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.

The Evolution of the Kayak (2)

Raising the Bar in Kayak Design and Performance:

New Standards For the Third Millennium


This article discusses the changes in kayak design, usage and performance over the past century and in recent years.

Part I

Traditional vs. Modern Kayaking – From Survival and Utilitarian Use to Recreational Applications

 

2. A BRIEF HISTORY OF KAYAKING AS A SET OF RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES

The first popular recreational human-powered boats in North America were round or flat bottom or canoes, skiffs and dinghies propelled by oars or by single-blade (I.E. ‘canoe’) paddles. As the twentieth century progressed people enjoyed more free time, canoe paddles gradually became more popular than oars, and canoing became a widely practiced recreational activity.
Canoing was practiced in combination with fishing, tripping and camping or by itself, and it was performed mostly inland – on fresh water.
After WWII the American public became gradually acquainted with kayaks, but kayaking as a popular set of recreational applications became commercially viable in the early seventies, after manufacturers found ways to use rotational molding for making low cost, durable Polyethylene kayaks.
Around that time some improvements introduced to paddleboards gave birth to the modern sit-on-top (SOT) kayak, which has gradually become very popular in a wide variety of kayaking applications performed mainly in warm climates.
During those decades American society’s focus shifted towards the individual, and the kayak fitted the new trend better than the canoe since solo kayaking required less skill and experience than solo canoeing.
Today, in the beginning of the twenty first century, there are some three hundred thousand kayaks produced in North America annually, of which about one hundred thousand are SOTs. There are also one hundred thousand canoes produced every year.
Most contemporary kayaks are rotationally molded from Polyethylene, which is a durable, reliable and relatively inexpensive material compared to hand-laid fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP a.k.a. ‘composites’) used in smaller production series. Inflatable, canvas (folding) and wooden kayaks are made in limited numbers as well.
Modern kayakers use their kayaks in a much wider range of environments and applications than native kayakers did, and manufacturers offer an increasingly wider range of kayak designs and models.

Fishing from kayaks is becoming popular in recent years, mainly in the sunshine belt states where it is practical to use SOT kayaks. It is considerably less popular in colder climates.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE KAYAK (1)

Raising the Bar in Kayak Design and Performance:

New Standards For the Third Millennium


This article discusses the changes in kayak design, usage and performance over the past century and in recent years.

Part 1

Traditional vs. Modern Kayaking – From Survival and Utilitarian Use to Recreational Applications

1. THE ORIGINS OF MODERN KAYAKS

In the beginning of the twentieth century kayaks were practically unknown to the wide public. They were self designed, hand made personal paddling boats used by native people of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions, in Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Siberia, mainly for hunting marine and land animals.
These peoples seldom fished from their kayaks and hardly ever used them for recreation. They preferred to paddle their kayaks in protected waters such as rivers, estuaries and bays, and they neither surfed nor went in whitewater. They obviously didn’t paddle standing in their kayaks – although they sometime did so in their Umiaks, which were bigger and wider, multi-passenger canoes.
Native kayaks were not uniform: some were narrow and some not, and while some were over 20 feet long others could be half that length. The common building technique used then is known as ‘skin on frame’: The builder covered an internal wooden skeleton-like structure with animal skins.
None of those traditional kayaks ever featured a rudder or a seat, or even a backrest, which are all modern additions aimed at solving problems that are characteristic to present days kayakers.
The native people who used narrow kayaks often relied on the ‘Eskimo Roll’ for recovery, but not always. Some researchers assume that rolling the kayak was practically the only means of survival available to these people who didn’t have lightweight watertight suits, because swimming in extremely cold water while wearing heavy fur clothes is a recipe for disaster, and many native people didn’t know how to swim.
The wider native kayaks were designed to offer more stability and thereby provide safety through capsize prevention rather than recovery.
A much less known prehistoric personal paddle craft is the Caballito de Totora (‘Reed Pony’ in Spanish) used by Pre-Columbian fishermen on the Pacific coast of South America. Like the Inuit kayak, this sit-on-top reed watercraft is paddled with a double blade paddle. Its paddleboard design is very much reminding of modern sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, except for its higher bow designed to go over big waves.
There are similar designs in other ancient cultures around he world as well.

Next Chapter >> 2. A Brief History of Kayaking as a Set of Recreational Activities

Kayak Fishing From the Mounted (Riding) Position

While the advantages of fishing standing are pretty obvious to most fishermen many who haven’t tried the W Riding (mounted) position may wonder what’s so special about it, and why it is considered so advantageous when compared to the traditional L kayaking position or to fishing seated in a canoe.

