other native kayak fishermen had, and SOT kayaks are essentially less stable than comparable sit-in kayaks since their center of gravity (CG) is higher. Therefore, modern, recreational kayak fishermen are exposed to a much higher risk of capsizing than the original, native kayak fishermen were.  You may get used to fishing from an unstable kayak until the inevitable moment comes when you’ll capsize in unsafe or unpleasant conditions. –Some people can ride a mono cycle quite easily but that doesn’t mean you should try it…

Eleventh fishing kayak myth busted:  -“SOTs are more versatile than Sit-in kayaks.”

–Not if you would even consider fishing with a SOT in cold water and/or cold weather, -conditions that are common in much of the US and Canada, and present even in the South in winter.  Also, SOTs offer you little or no protection in the surf, and are less maneuverable than sit-in kayaks, which elevates the risk of injuries and accidents even in warm waters (e.g. shark bytes, jellyfish etc.)

Twelfth fishing kayak myth busted:  -“You can roll a SOT.”

-In fact, the overwhelming majority of people who paddle kayaks nowadays can’t even roll a sit-in kayak, although it’s basically easier than rolling a SOT, so it would be a waste of time for you to try to roll a fishing SOT, considering the fact that in order to do so you’ll have to strap yourself to your boat, which is unsafe, especially in the surf where capsizing is more likely to happen.

Thirteenth fishing kayak myth busted: -“You can fish standing in a kayak.”

-Do you really believe this one? Few people do, and rightfully so.
In fact, most kayak fishermen don’t even feel that confident just sitting in or on top their kayak.
This myth keeps being mentioned on Internet forums in discussions about stable fishing kayaks, and some fishing kayak manufacturers go as far as claiming that certain models they offer enable it, and even show pictures.  Technically speaking, children and small size adults can sometime stand in a kayak, usually a wide sit-in since it has a lower center of gravity than a SOT does, and always on perfectly still, flat water.       However, no full size adult can stand in any monohull fishing kayak confidently enough to cast in full comfort and seriously fight strong fish. As hard as you may try you won’t be able to find any proof to substantiate such claims, because they are not true.
The problem is simple, and has a lot to do with ‘what if’: Some people can cast standing in large-size canoes, some can fish standing from kayaks outfitted with a pair of fairly big outriggers on both sides, and practically anybody can cast confidently and comfortably standing in a Wavewalk kayak, as our demo videos and customer reviews prove.
So what? -Stuff happens (that’s the rule in boating), and sooner than later any stand up kayak fisherman is bound to find himself destabilized by a fish, a wave (or boat’s wake), wind or simply a wrong move in a moment of distraction – and things like that happen all the time, and to everybody.
Since neither SIKs nor SOTs offer any ‘plan B’ solution for such cases, such stand up fisherman is bound to go overboard, and is likely to do it while overturning his kayak. Such accident could be quite unpleasant, cause loss of equipment, etc.  Even those rare daredevils who insist they can fish while standing on top of their wide SOTs admit they ‘go swimming’ from time to time, or in other words: have frequent accidents, which is not acceptable because sooner or later one of those accidents is likely to turn ugly.
In sum, you’d better trust your basic intuition and common sense in this case.
Things are very different in Wavewalk kayaks not just because they are much stabler than other kayak designs are, but also because in case of destabilization while standing you’re likely to simply drop down on the 14″ high saddle, and find yourself in the Riding position with both your feet planted at the bottom of the hulls, several inches below waterline – as stable as possible. More reading about stand up kayak fishing and paddling »

Fourteenth fishing kayak myth busted: -“Rudders solve your tracking and maneuvering problems.”

