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.

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.

John Forney’s First W Boat Design

John Forney is a boat designer and builder from Texas.

He has already designed and built a number of kayaks, both in wood and skin-on-frame.

John took upon himself to be the first to design and build a wooden W boat, and he did it.

This W is 12 feet long and 30 inches wide, and it can take two large size kayak fishermen with all their gear, as well as camping gear:

John Forney's 12 ft wooden W boatBennett Crow christening John’s W boat.  Photo: John Forney.

John says: “It’s a known thing that you build your first boat just to learn and then you throw it away, but this boat is just too good to throw – it’s amazing.”

John is now involved in building two more wooden W boats, and he plans to design and build W boats in other materials as well.


Where Did Our Kayak Get Its W From?

Some people think the name W Kayak is an abbreviation of Wavewalk kayaks. In a way it’s true, but there is also another source:
It is common for letters of the alphabet to be used to label different types of hull. For example, a V hull is one whose cross section looks like the letter V, and a U hull is one whose cross section looks like the letter U. The latter form is popular in canoe and kayak design. A new type of multihull design features M hulls.

Similarly, if you looked at a cross section of a W boat you would see a form reminding of the letter W, or more precisely a ‘Double U’ since the bottom of each of the W twin hulls is flat, I.E. more shaped like a U than a V.
When looking at the wake the W Kayak leaves behind its twin hulls the W shape can be easily perceived.
In fact, our W logo is shaped in a way that can be seen either as a wake or flat water or the crest of a wave – depending on how you choose to interpret it.


Wavewalk kayaks logo

Northern Kayak Fishing – The New Frontier

Oregon kayak fisherman Photo: Scott Floyd

Kayaking magazines are filled with pictures of kayakers touring glacier lakes and other inhospitably cold locations, as if such images reflected the common reality of paddling, or even what most kayakers aspire to do.

But when it comes to kayak fishing, magazines and websites seldom feature reports from cold places, and this is because kayak fishing is first and foremost a sunshine belt phenomenon. It doesn’t mean that you won’t find kayak fishermen in places like New Jersey, Puget Sound or Cape Cod, but the big numbers aren’t there, and the activity is restricted to the hottest months of the year, roughly between June and September – even if the water is navigable and fishable.

This is because a traditional kayak is basically a boat stripped down to its minimum, and one may argue that a SOT kayak is not even a vessel but more of a styled paddleboard (well, historically that would be correct).

That is to say that fishing from such a platform is not as easy and comfortable as fishing from a bigger boat is, and the little stability offered in combination with the extreme proximity of the cold water and the total exposure to wind and rain make the whole idea of kayak fishing considerably less appealing to the northern fisherman.

It was a Jeff McGovern who had first explained to me that the W kayak would be the perfect solution for northern kayak fishing. Although he’s a Floridian Jeff grew up in the Midwest and goes fishing in Canada every year.

And he was right: Looking back at 2007 we could see that although Florida and Texas were still the biggest states as far as W kayak fishing is concerned, northern states became as important in this aspect – coast to coast.

For those of you who want to read more, here are some northern W kayak fishermen’s stories:

Oregon, Wisconsin (fly fisherman), Massachusetts (Cape Cod), Connecticut, , Minnesota (hunter & fisherman),