By Dave Hernandez
We used the S4 at my latest veterans event and it was a hit.
We used the S4 at my latest veterans event and it was a hit.
West Palm Beach, southeastern Florida
I got my Wavewalk S4 from capt Larry and love it.
I am a former Navy SEAL and have ridden many hours in inflatable boats, so I appreciate the stability and comfort of my S4, and I volunteered to be a local demo agent for it.
I rigged my Wavewalk for lobster fishing, and I am currently rigging it for diving.
Typically, kayak and boat reviews are written by clients who mean what they say, but aren’t necessarily professional, or by people that the manufacturer paid to review their product. The latter reviews are not objective to begin with, and in many cases they are not even professional. Designers seldom publish reviews of the kayak or boat that they designed.
Other reviews commonly found on the web are fake, and they were written by individuals who are affiliated with the manufacturer of the reviewed product (fake positive reviews) or with their competitors (fake negative reviews). Some fake reviews that appear on websites that offer people to publish kayak and boat reviews appear to have been written under an alias by the website owners, probably in order to make their website look more popular than it is in reality.
Wavewalk does not pay people to review its products, and it does not post anonymous reviews on websites that offer to do so to anyone who can come up with an alias and a few sentences. We think that such websites have a low credibility from the beginning, and their credibility has declined over the years, as people who read the reviews that these websites feature have become used to apply critical reading, and common sense.
We decided to publish our own review of the Wavewalk S4 after it’s been out there for nearly a year, which is enough time for us to see what it can do, and what our clients think of it (Read S4 clients’ reviews » ). In this review of the S4, we try to compare our initial plans for this boat to what it does in reality, and we also try to look into the future, as much as possible, and see what it could still do.
Many Wavewalk clients are interested in the design of kayak and small boats, and we think that such people may have a particular interest in reading this review.
It takes close to a hundred thousand dollars to produce a new product such as the S4 in terms of time and money invested in the design and manufacturing of a capital tooling (rotational mold) for it. Once the product is out there, it takes more time and money to test and promote it.
This means that before a small company decides to invest in the development of such a product, it needs to make sure that it has a good reason to do so, and preferably more than one good reason.
Before we started defining the requirements from a future Wavewalk product, we looked at existing products in various markets, including our own W700 that we had launched back in August of 2015 –
From the moment we launched it, the W700 became an immediate, remarkable success, both as a tandem kayak for touring and fishing (and hunting, photography, etc..) and as an ultralight portable motorboat / microskiff. This success gave us the motivation and the funds to take the Wavewalk concept to the next level. Our clients loved to motorize their W700, but few were willing to give up paddling altogether, and this convinced us that paddling was important, so we decided that our next product, namely the S4, will be more of a high performance, fast and seaworthy motorboat with a bigger payload capacity, but it would still offer good paddling capabilities as a kayak and a canoe. Another thing that our clients love in their W700 was the ability to car-top it without a problem, and this meant that the next Wavewalk had to be a car-top boat too.
Before we started to design the S4, we looked at different products in a number of markets, and tried to identify unfulfilled needs as well as opportunities for our new product –
A new boat often starts as ideas that the designer’s mind generates in reaction to external stimuli, such as impressions, challenges or compliments. The general idea and major challenge with the S4 was to create a boat like which the world has never seen before, and no one had thought would be possible. We knew the Wavewalk invention would guarantee that whichever design we choose for a Wavewalk boat that’s wider than the W700, it would automatically become the world’s most stable kayak, as well as the world’s most stable boat for its size. Within this framework, we still had a lot of things to think about, including –
Launching the product, and testing it – We launched the S4 in May of 2017, and since then, the S4 has kept growing in terms of proving what it’s capable of doing. We were pleased to see that a 214 lbs guy could easily stand with both feet in one of the S4 hulls, and turn around, without flipping the boat, and without even making it tilt by much. We were more pleased to see three adult paddlers standing in it and paddling without any problem. But we were astonished to see three full-size guys fish standing out of a motorized S4, with one of them landing a good size fish in the boat. Many thanks to Mike Silva for these amazing pictures!
