Tag Archive: hybrid kayak

A hybrid kayak is small and relatively wide human powered watercraft, typically propelled with a dual blade paddle (‘kayak’ paddle). The word hybrid refers to canoes, as hybrid kayaks are supposed to be a crossover between canoes and kayaks. In this sense, a hybrid kayak can be described as a canoe offering little or no free board, which makes it inadequate for paddling or fishing in moving water, or in the presence of waves, eddies, etc. Being wider and heavier then most kayaks makes hybrid kayaks harder to paddle, especially in less than favorable conditions, which is why they are often described as ‘barges’ – See: http://wavewalk.com/blog/2011/04/15/the-barge-a-new-class-of-fishing-kayak/
Although some hybrid kayaks are fairly big, they are not stable enough to offer an average user to stand up and paddle (or fish) in confidence.

More is less in your fishing kayak’s cockpit – Too much stuff and too little fishability

Kayak manufacturers seem to be locked in an arms race intended to make their fishing kayaks relevant to the average angler out there. This epic struggle for market survival produces kayak designs that are increasingly dysfunctional, or lack ‘fishability‘ if we use the term that anglers commonly use.
The most obvious manifestation of this trend is the proliferation of those enormous, extra-wide, cumbersome, hard to paddle, heavy and practically impossible to carry or car top kayaks known as ‘barges’.
But it’s not just the size of those beastly yaks that makes one wonder whether they defeat the purpose of kayak fishing, nor the fact that their manufacturers tout them as being suitable for fishing standing (they’re not, unless you’re an aspiring acrobat) – It’s the fact that they’ve become overly accessorized, to a point where it’s increasingly hard for their users to fish from them.

What’s an overly accessorized fishing kayak?

An overly accessorized fishing kayak is a kayak that makes it hard for you to fish from it –
We’ve already talked about kayak rudders, and the fact that they slow down the kayak and impose on the paddler yet another activity (I.E. steering) they’d rather do without.
But one may argue that tracking in one of those heavy and extra-wide kayaks is impossible without a rudder, especially in the presence of wind and/or current, so let’s focus on the cockpit area, sometimes called the ‘deck’ in SOT and hybrid kayak models –
The kayak’s cockpit, or deck, should provide the angler with maximum range of motion and comfort, and in this sense any additional item attached in or on it is potentially counterproductive.
Furthermore, the negative effect of any additional object in such a restricted space is amplified due to the fact that it encroaches on an already diminished space.
This is yet another example of how the fundamental economics law of diminishing returns works: At some point more is less.

The foot brace – don’t put your foot in it

To begin with, the big ‘barge’ kayak’s cockpit features sophisticated foot braces that take too much room away from the user’s feet and legs. Let’s face it – being seated for a long period of time is not a pleasant thing, especially when you’re wet or partially wet and you’re stuck in the notorious L kayaking posture that causes discomfort, leg numbness and back pain. Therefor, being able to move your legs is important, and restricting the space available for your feet and legs to move works to aggravate the problem – Think traveling coach in an airliner, and the magnitude and severity of this ergonomic problem would become clearer to you, especially if you’re neither a small, skinny or young and physically fit person.

The seat of the problem

The kayak’s foot braces are paired with its seat. In the past decade, kayak manufacturers became somehow aware of the huge back pain problem that users experience when paddling and fishing while being seated in the L position, so they stuffed their kayaks’ seats with more foam and more gel, without achieving any noteworthy results: These kayaks kept being uncomfortable for normal people to use, and they kept inducing back pain and leg numbness.
Then came the new trend of higher kayak seats, and seats offering adjustable height. These larger seats are typically made from woven material stretched over a light metal frame, and their shape is reminding of some beach seats or stadium seats.
The basic idea behind this kayak seat design is to allow the user to sit a few inches higher, and by doing so alleviate some of the pressure exerted on their lower back, also known as lumbar spine.
Does this work? -Not really, and the reason has to do with the faulty ergonomic reasoning behind it: The fact that the angler sits higher yet they keep their basic position with their legs stretched in front of them makes more of a challenge for them to balance their kayak, as the boat’s center of gravity goes higher although its user isn’t given better means to stabilize it with their body.
The only thing you can do is try to stretch your legs a little more and increase muscle tension in them. This means you have to make a bigger physical effort, continuously, and therefor exert more horizontal pressure on your back, thus increasing discomfort, fatigue, and eventually pain. Problem unsolved.
The seat’s higher and wider backrest is in the way of the kayaker’s shoulders and upper arms when they paddle and cast lines. It further restricts the little range of motion they have, and further limits their ability to change positions and give their back and neck some respite.
Simply put, the L kayaking position imposed by the unstable mono-hull kayak design is not a problem, it’s a given. This is to say that it does not have a real solution – only false ones. The way to get rid of discomfort and pain when you paddle a kayak or fish from it is to ride the saddle of a stable W kayak.