–Although many would like to believe so, the reality is more complex and not particularly encouraging one to use a rudder:  Native kayakers never used rudders but Kayak manufacturers introduced rudders with the intent to improve kayaks’ directional stability (i.e. tracking) and maneuverability.
Keeping any monohull including kayaks going straight (i.e. tracking) is a problem, and zigzagging makes the boat go a longer distance. Constantly correcting the kayak’s course requires energy and time from you.   Moreover, tracking becomes more difficult as water and weather conditions deteriorate.  But looking only at (unpublished – one can only wonder why…) results of hydrodynamics tests shows that rudders increase total drag by up to 10%, and considering the constant mental and physical effort that manipulating the rudder requires from the paddler it is possible to say that rudders reduce effective speed by about 25%.  Naturally, the more experienced the paddler the less effort is wasted, but the less the rudder is required the better.
As for maneuvering, a rudder can make a noticeable difference especially if the kayak is very long (e.g. 16’-18’ long sea kayaks) and the paddler inexperienced, but its effectiveness is dubious in shorter (i.e. more maneuverable) kayaks.
W kayaks require no rudder, and you can get them to track perfectly even under strong wind »

Fourteenth fishing kayak myth busted: -“Modern fishing kayaks are so stable you can hardly tip them over, even if you try.”

-This is an absurd falsehood:  The only people who are not in danger of tipping a modern fishing kayak are small children who sit and behave nicely in their kayak.  In fact, when you need to struggle with a big fish kayaks are impractical since they can offer little support to your pulling effort.  Only few kayak fishermen are capable of catching big fish from their kayaks without any assistance. Red more about what makes a kayak stable »

Fifteenth fishing kayak myth busted:  -“Most kayak fishermen fish at sea.”

–This image doesn’t fit reality, where most people who use kayaks for fishing tend to do it in protected waters such as estuaries, rivers, flats, lakes and ponds – and for obvious reasons.

Sixteenth fishing kayak myth busted: -“Kayaks are very mobile.”

-While this may be true compared to boats that require towing, it’s not necessarily true within the class of paddle craft since kayaks are more difficult to get into and out from than canoes are, and consequently also more difficult when it comes to launching and taking out. Learn more about mobility in kayaks »

Seventeenth fishing kayak myth busted:  -“SOTs are stabler than SIKs.”

-Quite the opposite: SOTs offer paddlers to sit in the unstable “L” kayaking position on top of a deck, while SIKs offer them to sit it that same position at the bottom of the hull.  This difference in the center of gravity (CG) height works against the SOT and needs to be compensated by a wider hull.

Eighteenth fishing kayak myth busted:  -“Hatches offer practical means for storage.”

-Few thing could be further from the truth:  In fact, hatches are small and you can hardly access what’s inside them from your seat, and in most cases the hatches fail to be totally watertight, which can be hazardous in case you paddle or fish in moving water, such as offshore.

Nineteenth fishing kayak myth busted: -“SOTs are very safe kayaks.”

-This is partly true: SOTs are self bailing, which means they are designed not to let water in the hull even if the kayak is capsized.  The problem is that eventually some water can get in through small cracks or mainly through holes made in the hull for attaching various accessories.  When this happens you can’t notice the leakage before it’s too late »

Twentieth fishing kayak myth busted: -“Foot activated pedal drives offer hands free fishing.”

-…Unless you need to go somewhere, and then you’ll be required to steer using a hand activated rudder system, so you’ll be left with just one hand to hold a fishing rod.
But reality doesn’t stop here, and if you happen to observe pedal kayakers you’ll probably notice that in most cases they hold their kayak’s sides with their hands while they pedal, and that’s because recumbent pedaling (even in recumbent bikes) requires some kind of extra support and stabilization. Learn more about pedal driven kayaks »

Twenty first fishing kayak myth busted: -“Tunnel hulled monohull kayaks are stabler than other monohull kayaks.”

-Not really. In fact, most SOT kayaks have some kind of groove or tunnel (often more than one) at the bottom of their hulls. This reinforces the bottom and somehow helps correcting poor directional stability.
Such tunnels can be very narrow (1″) or wide (1 ft), but as long as the design is a monohull, meaning that it does not feature two distinctly, full size and fully separated hulls, the kayak will be unstable simply because nearly all its buoyancy is distributed along its longitudinal axis, where it offers minimal or no stabilizing effect at all. This myth and other ones are discussed in depth in this kayak stability article »

 

