kayak paddling

Paddling is the easiest and most effective form of human powered propulsion for small and lightweight craft such as kayaks and canoes. In recent decades, paddling has become more popular than rowing, and dual-blade paddles (‘kayak’ paddles) have become more popular than single-blade (‘canoeing’) paddles.
Paddling offers a way for the kayaker to propel, control and steer their kayak using one, lightweight and easy to use tool, and this multiple functionality is highly appreciated, especially if the kayak lends itself to easy paddling, which most fishing kayaks don’t, unfortunately. Such kayaks are typically mono-hulled, large-size and heavy, and they track poorly, which is why most of them feature a rudder.
Wavewalk kayaks are easier to paddle since their users benefit from increased stability, the ability to optimally engage their legs substantially in both balancing and paddling efforts, and the advantage of rudderless steering and tracking through relocating the kayak’s center of gravity by simply moving its saddle (longitudinal seat).
In addition, W kayaks offer the average user easy stand up paddling in confidence, in real world conditions, which other kayak don’t.
Typically, paddling traditional (mono-hull) kayaks is done with the paddler sitting in the L position, which is non-ergonomic to a point that it has become associated to back pain. In contrast, paddling W kayak is typically done from a Riding posture similar to the powerful and comfortable position in which drivers of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), snowmobiles and jet-skis operate such high-performance vehicles.
W kayaks also offer their users the possibility to apply a broader range of paddle strokes, as well as to use their extra-long paddle for poling in shallow water, such as when launching or beaching, or when going over obstacles.

Tandem Kayaking

By ‘tandem’ we mean two adults, since paddling with a child onboard is less of a challenge, at least in the W kayak.

A lot has been said about kayaking in tandem, and it usually confirms the observation that kayaks are basically meant to be solo boats more than anything else…

However, paddling in tandem can be fun and rewarding – if it’s done properly.

First, you need to address the problem of balance, especially if your partner is not experienced in W kayaking (assuming you’re a proficient W kayaker yourself). The way to do it is mount (ride) the back of the saddle and then let your partner in (slowly) and position himself or herself as forward as possible – in the riding position as well.
You will probably need to compensate for your partner’s lack of experience by taking extra care of balancing the boat yourself – at least in the beginning.

The second problem is synchronizing your paddle strokes. It’s less of a problem if both of you are using canoe paddles, or if the front paddler is using a canoe paddle and you are using a double blade one.
If both paddlers are using double blade paddles the front paddler should just make slow strokes, switching regularly from left to right, regardless of tracking, turning etc. The back paddler’s paddle should follow the front paddle in parallel, touching the water a fraction of a second after the front one did, and getting out immediately after the front one.
The back paddler is also the de facto skipper, and he or she should take care of tracking, turning etc… This task can be quite demanding, especially in moving water, and this is why you’d better practice tandem W paddling on flat water first.
It is very helpful to be aware of the possibilities offered by the extra long W paddle in terms of controlling the length and direction of the stroke, J strokes etc.

This video shows a couple of W kayakers paddling in tandem in the surf – Needless to remind the viewer that both of them have some experience in W kayaking.


Seal Launching: Sometime It’s a Necessity and It Can Be Fun

Seal launching can be a good solution if you don’t want to spend too much time looking for a better spot to start your paddling or fishing trip from. You can do it just for fun too.
This video shows an 8 year old seal launching his W kayak from a steep river bank. Obviously, if an adult launched from the same spot the splash would have been huge and some water would have gotten in through the open cockpit. Therefore, the kayaker or fisherman planning to venture into seal launching should cover the front part of the cockpit, at least for the launch.
We advise you to start learning to seal launch on a less steep slope, and slide over a shorter distance… You can seal launch from a dock or a deck too.

Also, leaving your cellphone, camera, GPS and fishing gear on shore the first time would be more prudent – stuff happens…


Paddling and Kayak Fishing in Cold Water and Weather

‘Cold’ is relative of course, and what I mean by it in this case is temperatures below freezing or close to that.

Sometimes you can find open water on a frozen river or lake, and since it’s possible to launch your W kayak from ice as well as to beach it on ice the question is ‘why not go paddling or fishing?’

The simple answer is ‘because it’s very dangerous’.
In other words, the combination of ice and cold can turn out to be deadly.

Some of the factors that contribute to making such activities more dangerous are:

Air temperature: When it’s below freezing your paddle can get covered with a layer of ice and become heavy. The water dripping from it on your kayak can freeze and form a heavy layer that might destabilize it. If the water freezes inside the cockpit you might slip on it, lose your balance and fall overboard.

Alcohol: Absolutely not. Drinking while you’re paddling or fishing in cold water or weather is taking the first active step towards an accident. There is a strong correlation between drinking and paddle fishing accidents. If you need to boost your energy while you’re kayaking or kayak fishing do it with hot coffee from a thermos bottle, chocolate or energy bars.

Cellphones are an absolute necessity in order to call 911. BTW, a wet cellphone is useless…

Children. Too dangerous: being smaller children have a bigger surface area by relatively to their volume, which means that if they fall in the water their body temperature will drop faster than that of an adult in the same condition. Children also have a tendency to be careless (at least those that I know…) and panic easily – two potential hazards that you don’t want to have to face.

Clothing: Boots, heavy shoes, waders and heavy clothing are an absolute no. A good wetsuit or dry suit and booties are a must.

Distance from shore: Don’t paddle or fish where people on shore can’t see you. Preferably, they should also be able to hear you. Carry a whistle with you.

Number of people with you: Paddling or fishing in cold water all by yourself is really careless. If you feel you must do it you should go with a group, preferably with people who know what they’re doing and could advise you on what to do and not to do, as well as help you in case something happens. It’s also a good idea to have a bigger boat, preferably a motorboat as part of your expedition – stuff happens.

Saltwater. Ocean water with typical salinity freezes at about 28.9°F (-1.8°C), which is a colder than the freezing temperature for fresh water. This means that sea water that’s partly covered with ice is likely to be colder than fresh water in a similar condition. This means it would be even more dangerous if you fell overboard.

Time of day: Winter days are shorter, which means that you might find yourself trying to paddle your way back in the dark, which is dangerous both because it increases the risk of an accident as well as reduces the chances of you succeeding in rescuing yourself or getting rescued by others.

Type of boat: Reducing your degree of exposure to the elements is a good idea when kayaking or fishing in cold water and weather.
The worst are sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks that put you close to the water without any protection. Sit-in kayaks (SIK) can be a little better since they offer you the opportunity to protect yourself with a spray skirt, but using such an accessory is hazardous if you don’t have a fool proof Eskimo Roll (very few people do), and it’s highly inconvenient for fishing. Canoes offer good protection from spray but paddling them can become too difficult because of windage problems. Finally, W kayaks offer you the best protection from both spray and wind, and they also perform better than the other boats under wind.

Water depth: Getting out of deep water is far more difficult than it is from shallow water. Falling in deep water can cause hypothermia faster than it would take you to rescue yourself, which means that your chances of survival might be slim.

Wind: The combination of wind and sub freezing temperatures can lead to the formation of surface ice where you had open water before. This means that on your way back to shore you might find yourself tired and shivering in your boat without being able to paddle through the newly formed ice.

Your physical condition: Some people are in great shape and can resist cold, but are you one of them? Remember – water is about 700 times denser than air, which means that it can cool your body instantly and lead to heart failure even before hypothermia settles in.

So, if you still feel you must get out on a cold winter day it’s better if you kept your kayak at home and found something as rewarding as paddling or fishing to do, yet not as dangerous.


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