More stuff that means less room and less fun for you

Another way in which kayak manufacturers manage to restrict their clients’ range of motion and ability to fish comfortably and in a way that makes sense is by sticking a variety of accessories between their legs. These items range from storage hatches to fishfinder consoles, cup holders, bottle holders, elevated rod holders, and so on.
The result is a critical absence of free space for you to handle your tackle, take care of your lines and lures, and catch fish – if and when they happen to land one in the space between your legs, right on top of the fishfinder, rod holder, or cup holder…
This attempt to simulate the design of a jet fighter’s cockpit in which everything is within the pilot’s arm’s reach is dysfunctional to the point of being pathetic, but amazingly, the problem doesn’t end here –

A standing problem

Kayak manufacturers are engaged in a verbal competition, and one of the hottest fronts in this battle is over the notion of kayak fishing standing. Kayak manufacturers have come to realize that in order to get anglers interested in their kayaks they need show that their kayaks are stable.  The best way to do is to show someone fishing standing in the kayak’s cockpit. Whether this scenario is practical for the average middle aged or elderly angler out there, or for anglers who happen to be somehow overweight, or tall, or suffer from balancing issues is a whole different story. The same problem applies to those kayaks’ stability in real-world conditions, such as when the stand-up angler loses balances for some reason, and they’re required to sit down swiftly in order to regain it…
Furthermore, who wants to stand up and fish while constantly having to pay attention to their balance and allocating considerable physical and mental resources to such task?
If you stand in a boat and fish from it, you need to be able to focus on fishing and on nothing else, and you want to enjoy fishing without a little red light blinking in the back of your head warning you to watch out and maintain your precarious balance or you’d go swimming with your tackle…
How is this related to superfluous accessories? – Well, kayak manufacturers devised yet another way to clutter the decks of their fishing kayak models, and they do it all the way by outfitting their top of the line models with lean bars –

Lean at your own risk – the lean bar

What’s a lean bar, or lean frame? It’s a large size, folding metal frame that the angler can erect in the front part of their kayak’s deck. The idea behind this device is that when the angler stands up in their mono-hull (sit-in, SOT or hybrid) kayak they feel unstable (duh!), and they would like to lean on something in order to feel less unstable.
It’s a purely psychological notion, since such bar cannot increase the actual (physical, I.E. real-world) stability that the kayak offers, because what determines that kayak’s stability are its form and size, in other words – its design.
This is to say that a lean bar may offer the angler some (potentially hazardous) illusion of stability in a best case scenario, while significantly reducing the kayak’s fishability by  adding to the already severe clutter in its cockpit.
In fact, such a large-size metal frame stuck in front of the angler is a perfect recipe for a perfect storm when one considers things that constantly move in that space, such as fishing poles, fishing lines, fishhooks, lures and bait, as well as fish – from time to time…

But wait, there’s more!

Yes, unbelievably so, kayak manufacturers found ways to stick even more stuff in front and around anglers who attempt to fish out of such barge kayaks: Among these unproductive objects are live bait tanks and live fish tanks… and even the pedals of a pedal drive that you, the angler can push or rotate with your feet, while attempting to stabilize yourself with one hand and manipulating the rudder with the other. Go figure why these tedious and simultaneous activities are being promoted as ‘hands-free fishing’…

And if you thought that’s where the ridicule stops, a closer look at ads for those humongous and rather dysfunctional fishing kayaks would reveal to you a plethora of additional objects and large-size systems offered to populate your kayak’s already crammed cockpit.
Among these things are sailing rigs that you can try to manipulate while pushing the pedals of the drive offering illusory ‘hands-free’ fishing, and wheel carts to help you drag these super-heavy barges from your vehicle to the water and back, since there is no way this could be done without such a cart.
Some over creative manufacturers offer special horizontal holders to protect your fishing rod tips from low-lying tree limbs…

Keep it simple

Observing the cockpit of one of those barge fishing kayaks can be a stupefying experience. The intense clutter in such a restricted place demands that you, the angler, possess an unlimited amount of good will coupled with impressive acrobatic skills.
But what if you have neither?
The solution is simple: Get a fishing kayak that features a real cockpit offering enough room for you to paddle and fish in full comfort and confidence, as well as enough room for you to store and handle whatever gear you want to have on board, without it becoming a nightmare.
This simple solution is exactly what the W kayak offers you. Simple is good.