CONCLUSION

Kayak fishing is becoming increasingly popular, but many people who fish from kayaks end up going back to more traditional forms of fishing because of the problems described here.
Kayak fishermen as well as people who are considering fishing from kayaks need to be informed, and we bring this information to you as food for thought.
All the subjects mentioned in this article are discussed in more detail in specific articles and blog posts – see Full List of Articles
Our patented Wavewalk kayaks offer the best solutions to all problems mentioned in this article.
You are welcome to read what our customers have to tell about their personal kayak fishing experience with common fishing kayaks (I.E. monohull), and with our Wavewalk kayaks: Wavewalk Fishing Kayak Reviews
Seeing is believing, and you may want to watch these demo movies: Wavewalk fishing kayak demo movies

Fishability – How Fishable Are Fishing Kayaks?

What is Fishability?

Dictionaries define fishable as an adjective meaning ‘that may be fished in’. By extension, the noun fishability can be used to describe the usefulness of a fishing craft for catching fish, from the angler’s well being and performance standpoints.

Basically, you can catch fish just sitting on a log in the middle of a pond, or a river – so being able to cast a line and catch fish from some floating object doesn’t automatically mean it scores high in fishability. Similarly, the fact you’re catching fish from your kayak, and you know other anglers who fish from kayaks, doesn’t imply your kayak or similar ones score high in fishability. In fact, they might score very low.

How to Measure Fishability?

Different anglers require different things from a fishing boat, and value different things when they rank the qualities of a fishing kayak. Such attributes and priorities can be subjective, but it’s possible to use them as well as professional design standards to create a universal fishability score system.

The Fishability Score System

Since fishability is a multidimensional notion, a fishability score should refer to the different factors that contribute to the kayak’s fishability according to their relative importance.

However, since little data are available about anglers’ exact preferences, such score system should not be portrayed as scientifically accurate, and therefore should not use numbers or other standard grading method.

Fishability Factors

Stability

Fishing kayaks are wider than average kayaks are – anyone can see that. The reason for is that being wider makes sit-in and sot kayaks more stable, and stability is a basic, very important attribute that any fishing kayak should offer. The problem is that being wide doesn’t necessarily make a sit-in or SOT fishing kayak stable enough. In other words, those fishing kayaks’ fishability is diminished by the fact they are not stable enough for most anglers to feel fully confident while fishing from them. This is why you’ll see an increasing number of sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks outfitted with outriggers, and other sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks who are excessively wide – to a point where paddling them becomes too difficult, even with a rudder.

When stability is concerned, W fishing kayaks score much higher in fishability than any other fishing kayak does, whether sit-in or SOT. It’s possible to say that W kayaks are the only kayaks that are stable enough for fishing.

Comfort

Comfort in the ergonomic sense is by far the most important attribute a fishing kayak has to offer, and the main factor which determines its fishability. This is because kayak fishing is practiced as a sport, and a leisure activity, that is for fun. As such, it is required to enable a pleasant, relaxed and non-painful fishing experience to the user, and that’s where sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks fail completely. The reason for this failure is that all sit-in and SOT kayaks feature the same sitting arrangement comprising a seat and footrests, that lock their users in a single, uncomfortable, non-ergonomic posture called the L-Position, without offering them a chance to get some relief by switching to other positions. This leads to a range of undesirable physical sensations ranging from fatigue and discomfort to leg numbness, leg pain, butt pain, and back pain (yak-back). In some cases the impact can be back injuries.

Another discomfort factor is the wet ride: Being forced to paddle and fish while getting continuously splashed and sprayed isn’t acceptable for many anglers, who won’t fish from sit-in and SOT kayaks for this reason.

These ergonomic problems are obvious, and most people perceive them as a turnoff albeit the efforts of kayak manufacturers and vendors to play them down and dismiss them. As a result of these problems, not too many anglers are drawn to kayak fishing, and out of those who start practicing this sport many end up quitting – sooner or later.

In other words, sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks’ fishability score is very low, if only for these reasons. In contrast, W fishing kayaks feature a comfortable saddle offering multiple, interchangeable positions, including standing and full stretching. This is why W kayaks are the only ergonomic fishing kayaks, and therefore the only truly fishable kayaks in the long run.