The answer is that it has to do with how much support you have for your casting and reeling-in efforts, as well as when you’re fighting a strong fish:
The result of every physical effort you make, whether it’s jumping, running, pulling or throwing something depends on the kind of support your body gets from the ground you stand on. Soft, slippery or shaky ground doesn’t offer you good enough resistance.
Similarly, fishing from a big boat enables better physical performance than fishing from a small, unstable one: You can cast to longer distances and fight bigger fish more easily.
Riding the saddle of a W kayak doesn’t offer you as much stability, support and confidence as the deck of a big bass boat, but it certainly gives your legs more support than a sit-in or SOT kayak does, and through your legs you get more support and power for your arms and upper body.
Imagine riding a pony, which is similar to riding a W kayak saddle: The horse rider can gallop and jump hurdles, throw a spear or shoot arrows like ancient warriors used to do, or a lasso like modern days cowboys still do, and so on. -Now try to imagine all this being done when the rider sits on the horse’s saddle in the traditional L kayaking position… It’s practically impossible because the rider lacks stability and sufficient support from his legs.
Like any analogy this one is not perfect but it’s close to the truth: The combination of having two hulls on the W kayak’s sides and riding the saddle that you mount in a posture that’s advantageous from a biomechanical standpoint changes everything when you fish.

As Jeff McGovern puts it: -“I would venture to say the W offers improved casting with any gear. From the riding position, I get more power with my casting and spinning because I can put my whole body into the cast and use my legs. The solid feel of the boat gives you a great sense of security. ” (Read More)

Riding (Mounted) position: Best for kayak fishing Riding (Mounted) position: Best for kayak fishing (2)

Getting Trapped in a Kayak

Kayakers call this type of accident ‘Entrapment’ (which in regular English is a juridical term…)
However, in the world of kayaking entrapment is described as a situation where the paddler’s lower body, or a part of it (E.G. leg, foot) is caught inside the hull while the kayaker is trying to retrieve it from there during a ‘wet exit’, that is while attempting to leave his or her kayak and swim.
Imagine yourself in turbulent water, your kayak overturned, you’ve been ‘pumped out’ of it (by gravity) or you’re just trying to perform a ‘wet exit’ – and you’re ‘entrapped’.
It’s not merely a stupid situation – it’s actually a very dangerous one.

How can such thing happen?
It’s a fact: Whitewater, sea and surf kayakers who paddle monohull sit-in kayaks (SIK) attach themselves to their boats with a watertight accessory called ‘spray skirt’. This garment is made from strong fabric, usually Neoprene reinforced with  rubber, and it’s tightly secured both to the kayak as well as to the paddler’s body by various mechanical means in order to prevent water from leaking in, or the skirt coming out of its place. Being well secured is especially important during a recovery maneuver that such SIK kayakers perform called ‘Eskimo Roll’ – when their kayak is upside down.

As in other outdoor sports the rule of thumb in kayaking is ‘Stuff Happens’. Since kayaking accidents are by definition events characterized by the reduced control the kayaker has over what’s going on, it can happen that SIK kayakers remain attached to their kayaks against their will, I.E. they are ‘entrapped’ inside to some degree.
Such situations are particularly hazardous if the accident occurs in turbulent water (E.G. big surf) and ‘rock gardens’ (beaches with underwater rocks), which is often the case.

Why am I talking about this?
W Kayaks are not equipped with such spray skirts, and W kayakers don’t perform Eskimo Rolls, and so far no one has ever reported any W Kayak accident involving any degree of ‘entrapment’.
Nevertheless, I feel it’s important to explain this issue and discuss it because it highlights the necessity for accelerating the paradigm shift in paddlesports safety: Most paddlers today wouldn’t even consider using kayaks equipped with spray skirts anymore, and they have chosen to paddle stabler kayaks rather than ones requiring paddlers to have a ‘Bomb Proof Eskimo Roll’ (I.E. 100% reliable under all circumstances).  In other words, people have generally voted against those sit-in monohull kayaks (SIK) that demand a high level of expertise in this overrated recovery maneuver that too few people can actually depend on.  The problem is that too many kayakers out there still use that type of spray skirt without possessing a ‘Bomb Proof Eskimo Roll’, and by that are exposing themselves to the danger of being ‘entrapped’ in their kayaks.