kayak design

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.

How Fast Is a W Kayak?

In a nutshell, the speed of this 25″ wide, 124″ long W kayak is comparable to that of 12′-13′ monohull kayaks, depending on their design: Fishing kayaks are normally much wider than other kayaks, and therefore slower.
This figure is the result of many tests we ran over the years, and many paddlers including amateurs, professionals and customers have confirmed it independently.

It’s important to remember that when comparing the speed of two boats you need to be proficient in paddling both of them. For example, it would be plain stupid to ask a canoeist who has never paddled a kayak before to evaluate the speed of a 20′ long racing kayak… Similarly, you don’t expect a sea kayaker to be able to appreciate the speed of a fast canoe if he or she has no canoing experience at all.
Therefore, before you try to check how fast your W kayak can go you have to spend the time necessary to become a proficient W paddler, and that can’t happen in a day since W canoing is somehow different from regular canoing, and W kayaking is very different from regular kayaking.
Expect the expectable: There’s a learning curve in this process, as there is one for any new activity you’re undertaking.

Note that the smaller the boat the harder it’s penalized for extra weight – Don’t overload your W kayak.

In case you want to join a group of experienced sea kayakers on a trip you should know that fast touring kayaks are narrow and usually over 16′ long, which means they are likely to go faster than your 10′ W.

This is a link to a long technical article on this subject: http://www.wavewalk.com/KAYAK_SPEED_ARTICLE.html


Definition of a Kayak

A kayak is a small, personal boat designed for passengers to propel it with double blade paddles.

This definition satisfies hundreds of manufacturers and millions of people who enjoy using their sit-on-top (SOT) or sit-in, inflatable, folding or rigid, monohull, tunnel hull, outrigger or twinhull kayaks.
It would seem too inclusive for a small group of kayakers who believe that only kayaks designed to look like modern versions of the traditional Inuit boats are ‘real’ kayaks, but since this outdated view is becoming a rarity I’d rather not elaborate on it in this post*

Is the W really a kayak?
Well, as long as most people call it a kayak it is one, although it performs perfectly as a canoe**
However, people who call it a catamaran would not be wrong, and neither would those who see in it a new class of boats.

It is correct to call this boat a kayak since it covers a range of typical kayaking applications such as kayak touring, kayak fishing and kayak surfing.
However, it’s also used for other, new applications such as standup paddling, standup kayak surfing and standup kayak fishing, and it offers a new position called Riding (or ‘Mounted’) so it represents a new class of boats.
This new boat class that we call W is based on a patented technology explained in and protected by a U.S. utility patent. Being granted a utility patent means that it is recognized to be a new invention in the full sense of the word and not just another original boat design (I.E. outline) that’s protected by copyright or a design patent.

Wavewalk’s 2008 W Kayak models are the second generation of the first commercial W boat design out of thousands of other potential W designs based in this invention.


*These issues and others are discussed in this article: http://www.wavewalk.com/KAYAK%20SEAWORTHINESS.html

** ‘Canoe’ even in the narrower sense of a small boat designed for passengers to propel it with single blade paddles.


Outriggers for W300 Kayaks

Some activities like sailing and fast motorized boating require extra stability.
Products called ‘kayak sail’ are of little practical use because you can’t use them to go upwind, which is your main reason for using a sail in the first place.
Therefore, if you’re thinking about W kayak sailing you’d need a canoe or dinghy sailing rig that can take you upwind and is powerful enough to make sailing fun. Because it’s powerful, such rig requires a stable boat, and that’s where the outrigger/s solution can be applied.

Similarly, you can outfit your W kayak with a small electric motor, in which case it would not necessarily require extra stability.
However, if you’re planning to motorize your W kayak with a powerful gas engine (1.5 horsepower and up) you’d need to consider increasing your boat’s stability because when going at high speed it would become unstable.