Deck and Cockpit Functionality

Sit-in kayaks have tiny, restrictive, and therefore less than adequate cockpits, and SOT kayaks feature no cockpit at all, since in essence they are just paddle boards outfitted with backrests and footrests. This greatly reduces these kayaks’ fishability, since it makes it hard for anglers to fish out of them comfortably when handling gear, tackle and fish are concerned.

Remember: In order to score high in fishability, a boat or kayak should feel great to fish from, and ‘possible to fish from’‘ simply isn’t enough.  The only fishing kayaks that feature a real, full size cockpit and deck are W kayaks, and this is why they are truly fishable.

Storage

Fishing requires gear and tackle, as well as space for storing fish. Sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks feature hatches, which are too small, not absolutely watertight, and hardly accessible to the angler once he or she is seated in the kayak.

This is clearly unacceptable in fishability terms, and the golden standard is set by W fishing kayaks that offer plenty of internal, dry, and always accessible storage space.

Mobility

Mobility is about being able to start a fishing trip anywhere, go wherever you feel like, and beach whenever and wherever you want.

When compared to most bigger boats, fishing kayaks offer advantages in accessing certain spots, mainly in shallow water, and obviously in no-motor zones.  Still, sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks don’t offer the same degree of mobility that W fishing kayaks offer, because W kayaks enable launching and beaching in places where launching and beaching other kayaks is too hard. In addition, while going over obstacles present an absolute barrier to other kayaks, W kayaks offer ways to overcome such restrictions in mobility.

It terms of fishability, W kayaks score considerably higher than sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks.

As for pedal-driven fishing kayaks, those score even lower than regular, paddle activated sit-in and SOT kayaks.

Stand Up Fishing and Paddling

Being able to fish while standing up is an important aspect in evaluating a boat’s fishability, simply because standing up is natural, and especially desirable if you have you spend long hours fishing seated.

While certain kayak manufacturers claim some of the sit-in and SOT kayaks models they offer are suitable for stand up kayak fishing, nothing could be further from the truth: Some small stature, athletic people may be able to stand on one of those kayaks, and even cast lines, but this is far from being enough to have any of those kayaks qualify for stand up kayak fishing, because of serious safety issues:

When you stand in or on a small boat you will inevitably lose balance – sooner or later, and there are many things that can cause you to lose balance, including a moment of inattention, and catching a fish… So this is not a matter of if, but rather of when. And when anglers attempting to fish standing in a sit-in kayak or on a SOT kayak lose their balance, they fall overboard, and can lose some of their fishing gear and tackle. The result of such probable accident can vary from ‘unpleasant experience’ to drowning.

Fishing standing from a sit-in or SOT kayak is hazardous, and so is paddling standing in them, and therefore these boats score zero in stand-up fishing and paddling.

In contrast, W fishing kayaks are not only much stabler than sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks, but they also feature a 14 inch high saddle. This means that a paddler or angler standing in a W kayak and loses balance is likely to fall down on the saddle, in the most stable riding position, and avoid an accident in most cases, as well as losing fishing gear.

Tracking

Tracking is a factor that’s not related directly to fishing, as it can be measured only when the angler is paddling. However, we think it should be included in the fishability score system since it is a critical factor in paddling, and by that also affects both the kayak’s range of operation as well as it safety: A kayak that tracks poorly might become too hard to paddle in strong wind, and get out of control as the paddler suffers from exhaustion.

Sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks track very poorly, to a point where most of them require their owners to outfit them with rudder systems. Such systems are by no means ideal solutions, as they demand constant attention, and impede the kayak. A rudders might become altogether unusable in shallow water, and leave anglers struggling to control their kayaks in strong wind without any assistance. that is to say that sit-in and SOT fishing kayaks are prone to windage problems, and score very low in this fishability factor.

In comparison, W kayaks track exceptionally well, both in calm weather as in strong wind, regardless of the direction from which the wind is blowing. W kayaks require no rudder at all, since anglers who paddle them dispose of a range of effective means to control their directional stability (I.E. tracking) through changing location along the saddle, and by leaning into the wind.

