Kayak Design is the process of designing a kayak for a specific application (e.g. Touring kayaks, Fishing kayaks, etc.), and other parameters such as the user’s size, proficiency in paddling, the overall load capacity required from the kayak, speed, stability, etc. Other kayak design factors are materials (e.g. Polyethylene resin, fiberglass, etc.), manufacturing technology (e.g. rotational molding, thermo forming, cold molding, etc.).
Kayak design is a term also used to refer to the kayak’s form (type), such as sit-in, sit-on-top (SOT), hybrid and twin-hull kayaks.
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.
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.
This kayak has been around for close to a decade, and our website features over 200 Wavewalk 500 reviews that our clients have contributed over the years. But I thought that since in the past few years we’ve introduced the bigger W700 and S4, there may be a need for a more comprehensive and professional review that would tell the full story of this kayak, especially in comparison to our new models.
I designed the Wavewalk 500 in 2008. Creating a cast aluminum rotational mold of this size and complexity takes a long time, so we rolled out the first production units of this kayak in 2009. Despite its small size, the W500 was the world’s most stable kayak for years, and it held this title till 2015, when the bigger W700 came out. A couple of years later, the W700 lost its title to the Wavewalk S4, which is currently the world’s most stable kayak, and is likely to maintain this title as long as Wavewalk doesn’t come out with an even bigger model, which is unlikely to happen. Simply, there is no kayak form that can produce more stability than that of our patented combination of a twin hull and a riding saddle. The Wavewalk 500 is still the world’s smallest twin-hull (catamaran) in production, and the most stable for its size, and at 60 lbs, it is also the world’s lightest production catamaran. Despite its small size and light weight, this kayak can carry on board two adult passengers that aren’t particularly heavy – The average man in the US weighs 200 lbs, and the average woman weighs 160 lbs. Their aggregated weight of 360 lbs is exactly the maximum payload we recommend for the W500. The W500 offers limited tandem capabilities, but when it comes to small size passengers such as kids, its capacity is pretty amazing –
The W500’s 1:6 Weight to Payload ratio (60 lbs /360 lbs) is remarkable, and only the Wavewalk 700 and Wavewalk S4 offer slightly better ratios of 1: 6.25 and 1:6.5, respectively.
The Wavewalk 500 was also the first kayak to offer full standing capability and zero back pain paddling to practically everyone, including big and tall guys, elderly people, and people with various disabilities, ranging from fibromyalgia and sciatica to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), dislocated vertebrae, and spinal fusion. This is a unique ergonomic advantage that the W500 offers to people who otherwise would have been prevented from paddling, and it’s one of the things that has made it such a special boat.
The W500 pioneered an era in kayak fishing, and to this day, only the biggest SOT and sit-in fishing kayaks that are much longer, nearly 50% wider, and twice heavier than this little, patented twin-hull kayak, can offer a level of stability that comes close to the stability that it provides.
The W500 was much better than the proof-of-concept Wavewalk 300 (2004-2010), without being heavier, so it naturally replaced the W300. I like the idea that after the W700 and S4 came out, the W500 still has its diehard fans.
Changes over time
Over the years, we offered the W500 in a number of configurations that included various types of deck mounted and flush mounted rod holders, flotation devices, anchors, bungees, motor mounts, spray shield, etc., but in recent years we offer it ‘as is’. Nothing beats Simple.
When it came out, the W500 did not feature a saddle bracket, and we left if to the owners to decide whether they wanted us to install this structural accessory in their kayak, or not. In hindsight, that was a mistake on our part, since some people who should have outfitted their W500 with a bracket chose not to do so, and sometimes damaged it. The damage was easy to fix, but still, these incidents could and should have been prevented. In 2013, we decided to offer the W500 with an integrated saddle bracket as a standard feature – Choice is not always a good thing, apparently, and we have learned that lesson. We also started shipping this kayak in a custom cardboard box, in order to better protect it during transit.
Years before the Wavewalk 500 came out, anglers already outfitted their kayaks with small, weak, electric trolling motors, Several W300 owners did so too, and one of them, Jim McGivray, in the UK, outfitted his W300 with a 2.5 HP Suzuki outboard gas engine. But Jim’s project turned out to be a little premature, since the W300 was still not the right platform for motorizing with powerful gas engines. It was the W500 who became the first full fledged motor kayak, namely a kayak outfitted with a powerful motor, whose driver can drive it in comfort and confidence in rough water, including in the ocean.
