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.

The Evolution of the Kayak (7)

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 4
Increased Diversity: The Proliferation of New Kayak Designs


The kayak concept didn’t stop broadening with the monohull sit-in and SOT designs: As soon as kayaks started gaining popularity people began experimenting and inventing new configurations and designs that included more than one hull (monohull).

The first multihull kayaks were ordinary monohull models equipped with a single outrigger (Proa style) or with two outriggers (trimaran style). Such outriggers were needed to compensate for the monohull’s basic stability deficiency. Lately, outrigger kayaks are regaining popularity among kayak fishermen.

Later, catamaran style kayaks appeared in both sit-in and SOT versions. Inflatable sit-in catamaran kayaks are used for whitewater and fishing, and rigid polyethylene SOT catamaran kayaks were introduced as recreational and fishing kayaks.
The inflatable sit-in designs are not true catamarans but rather wide versions of tunnel-hull kayaks (monohull), and therefore slower than comparable monohulls.
The SOT catamaran kayaks are very wide and therefore harder to paddle than similar size monohull kayaks. They also place the paddlers in the L position much higher than the regular SOT kayak does, which results in increased instability without compensating for it by improving ergonomics or biomechanics.

One can no longer claim today that kayaks are monohull boats – The kayak has evolved into a class of small, personal watercrafts that seem to have two things in common: Paddlers propel them using double blade paddles a.k.a. ‘kayak paddles’, and more importantly: most people perceive them as kayaks and call them by this name.
And just to be realistic, these days a kayak doesn’t necessarily have to be paddled since some kayaks are equipped with electric motors (mainly for trolling), and in some cases even with gas engines.

NEW: read more about motorizing fishing kayaks >>

The Evolution of the Kayak (6)

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 3
Ergonomics: From a single, uncomfortable position to the freedom to choose from a variety of ergonomic positions


Manufactures of monohull kayaks who tried to depart from the L position by offering higher seats found that they needed to increase their kayaks’ width considerably in order to compensate for raising the paddlers’ center of gravity (CG). This was done only to rediscover the fact that excessively wide kayaks track very poorly and are harder to paddle.


The W departed completely from both the monohull design and the L kayaking position.
By offering much better lateral stability and a high saddle the W Kayak has enabled a new set of comfortable positions and a wide range of intermediate positions, as well as the possibility to alter your posture anytime you feel like it.
This is achieved without widening the kayak – In fact, the current W Kayak models are only 25″ wide, which is as wide as some sea kayaks are.
The key to improving comfort and performance in paddling and fishing is the new, full role played by your legs: Instead of pushing horizontally against your lower back as they do in the L kayaking position, your legs support your torso vertically – from below, in the W Kayak riding (mounted) position. This is our legs’ natural position for locomotion and other major physical efforts. For this reason the W Riding (mounted) position is not only ergonomically better (I.E. more comfortable) but it’s also better biomechanically, that is more efficient in effort terms and more effective in performance terms of power output and control level.

The four basic W positions are: Standing, Riding (Mounted) with your legs on both sides of your body, Sitting with your legs forward (similar to sitting in a canoe), and Kneeling – a position preferred by some canoeists.

For more information visit Wavewalk’s website Ergonomics section.

The Evolution of the Kayak (5)

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 3
Ergonomics: From a single, uncomfortable position to the freedom to choose from a variety of ergonomic positions


The native kayak was a ‘man’s boat’ – that is a hunters’ boat. What it practically meant was that the native hunter in his kayak had to approach prey such as swimming caribou, beached seals or certain bird species from the shortest possible range in order to effectively shoot a harpoon or an arrow at them. To remain unnoticed from the shortest range the Inuit kayaker needed to stay low above water. In fact, for whaling and long sea trips the Inuit preferred to use their bigger and stabler canoe-like Umiaks.
Since stealth was important for native kayak hunters they paddled in the low, traditional L kayaking position with their legs stretched forward. People around the world used to sit on the floor in similar postures before nearly everybody adopted special sitting furniture such as stools, benches, chairs, sofas, armchairs and other seats.

The kayak is rather unique boat in this sense since native canoes around the world usually offered additional, more comfortable and powerful positions such as sitting higher, kneeling and standing.
Interestingly, the L is not the only position that monohull kayaks offer: Some whitewater canoeists take kayaks and ‘convert’ them into ‘canoes’ just by adding a very low saddle inside their cockpit. This arrangement enables them to kneel inside on both knees in one of the traditional canoe kneeling positions, and paddle with a single-blade paddle (I.E. canoe paddle). The reason why only few paddlers ‘convert’ kayaks into ‘canoes’ is because that particular kneeling position is even less comfortable than the traditional L kayaking position, and this may be the reason why some of these canoeists call themselves ‘pain boaters’…
This leaves modern monohull kayakers with just one position to choose from, and it’s not an ergonomic one. That’s not much in terms of freedom of choice, especially when one considers the fact that in their everyday life modern kayakers are used to a variety of seats and sitting positions that do not include the L position.


Seats and foot rests (a.k.a. ‘foot braces’) have altered the L position without improving much: The backrest prevents the kayaker’s torso from ‘falling’ backwards but it makes it slide down and forward. In order to counter affect this problem modern kayaks offer support for the kayaker’s feet: By anchoring their feet in those small depressions or ‘braces’ kayakers can stop their bodies from sliding down and forward.
However, the combined backrest and footrest system created a new problem, which is constant pressure on the kayaker’s lower back. This pressure is generated by the kayaker’s own legs pushing against both footrests and backrest like a powerful spring. The negative physiological impact of this pressure is felt as fatigue, discomfort in the legs and back pain. The problem is amplified by the kayaker’s inability to switch to other positions. Some kayak seats offer a rigid support for the kayaker’s back and other kayak seats offer heavily cushioned support, but four decades of experimentation proved the L position to be an ergonomic dead end.


Our legs have the most powerful muscles in our body and they are naturally best fit to do the hard work involved in locomotion and balance. The L kayaking position prevents paddlers from using their legs effectively for balancing, controlling and propelling their kayaks. Therefore, the kayaker’s back, abdomen, shoulders and arms must do considerable extra work. This effort distribution is insensible from a biomechanical standpoint, which means you’re spending energy for nothing and get tired more quickly while your kayak delivers less performance than you need.


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


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

Children Kayak Touring and Fishing

Children normally find it harder to paddle and navigate than most adults do since they have less power and less developed motoric and spatial skills than adults have.
Kayak Touring is usually associated with the use of long and narrow traditional sit-in kayaks called Touring Kayaks or Sea Kayaks.
Paddling those kayaks requires either exceptional paddling skills or the use of a rudder (or both) for tracking, and it also requires the ability to roll the kayak in case it needs to be outfitted with a spray skirt.
These factors largely prevent children from using traditional touring kayaks and limits them to using wide, open cockpit sit-in or SOT kayaks known as ‘recreational’ kayaks that track poorly unless paddled with a rudder, which in its turn both impedes them as well as complicates things for them.
Therefore, it is quite rare to see children taking part in kayak trips in their own kayaks. The more common solution is using tandem kayaks, or canoes, but most kids love their independence and since they ride their bikes alone from an early age in most cases they expect to paddle their own kayak too, or at least prefer to do so.

The W Kayak tracks better than monohull kayaks, and therefore you never need a rudder to help it track. It’s also more ergonomic for kids than monohull kayaks are since the higher W paddling position adds power to both their paddling and control efforts.

Similarly, children can be taught to participate in kayak fishing trips in their own W kayaks from an early age. The problem in such cases is to make sure that they can operate their fishing tackle safely and independently.