We loved watching the videos that showed the S4 driven through lily pads, propelled with a surface drive powered by a 6.5 HP motor. But driving an S4 powered by a 9.8 HP going at full throttle was a blast, and it was such a smooth drive that it certainly opened the door for testing it with more powerful motors, as a couple S4 owners already said they will do.
Multi-boat configuration – Another innovative and inspiring development was Captain Larry Jarboe’s S4x3 multi-boat, composed of a motorized S4 hip-towing (side towing) an S4 on each side, and thus allowing the driver to transport a much larger number of passengers, in full comfort, and with the stability of a large size pontoon boat. Captain Jarboe uses the S4x3 multi-boat for his guided diving tours in Key Largo.
Big boats, seaworthiness, maintenance, etc. – Interestingly, the S4 is already used, successfully, as an alternative to full-size skiffs. Its users prefer their S4s to the large size boats that they had previously used because of its easy launching, shallow draft, and better seaworthiness in choppy water. Indeed, we found that if you happen to get seasick in a boat going or anchored in the chop, riding the saddle of an S4 would instantly cure you, whether you’re driving it or just taking a ride in it as a passenger. The S4 is practically immune to other motorboats’ wakes, including big and fast boats traveling at a short distance from it, and this is not an exaggeration but an accurate description of a pleasant reality. And the S4 works as a paddle craft, so that it’s practically impossible to get stranded at low tide when you fish from it. Another reason to prefer the S4 over a full size boat is that it’s totally maintenance free, and if you’ve never owned a boat, it would probably be hard for you to appreciate the importance of this fact.
Spray shield – It turned out that when one person drives the S4, even at high speed, and even in the chop, the hulls and front deck deflect much of the spray that’s generated when they hit waves. However, when a passenger sits in front of the S4 driver, their weight lowers the bow, and it tends to generate more spray when it hits waves. And this is when a spray shield can still be useful.
A new type of watercraft – The S4 has already shown that it’s a new type of watercraft with a performance envelope that sets it apart from all boats of similar size. But it still has room to grow, in the sense of showing that it’s capable of more. We’ve already mentioned more exploits with mud motors, as well as bigger and more powerful outboard motors. We’d also like to show how a sculling (shell rowing) coach from Massachusetts uses his S4 as a coaching boat because he’s found that it generates a much smaller wake than other boats of similar size, and a small wake is the name of the game when coaching this sport is concerned.
On the other side of the performance spectrum, we should find an opportunity to run the S4 in rough seas with inflatable flotation modules attached to its sides, RHIB style (RHIB stands for rigid hull inflatable boat).
And on a completely different angle, we’re waiting for clients who use their S4 in whitewater, as a guide boat and a raft, to send us pictures too.
Extreme efficiency with a 1:6 weight to load ratio (payload ratio) – The S4 weighs a little less than 100 lbs without a motor, and it can carry a payload of over 650 lbs including a motor. This is a solid 1:6 weight to load ratio that shows how efficient the S4 design is.
We could have talked more about our S4, but with 3,700 words, this review is getting too long for a reasonable person to read – Thank you for making it this far 🙂
Interesting story on my little 2 hp Yamaha I use on the boat. I know I haven’t used the motor in at least two years, maybe longer. I pulled it out a few weeks ago. The gas tank was full of non leaded gas that has had marine stabilizer in it. I didn’t really think it would run well but I put it in a tank and gave it a pull. The little bugger started on the first pull. I used that tank for my trip below and it never gave me one problem. I was pretty surprised.
Now for the fishing.
This week I decided I needed to make the two hour trip from St. Augustine to the upper St. Johns River for the annual Shad run. Actually upriver is south for the St. Johns, as it is one of a handful of rivers that runs from south to north in the US. The Shad migrate from the ocean to the headwaters of the St. Johns to breed each year. They are fun to catch on light fly gear and are tenacious fighters. I decided I didn’t want to bother hauling my skiff and the hassle of packing everything so I popped the W500 in the back of my Ridgeline, threw the motor in along with some fly gear and was on my for a little fly fishing therapy, launching at the Jolly Gator Fish camp.