How effective are outriggers for your fishing kayak’s stability?

What is an outrigger?

An outrigger is defined as a framework supporting a float extended outboard from the side of a boat for increasing stability. In kayaks, outriggers usually come in a pair mounted at the rear, so as to interfere as little as possible with the kayaker’s paddling and fishing activities.

Why are fishing kayaks required to be so stable?

A fishing kayak is required to be stabler than other kayaks for a number of reasons –

  1. The first reason is because the kayak’s operator is often busy fishing, which means they cannot pay much attention to balancing their kayak as they scout for fish, operate their fishing gear, and handle a fish they just caught.
  2. The second reason is that people who paddle sit-in, SOT or hybrid kayaks do it while being seated in the L position, with their legs stretched in front of them in a way that prevents them from being effective for balancing. This is the reason why the paddle is the principal means such paddlers have for stabilizing these kayaks, and this means that it’s easier for them to keep their balance while they’re holding their paddle and preferably using it for paddling.
  3. The third reason is that people who pedal a kayak find it even harder to balance it, as their legs activate the pedal drive from the kayak’s center line, with their feet l moving high over the deck. In this awkward position the legs are prevented from contributing even the little help in balancing that they could have contributed in a paddling mode. This makes the notion of a hands free pedal fishing kayak part of the realm of fantasy (a.k.a. hype).
  4. The fourth reason is that some people who believe sit-in and SOT manufacturers’ hype try to fish standing in or on their kayak, only to find out that in reality they don’t feel stable enough, and balancing their kayak comes at a price of a continuous effort, both in physical and mental terms, i.e. micro-adjustments and focus.
  5. The fifth reason is that some people have balancing problems resulting from a deficient sense of balance, a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS), artificial knees or hips, or simply because of old age or just because they’re big and tall.
  6. The sixth reason why people look to outfit their fishing kayak with outriggers is because when they outfit it with a powerful motor the higher speed increases the chance of accidents, which calls for improved stability.

How do outriggers work to increase a kayak’s stability?

An outrigger’s float is a buoyant object who’s much lighter than water. As such, an outrigger can resist downward pressure that’s pushing it into the water. Being attached at a considerable distance from the kayak’s longitudinal center line gives the outrigger’s float a mechanical advantage over whatever that pushes the kayak’s main hull downward on the same side, such as the kayaker’s own weight. This mechanical advantage enhances the outrigger’s effectiveness in stability terms.
I other words, the bigger the outrigger’s floats are and the further away they’re attached from the kayak’s center line, the stabler that kayak is likely to be.
In contrast, small outriggers that are attached close to the kayak’s hull, or outriggers that are part of the kayak’s hull and are deployed sideways by a lever system have a small effect on the kayak’s overall stability.

How effective are outriggers in terms of increased stability?

Small outriggers offer some initial (primary) stability, so they can have a psychological effect of diminishing the paddler’s fears and boosting their confidence. But when push comes to shove, that is in case of an accident or even a common case of lost balance, small outriggers offer too little secondary stability to prevent the kayak from seriously tilting, which is enough to dump its passengers overboard. This is especially true if the kayaker happens to be standing up or elderly, big and tall, suffering from balance disabilities etc.  – In other words, people who have a better reason to use outriggers in the first place are also more likely to lose balance and fall overboard because the outriggers they use are not big and buoyant enough. This is to say that between using small outriggers and using none, the latter option has some advantages…

Folding outriggers that are integrated into the rear end of the kayak’s hull and deployed outward by means of a lever have the same effect as small outriggers. Such kayak offers little stability when its folding outriggers are not deployed outward, and when its outriggers are in the open position the overall stability it offers is comparable to the overall stability offered by a regular wide SOT kayak with no outriggers. This means that if you have no intention of fishing standing on the deck of a big regular fishing kayak, you shouldn’t even consider a kayak that features outriggers that are integrated into its main hull, even if the manufacturer of such kayaks is seen stating in a promotional video that their product offers (quote): “the buoyancy equivalence of an 8 ft wide boat” (end quote)… BTW, the beauty of such a statement is that because it’s so obviously and ridiculously false, it probably fails to mislead anyone.

Light rigs – Outriggers built from thin, small-diameter aluminum tubes might bend or snap when exposed to strong pressure. This is especially true if the floats are big and located at a big distance from the kayak itself.
Outriggers made from thin steel rods can bend, and outriggers made from thin wooden beams can break.
Outriggers poorly attached to the kayak could get torn out of their place in case of an accident.

Can outriggers create problems in paddling and fishing?

