Those who know the difference are likely to ask themselves why bring up such a comparison when flotation and stabilization have nothing to do with each other. Well, this is true but some people tend to be confused by the looks of side flotation in certain canoe models and in the W Kayak.
For the benefit of these people we need to explain that indeed flotation and stabilization are two different functions:
Canoes and kayak are outfitted with flotation in various forms – from inflatable bags to closed cell foam. The flotation element/s is lighter than water and impermeable, and its purpose is primarily to prevent more water from getting into the boat in case it is strongly leaning sideways or turned over. Flotation can be applied inside and/or around the boat, and it is basically intended to serve as means of recovery.
Stabilizers are floating devices on the boat’s sides, and they touch the water nearly all the time. Their purpose is to prevent the boat from leaning too much sideways, and they do it by offering extra lateral buoyancy. Stabilizers contribute both to the boat’s initial (primary) and secondary stability, meaning that they enhance both the feeling of lateral stability as well as the actual stability of the boat. Stabilizers are also called outriggers and sponsons, and they act as means of accident prevention as well as comfort enhancers. Large size outriggers can in some cases increase the canoe or kayak’s load capacity.
The side flotation modules on the W Kayak’s sides are not stabilizers, and they never touch the water in normal conditions. Their function is the help preventing the W Kayak from completely overturning in case it capsizes, and simply help it float above the surface if it did overturn and water got in. In such case the location of the side flotation modules helps turning the boat back.
If the W Kayaker or kayak fisherman bailed out quickly enough and the boat leans strongly on its side without him/her pulling it down the presence of a flotation module under its side can make the W right itself without help.