I didn’t exactly kill them but caught a couple to satisfy my itch. I also hooked two of the larger Crappie, and Bream (Sunfish to you Yankees) that I have ever landed. So, not a stellar day but at least fish were had. The area is very unique. The river meanders through a large expanse of grass and marsh lands that are used for grazing horses and cows. Plenty of wildlife from herons, egrets, white pelicans, otters, gators, wild pigs, and other creatures. The river also contains quite a variety of fish to catch, including hybrid striper bass. I usually get one trip in a year for the Shad run, though this year I may need one more to see if I can do a little better in the catching department.
“Kayak”??… This is likely to be the last thing that comes to mind of anyone watching this movie, but indeed, the S4, like all Wavewalk’s patented catamaran boats, is officially designated as a kayak, not just because of its light weight (98 lbs) and high performance as a paddle craft, but mainly thanks to certain design features required by law.
Skiff?… The kind of performance seen in this movie is not what you’d expect from a skiff or skiff by name.
Wavewalk likes to bring forward the S4’s performance as a skiff, namely a fishing boat for flat water, but there’s no flat water to be seen in this offshore movie… far from that!
PWC?… Such comparison would have been more appropriate if we used wheel steering instead of direct steering with the tiller, and possibly an even more powerful motor than the 9.8 HP Tohatsu that features in this movie. Nevertheless, the movie conveys some of the action and excitement associated with Personal Watercraft (PWC), sometimes referred to as jet-skis.
This video shows the Wavewalk S4 powered by a 9.8 HP Tohatsu outboard motor, driven at full throttle, offshore, in choppy water and waves.
It demonstrates a performance level that’s new in the world of small boats and watercraft, including both unrivaled speed and stability that enables stand-up driving and wave-hopping that one expects to find only in Personal Watercraft (PWC).
The Wavewalk design and PWC have one feature in common, which is their similar saddle seats that deliver the best balancing capabilities to the driver and passengers. But the advantage of the saddle seat doesn’t end there – The saddle also allows the driver and passengers’ legs to act naturally as powerful and effective shock absorbers that protect their backs from the unwanted impact of the constant leaps and bounds, and high speed clashes with waves.
Being officially designated as a kayak, the S4 delivers these capabilities in a paddling mode too, although at much lower speeds…
The performance seen in this video is not the kind of performance that flat-bottomed boats such as Jon boats or skiffs can deliver. The S4 is seaworthy, while these traditional small fishing boats aren’t.
What cannot be well perceived from watching this movie is the fact that the S4 is dry too – Frontal clashes with waves do not let water into its hulls, and the only time when spray gets in is when the boat is hits a wave with its broadside. Even then, very little water gets inside.
The cameraman was Captain Larry Jarboe, standing on the deck of his fishing boat, the Line Dancer, that was anchored in the same choppy waters as the S4 is seen going in. The Line Dancer was constantly bouncing and tilting, which made it particularly difficult to shoot video of another, distant and fast moving small boat.
Larry used a Nikon Coolpix 900 digital camera with a powerful x83 optical zoom lens, in an auto-focus mode, but since placing this camera on a tripod would have been useless under these hectic conditions, Larry’s sea legs were the decisive factor that helped produce the video footage for this movie.
The boat in this movie is Larry’s personal S4, dubbed the White Knight. Larry offers fishing and diving tours in Key Largo, and it is this boat that he uses in these trips, and on a daily basis. The White Knight features a base for a diving ladder at the bow, and foam boards on its sides, since Larry sometimes uses it to side-tow two other S4s,each attached to a different side of the White Knight.
The White Knight is powered by a 9.8 HP 2-cycle Tohatsu outboard motor, and Larry recently clocked 17 mph with it, which is a world speed record for kayaks.
The S4 operator in this movie is 56 years old, and not in great shape. An athletic driver half his age would have probably driven the S4 more aggressively and spectacularly, but that tired-looking, gray haired driver adds a feeling of reality to the video, or so we hope…