This ability makes W fishing kayaks score high in the Tracking factor on the fishability score system.



Kayak Fishing Standing – And What If?…(Stuff Happens)

It seems like all fishing kayak manufacturers these days claim that at least one of their fishing kayak models lets you stand up and fish from. Some of them even go as far as say ‘in confidence’.

The problem with those claims is that they aren’t true, and the sure way for you to know that is by asking yourself a basic, simple and essential question:

-“What if?”

-What if you lose your balance for any reason, just because stuff happens?

And as you probably know, stuff does happen – and in fact it’s practically unstoppable… It’s usually small stuff, like a gust of wind, a motorboat’s wake, someone calling your name which makes you turn your head, a fly, a bird, a moment when you let your thoughts wander, your kayak drifting and hitting the bottom or a submerged log while you’re focusing on your line, or just a fish… Yes, some fish can be quite strong, especially those fish you’d like to catch – certainly strong enough to make you lose your balance when they bite and start vigorously pulling on your line, and most likely not in a direction that would make it easy for you…

Any of these things can destabilize you, and sooner than later it will.  And then what? You’ll tip over and fall overboard, because that’s the only solution all those wishful-thinking stand up SIK and SOT fishing kayaks have to offer you. And when that accident happens you’ll get wet, and some of your precious gear and tackle (or all of it) would get lost, and that’s too bad. You might also catch a cold, or something else (read this article about the Wet Ride ).

And let us not forget that all those pseudo stand-up fishing kayaks are not stable enough to begin with: The very form and structure of those monohull kayaks is inherently unstable (read article about kayak stability). It’s helpful to remember that all of them were developed out of the native Inuit kayaks, which were supposed to enable performing the ‘Eskimo Roll’ – if you’re sitting inside… Not a practical option for the great majority of kayak paddlers, and not a solution for anyone attempting to fish while standing on top of a kayak. Understanding this is a matter of common sense – You don’t have to be a kayak designer to realize that a kayak that’s barely stable enough for you to feel fully at ease while fishing sitting cannot support a full size, adult fisherman standing on top of it, and still be safe.

BTW, none of these facts has ever prevented any kayak manufacturer from hyping their kayaks as being ‘stand up fishing’ kayaks. People want to stand up while fishing, and they want small, portable and inexpensive boats like kayaks. Naturally, kayaks manufacturers want to satisfy this demand, at least verbally….

There is only one fishing kayak out there that has a real, dependable, tested solution: Our W-kayak.

To begin with, it’s the only watercraft out there that was invented and designed specifically for stand up paddling in all types of water: flat water, streams and surf. We have a US utility (invention) patent on it.

Each of the W kayak’s twin hulls offers sufficient lateral buoyancy to support strong and sudden shifts in load, which is what happens when you lose your balance. Your feet are planted at the bottom of the hulls, below waterline – exactly where you can tap the hulls’ buoyancy to the maximum.

The W-kayak’s 14″ high saddle is positioned between your legs, which is exactly where it would be the most helpful to you when you’ll need to lower your center of gravity both suddenly and intuitively in order to regain your balance and keep your kayak from tipping over.

Bottom line: Marketing hype won’t make you stabler if you try to fish standing from an inadequate kayak platform that’s bound to send you overboard sooner than later. Having no plan B when your plan A is too shaky is a strategy that you’re bound to regret.

You need a specially designed, real-life tested and truly dependable fishing kayak for stand up fishing, and there’s only one such kayak that can answer these requirements: the W.

And if you want to see it’s not just theory, here’s a three and a half minute demo movie you may like to watch:



SOT kayak stability, or lack thereof

Three anglers fishing standing in the world's most stable kayak, the Wavewalk S4

Why do you need a stable kayak?