Generally speaking, adding a pair of outriggers provides more stability, but a single outrigger can offer sufficient stability while being more practical in other ways.
The first problem with having an outrigger on each side of the boat is that in certain cases it limits the passengers’ access to and from the cockpit, for example when docking.
The second problem is that if you’re fishing an outrigger can come in the way of your fishing lines, and in case you have outriggers on both sides your freedom to cast all around the boat will be limited.
For these reasons we recommend using a single, large size outrigger rather than two small ones.
Such outrigger should be as long as possible so as to add minimal drag. It should also be voluminous enough to provide the buoyancy your W kayak needs to be stable even in extreme cases. Being heavy enough and placed away from the main hull/s will make it useful when the boat leans to the other side. The outrigger’s hull should not be as high as the hull in order to prevent the boat from leaning on its side.
The distance between the outrigger and the boat should allow you to paddle comfortably – we recommend at least 4 feet (120 cm).
This illustration represents a good single outrigger solution:

W kayak with single outrigger


Canoe and Kayak Market Trends in Recent Years

The (U.S.) National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is offering to download a preview of the abstract of its 2006 statistical report for download free of charge on this page: http://nmma.org/facts/boatingstats/2006/files/orderform.asp

According to this report the 2006 US market for canoes was a little over 100,000 units sold, at an average price of nearly $550 per unit.
The market for kayaks was over 350,000 units sold at an average price lower than $500.
The total 2006 market for canoes and kayaks was $233,000,000.

If I understand this report correctly the data take into account neither inflatable nor used canoes and kayaks, and they reflect a relatively stable market both in price and number of units sold in recent years.
A rigid entry level kayak costs between $300 and $500 while a touring, whitewater or fishing kayak can cost over $1,000.
It becomes clear from this report that entry level (a.k.a. ‘recreational’) kayaks constitute the bulk of the market in terms of units sold, since the average kayak price is within the price range of this category.

What else is it possible to deduct from this report?
Obviously, entry level kayaks differ from traditional designs mainly by their length to width ratio (L/W, or L/B). They are shorter and wider than traditional kayaks, namely slower and stabler.
This means that the overwhelming majority of U.S. paddlers are willing to sacrifice speed for stability, and that paddlers who practice the Eskimo Roll and put their trust in it as the main means of recovery are a rarity (by that I mean even less than a minority).
Entry level is in fact the norm, and contrarily to what touring manufacturers used to believe paddlers stay at that level and don’t ‘progress’ to the traditional, narrow designs. Progress is therefore represented by the stable designs, while tradition is represented by the (you’ve probably guessed it already) traditional designs…

And last but not least, it doesn’t take statistical reports to see that kayak fishing is the most active and fastest growing market in paddle sports and activities. Most kayak manufacturers have noticed this trend and offer a wide variety of extra wide kayaks (up to 42″, that’s over one meter), because fishing requires more stability than any other kayak related application.
In the same spirit, traditional paddling magazines and websites are increasingly preoccupied with kayak fishing and feature more advertisements for fishing kayaks than ever.


2008 W Kayak Models

(Added May 08, 2008) –

One of the typical things that happen with a good design is that after people actually begin using it they discover new advantages it offers, and new things it enables.

The 2008 model has already exceeded our initial expectations by offering two new positions:

Side-saddle , and Riding-over


Original post:

I guess many have asked themselves what made Wavewalk modify our kayak design in the 2008 models.
The answer is a bit long:
First, we wanted to do counter affect the rising cost of shipping, and cutting two inches from the spray deflector’s top resulted in a 10% reduction in the overall nominal volume of the standard package we ship to the customer.
Second, we’ve noticed that some people preferred a more rigid cockpit rim, so we made it broader, thicker and more robust. Now they got what they wanted.
Third, we wanted to help small children (5-6 year old) paddle without having to stand up, and lowering the spray deflector offers just that.
Fourth, we wanted to make it even easier to step into the cockpit and out of it, and that’s really where one can say ‘the best gets better’.
Fifth, we thought that a deep and narrow hull was a perfect place to drag a powerful and energetic fish into while it’s fighting to get free. Lowering the cockpit rim enables the W kayak fisherman to swiftly ‘drag and drop’ the fish out of the water and into a hull with minimal effort, and let the fish calm down a bit before being taken care of – without causing a mess on the deck or worse – in the fisherman’s lap.
Sixth, we realized that although capsize and deep water re-entries are quite rare we’d better offer the paddler a more comfortable way back in, and again – a lower cockpit rim was the solution.
Seventh, a lower spray deflector enables W paddlers to move the paddle faster from side to side whether they’re canoing or kayaking their W.
Eighth, well, we felt we needed to show something new…

To compensate for the 2″ of protection lost we equipped all 2008 models with a preparation for a cockpit cover.
This means that W paddlers can paddle the 2008 models in the surf or in fast rivers as well as in bad weather while being better protected than they were before.


kayak cockpit closeup