Indeed they do, and these problems are worth consideration:

1. Extra drag

Typical outriggers are several times shorter than the kayak’s hull itself. This means that as the kayak moves, the outriggers move at speeds that are many times higher than their own hull speed (Froude number). This generates a disproportionately large amount of Residual resistance (Rr) as well as extra Frictional resistance (Fr), and the kayaker feels their combined effect as extra drag on the kayak, which makes it slower and much harder to paddle.
But this is not the end of the drag story, since the outriggers also generate their own wakes, which interact with the wake generated by the kayak’s main hull in a manner that increases turbulence and works to further increase drag. This additional unwanted effect is especially strong in outriggers that are mounted close to the kayak’s hull.
And if this wasn’t enough, outriggers also increase the kayak’s exposure to the wind, and this tends to reduce the kayak’s directional stability. In other words, it’s almost impossible to paddle a kayak outfitted with outriggers if you don’t outfit it with a rudder as well. But since rudders reduce the kayak’s speed by 10% in average, it’s possible to say that a kayak outfitted with outriggers is not one you’d like to paddle simply because paddling it would prove to be to hard for you, unless you’re out for a short trip on flat water.

2. Extra weight – problems with transporting and carrying

Let’s face it – fishing kayaks are the heaviest kayaks out there.  Many fishing kayaks weigh over 70 lbs, and the most barge-like of them weigh up to 120 lbs. Such size already makes it impossible for many anglers to car top their kayak, and forces them to transport it on a trailer, which clearly defies the purpose of kayak fishing in yet another way.
A pair of outriggers can weigh over 20 lbs, which transforms even a kayak of reasonable weight into a barge in terms of transportation and carrying it to the beach and from it back you one’s vehicle.

3. Mobility problems

Kayaks equipped with outriggers simply don’t move as well as other kayaks do. This is true for shallow water with obstacles, seaweed or grass, for rocky beaches (‘rock gardens’), and for moving water where the outriggers make the kayak harder to steer and control.

4. Fishing problems

When you fish out of any boat including a kayak, you strive to get out of your way any object that could interfere with your fishing lines, whether when you cast, reel in a fish or land it.  Outriggers are large size and intricate structures that are located close to the kayak, and as such present a constant threat to your lines – In fact, people who fish out of kayaks with outriggers are always careful to cast as far as possible from their kayak’s rear end, and since most kayaks already present typical restrictions on anglers, any additional limitations are not welcome, by definition.

What is the best type of outriggers for my fishing kayak?

Ideally, you’d want your kayak outriggers to be as long as possible, so they generate as little drag as possible when the kayak moves in the water. After all, you want to go places, which is why you got a kayak in the first place.
You also want the outriggers to be as big as possible so they have more buoyancy, and thus work better to provide the required additional lateral stability. As far as you’re concerned, outriggers are mission critical!
You want the outriggers to be attached to the middle section of the kayak, so they work to provide stability on its sides and not just in its rear, where you don’t necessarily need it – As they say: Location, location, location!
You want the outriggers to be as small as possible, so they don’t weigh too much. Kayaks are supposed to be lightweight, remember?
You want the outriggers to be attached to the kayak’s rear end, at a good distance from you, so they won’t interfere with your fishing activities… After all, fishing is what got you to buy the kayak in the first place, right?

Bottom line: There’s no such thing as ideal outriggers, which is why you need to carefully weigh the whole idea before you go forward with it.

Are outriggers even necessary with a W500 kayak?

We recommend outriggers for a W kayak being sailed, and by this we mean real sailing with a large size, powerful upwind rig (i.e. not merely a ‘kayak sail’). This is because of the considerable destabilizing lateral forces produced while sailing such a big rig in strong wind, and because we think that most recreational sailors lack the experience and skills needed to sail a W kayak under such circumstances.  Furthermore, we recommend that such outriggers be sturdy and of large size so they may provide enough support to compensate for the sailor’s lack of agility, experience, etc…

Otherwise, people who suffer from a severe balance deficiency that prevents them from sensing the kayak or reacting effectively (e.g. multiple sclerosis) should consider the benefit of adding a pair of outriggers to their W kayak.

Anglers who want to stand on top of a poling platform stretching over the cockpit of their W kayak may gain stability by adding outriggers to their setup, but they would gain more stability, convenience and safety by standing inside the cockpit, on the bottom of the kayak’s twin hulls, with their feet located below waterline – like all other stand up W kayak anglers do. The W design works better than anything else as far as stability is concerned.