The W500 powered by a powerful outboard gas motor made electric kayaks look like supermarket’s motorized shopping carts. It still does, but when compared to an S4 powered by a 10 HP outboard, even the W500 looks almost like a toy.
Sungin Kim, in South Korea, was the first to drive a W500 powered by an outboard gas motor. It was a 2 HP air-cooled Honda, and ironically, he didn’t like his motorized ride very much, at first, since it was so fast. Later, Sungjin got used to it, and went on many fishing trips in the ocean, solo and in tandem.
Interestingly, around 2010, Captain Gary Thorberg experimented with mounting outboard motors on the side of his W500, but the advantages of transom motor mounts made them become the de-facto standard.
We tested the Wavewalk 500 with a 6 HP motor, and we came to the conclusion that with that much horsepower, it was overpowered. Currently we recommend not to exceed 4 HP with this little kayak.
In 2018, Keith Sylvester was the first to outfit a W500 with a surface drive (a.k.a Mud Motor). Keith’s ride looks good, with no apparent problems. He proved that even the smallest Wavewalk is stable enough to work with such a special and demanding motor, in shallow streams and ponds.
The W500 opened the era of full fledged motor kayaks, and it is currently the world’s third best motor kayak, with number two being the W700, and the S4 being the world’s best and fastest motor kayak, with a top speed of 17 mph, sustained. This record was achieved by Captain Larry Jarboe, of Key Largo. Oddly, we can’t think of a motor kayak that would fit in the fourth place, not because our competitors haven’t tried to come up with such a product, but because so far they have been unsuccessful. Simply, monohull kayaks don’t work well with powerful motors, and if you modify their form to make them work better, they no longer fit the kayak designation, which all Wavewalk’s kayaks do. Even large-size SOT kayaks that feature an outrigger don’t look good with a motor. The only class of small watercraft that’s comparable to the three Wavewalk motor kayaks are motorboats dubbed micro skiff (microskiff).
The storage revolution
Ten years after the Wavewalk 500 entered the kayak fishing market, it still offers much more on board storage space than its biggest competitors, whose overcrowded decks and tiny, hardly accessible hatches keep frustrating and disappointing anglers. Indeed, when it comes to fishing kayak design, storage is an unfinished, gloomy story, and a problem solved only by Wavewalk’s kayaks.
Before – How much gear can be stored in a W500 kayak?
After – All this fishing and camping gear got inside the W500
Paddling the Wavewalk 500
Paddling any ordinary kayak is not easy, as soon the paddler faces wind or currents. The challenge is tracking, namely to keep going in the direction that leads you to your destination, and not where the elements drive you. Ordinary, mono-hull (SOT and sit-in) kayaks track poorly, which is why high-end models feature complicated rudders. This is true for both fishing and touring kayaks, but not for the Wavewalk 500, since being a catamaran, it tracks better naturally, and it also offers effective means for the paddler to control its course just by moving forward or backward on the saddle, thus relocating the boat’s Center of Gravity (CG), as explained in this article about paddling and tracking in strong wind »
Indeed, many Wavewalk 500 paddlers who paddle it in strong wind and currents are unaware of the fact that it is missing a rudder, simply because they don’t need such an accessory. No paddler ever put a rudder on their W500, and the only W500 owners to use such accessory are those who sail it.
The W500 vs the W700
The W700 is better than the W500 – It’s faster, more stable, roomier, and it can carry a much bigger payload, or more people on board. It also works better with powerful outboard motors, and it comes with an integrated flotation compartment instead of detachable flotation modules. The W700 is better for paddling, fishing, and driving, so why do some people prefer the W500? The answer is simple – It’s because the W500 weighs 20 lbs less than the W700, and it costs less too. Not everyone needs a fast and roomy kayak.
After the W700 came out, and the concept of the saddle serving as a watertight compartment (flotation) proved itself, we played with the idea of applying this concept to the W500. But doing so would have added 10 lbs to the W500’s total weight, and we thought that at 70 lbs, and costing significantly more than its classic version, a modified W500 would not be attractive enough compared to the W700 that weighs 80 lbs.