Simply, stability is key to your Safety, Comfort, and Successful Fishing. Without it, you could end up swimming, or worse – drowned, and if you happen to lose balance, you could also lose some precious gear that would slide down from the deck and into the water, never to be seen again. Any stability issue that you have to deal with while fishing automatically draws mental and physical resources from you, and mobilizes them for the task of keeping you balanced, and your kayak level. This continuous effort affects muscle tension in your legs, your back and your shoulders, and it reduces your casting performance, as well as your ability to turn and to focus. But most importantly, the feeling of instability leads to discomfort, and this hurts your well being. In other words, fishing out of unstable or insufficiently stable kayak is not fun. 

Under such conditions, your ability to land big and powerful fish is significantly reduced, and you can’t expect to be very successful in your fishing trip.

Now you know the reason why despite the fact that kayak fishing looks so easy, simple and fun, and most kayaks are cheaper and easier to transport than boats, the number of kayak anglers has stayed stable in recent years, after years of growth. Many people have tried fishing out of kayaks, but the combined effect of instability, wetness, discomfort and back pain, and not enough catching has led many of them to quick this sport, or outdoor activity.

What’s the most popular fishing kayak?

The primary concern of any angler who fishes out of kayak is stability, of course. The inherent poor stability that kayaks offer make it the first and foremost concern, which is why fishing kayaks are typically much wider and often bigger than kayaks used for Recreation, Touring, and obviously speed competition. The fear of capsizing their kayaks and the potentially disastrous results of such event drives kayak fishermen toward sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, and therefore, they are more popular than sit-in kayaks.

Are SOT kayaks more stable?

No, they are not. In fact between two ordinary (mono-hull) kayaks of identical size, namely the same width, length, and overall buoyancy, a sit-in kayak will always feel ore stable than a SOT kayak. Why is that? Simply because the sit-in kayak offers its user to sit lower than the SOT kayak, and the lower you are the stable you are. Therefore, SOT kayaks are the least stable kayaks out there. If this is hard for the reader to understand, they should try standing on the steps of a ladder, and once they start climbing up, they will feel the decrease in the ladder’s stability. Now you know why the typical SOT fishing kayak is so wide and so huge – It’s because if it wasn’t that big, fishing from its deck would be limited to children and very small and lightweight people. And you you also know why pictures that show anglers fishing standing on the deck of SOT kayaks are typically not very big, and if they appear to be big, or at least just tall, the image appears to have been doctored…

In this context, it’s interesting to observe that people who fish from boats are frequently seen standing, while people who fish from kayaks rarely stand up in them. The reason for this is stability, or lack thereof in kayaks.

What’s the problem with big SOT fishing kayaks?

The problem that users of big SOT fishing kayaks users face is twofold – First, these behemoths are are to transport and carry, and the biggest can hardly be moved even on land. Second, these huge kayaks don’t paddle well – They are slow, hard to move, they track poorly, and they are mostly for short trips on flat water. People who are not in good shape find it hard to handle these large size SOT kayaks, both on land and on water. The same people also find these kayaks to be most uncomfortable.

What is the most stable kayak?

The Wavewalk S4 twin-hull is the world’s most stable kayak, and it beats kayaks that are much bigger and wider.  Three large size guys can easily fish out of an S4 standing up, in full confidence and comfort. The S4 powered by a 10 HP outboard gas motor can go at full throttle in rough water, in the ocean, and its driver can stand up while driving it. Three adult passengers can stand up in a Wavewalk S4 and paddle without any balancing or stabilizing issues.

The world's most stable kayak is the Wavewalk S4
Stability tested in various environments, crew size, and propulsion modes

What makes this kayak more stable?

The sides of the Wavewalk S4 are more buoyant than the sides of ordinary (SOT and sit-in) kayaks, which are generally oval. The S4 features two large size, straight hulls, separated by a wide saddle seat. The people who sit on its saddle have their feet rest at the lowest point of the hulls, and the same is true when they stand up. The riding posture is similar to the posture of people who ride large jet-skis, ATVs, snowmobiles, and dirt bikes. The posture offers a higher degree of balancing capability that simply sitting with our knees in front of you, such as when you sit on a canoe or Jon-boat bench, and it is also more stable than the very unstable and most uncomfortable L position, where your legs are stretched in front of you.