Reach and versatility
Some W500 owners have been using it for nearly a decade, and they’re not planning to switch to anything else (except maybe the W700, or S4). Such is Gary Rankel, a retired biologist and fisheries consultant, who wrote a book about kayak fishing, and one of the best client reviews of the Wavewalk 500. Gary also suffers from back problems, and the fact that he can spend up to eight hours in his W500, fishing, without getting out of it, is amazing to me. BTW, Gary is not the only Wavewalk user who spends such long hours in their kayak, uninterruptedly, which is to say that the saddle seat indeed delivers a back pain free experience.
People use their W500 kayaks on flat water and in the ocean. Touring and fishing are the two most popular applications for the W500. Other, less common but interesting applications are photography, diving, bow fishing, treasure hunting, sailing, rowing, and servicing big boats (boat tender). They also use it for other outdoor activities as well, from ice fishing in Sweden to duck hunting in various regions of the US.
Geographically, the W500 has users and fans worldwide, including the following countries and regions – Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Australia (countrywide), New Zealand, UAE, Canada (countrywide), the US (nationwide, including Alaska), various parts of the Caribbeans, Panama, Paraguay, The UK, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Greece.
So this is the story of this little kayak, the W500, as I see after ten years. If you ask me if I would have designed it differently today, knowing that its end weight is required not to exceed 60 lbs, I’d say that I don’t think it’s possible.
The spray shield that Wavewalk developed years ago for the 500 series is made from a 48″ x 12″ Polycarbonate (PC) sheet. This accessory bends around the front of the W500, and stops spray from getting into the cockpit from the space between the front hull tips, as well as from their sides. Since there isn’t that much difference in design and size between the W500 and W700, this spray shield works for the latter as well, and it allows for driving both motorized kayaks at high speeds in choppy waters.
But the S4 is different – To begin with, the S4’s front deck blocks most of the spray generated at the bow while bumping frontally into waves at high speeds, and let’s not forget that the S4 is faster than the W700 and W500… But the S4’s front deck is less effective for blocking spray generated on the sides of the boat while it hits waves in diagonal. This is by no means a major problem, and the worst outcome can be that a passenger sitting at the front of the cockpit could get a little wet when the boat goes at high speed in choppy water. This little problem can persist even with a W500 Spray Shield attached to the S4 – Since the S4 skiff is 9″ wider than the W500, a 48″ long spray shield bent and attached at the front of its cockpit won’t bend enough to protect both its front and its sides.
To achieve their goal, an S4 owner who wants to outfit their boat with a totally effective spray shield would have to make one from two sheets of 48″ x 12″ Polycarbonate – One sheet in the center, and a 24″ x 12″ extension riveted to each side of that central sheet, forming together a 96″ long sheet.
The DIY designer can cut the Polycarbonate, and reduce the height of the spray shield’s ends, and thus give the final product a cool, professional look that’s higher at the center and tapering down on both ends, namely backward when attached to the kayak’s cockpit (See images below).
Drilling holes in a Polycarbonate sheets is easy, and so is riveting lashing hooks to it. These hooks will serve to attach the spray shield to the deck with a shock cord (bungee), in a way that makes attaching and detaching easy and quick. Other methods can serve as well to attach the spray shield to the S4.
We recommend using Polycarbonate sheets that are 0.1″ thick or slightly thinner, in order to keep the end product lightweight and assure its flexibility.
Polycarbonate (PC) sheets are not expensive, and they can be purchased online.
W500 Spray Shield made from one 48″ x 12″ Polycarbonate sheet
The W500 Spray Shield bends easily without heating
Today Wavewalk stopped offering the F model in the 500 series. The W500 F featured two flush mounted rod holders, and it was an iconic product for almost a decade. But flush mount rod holders are less popular these days, and our rotational molders asked us to make their job easier by simplifying our product line. Years ago, Rox discovered the clamp mounted rod holders, and since then we’ve been advising our clients to use these detachable and versatile rod holders instead of the fixed flush mounted ones, and indeed, these days most of them do. This advice has become more relevant in recent years, as a growing number of Wavewalk users outfit it with a motor, and no longer use the flush mount rod holders installed at the back of its cockpit, since rod holders and motors don’t go together well when they occupy the same place.
So, from now on, Wavewalk offers three kayak models: The W500 R, W700 R, and S4. No more W500 F
We will keep offering the Tite-Lok clamp mount rod holders as an optional accessory with all our kayak models.