When it comes to motorizing (i.e. outfitting the kayak with a powerful outboard motor), outriggers might complicate steering because of the high speed involved, meaning that an outrigger hitting a wave at 8 mph would affect both the kayak’s directional stability and its lateral stability (balance). This in itself is an unwanted effect that could have safety implications. As for outriggers that stay out of the water, their effect is limited to begin with, since they are rather ineffective for adding initial (primary) stability, and by the time they come in contact with the water and start preventing the kayak from further tilting (i.e. provide secondary stability), the kayaker may have already lost their balance and gone overboard.  Attaching large size flotation modules to the kayak’s sides seems to be a preferable solution.

Outriggers are impractical for paddling a W kayak in tandem, because the presence of the outrigger near the stern would restrict the motion of the rear paddler’s paddle.


 

The Older You Get, The More You Need A W Fishing Kayak, By Gary Rankel

Fishing here has been slow so I’ve decided to explore a few areas farther away with overnight stays.
I arranged a kayak fishing tour of an area near Tampa yesterday, and traveled down there on Tuesday checking out a few launch sites on my way. I didn’t take my W kayak with me.

While checking out a site near Bayport (about 30 miles south of me), I happened upon a fellow just returning from a morning of fishing, and loading his Wavewalk kayak into his car. I think his first name was Al but can’t recall his last name. He had a yellow W with a slick electric motor and rod holder assembly mounted in back. He recognized my name from my blog posts (see, you’ve made me famous!).

From Bayport, I proceeded down to Tampa and hooked up with the local kayak fishing guide yesterday, to explore a new area.
He supplied all the gear, and uses the [brand name of a 42″ wide, 80 lbs, hybrid kayak] kayak which is really a cross between a kayak and canoe.
So, I spent my first day in several years in a regular “L” posture kind of kayak, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, since the seat was up off the floor a few inches… I was fine during the day, stayed in a motel down there last nite, and was supposed to go out with him again today to check out another area, but when I got up this a.m. the old back was tight and aching pretty good, so I decided to cancel the second day, and come home early.
I enjoyed my day fishing down there, and plan to hook up with the guide again to learn another new area, but next time my W kayak comes with me!
Moral of the story – the older you get, the more you need a W kayak.

Gary


More kayak fishing with Gary >

A Fair-Weather Fishing Kayak


John Fabina from Milwaukee had a good laugh when he first saw ads by a well known, nationwide, catalog and online distributor of outdoor apparel and gear –
The ads were for high-end (labeled “deluxe”!…) sit-in angling kayaks, and they stated the following versions of the same information (quote):
“For outings of a few hours in calm to light winds on lakes, ponds and protected bays” and –
“For outings of a few hours in calm to light winds”

So why did John laugh about these fishing kayaks ads?…

Simply, because John has been paddling kayaks and fishing from them for many years, and he immediately understood what the advertisers really meant to say, which was:
“This kayak would make your back hurt within a short time, and sooner than later, you’d want to end your misery, and paddle back home. Besides, don’t even think to fish from it when the wind blows, or in moving water, because eddies would fill its low cockpit with water in no time, and you’d find your butt marinating in a floating pool… On top of this, you’d find it really hard to control this kayak and paddle it, because such kayaks don’t track well, and sooner or later you’d find yourself struggling to paddle back to your launching spot, pretty much at the mercy of the wind. In other words, our “deluxe” sit-in fishing yak is just a flat water craft, and essentially, a fair-weather friend – It’s not a reliable piece of gear.  And since we’re a respectable and cautious outdoor gear and apparel company, we said something about it, so don’t say we didn’t warn ya!”

And from his own experience, John knows that paddling while you’re wet and your back is sore is no fun at all, and it should be avoided.
John also knows that there’s no such thing as guaranteed fair-weather and mirror flat water doesn’t stay that flat for long, and he knows the weather has a tendency to change without consulting with kayakers, or anglers, and the wind has a nasty tendency to blow from where it comes, and not necessarily where you’d want it to go…

So why does that particular outdoor gear and apparel vendor tell its clients something about the limitations of those sit-in angling kayaks? It has to do with the terms of purchase that company offers, which include an unconditional return policy, with no questions asked. In other words, the vendor expects to have issues with unsatisfied clients wanting to return the lemons they had purchased, which is why somehow limiting the buyers’ expectations before they buy would be a reasonable measure to take.

Our article’s intention is not to criticize that particular kayak vendor, but rather the opposite (well, sort of): This vendor at least tries to warn their clients about potential issues. They don’t make blatantly false claims such as “this kayak is so stable that you can fish standing in it”, which is a common, misleading statement that both kayak manufacturers and vendors often use. This particular vendor doesn’t claim that the angling kayak they offer for sale is ‘ergonomic’, which is yet another ridiculous claim that practically all kayak manufacturers and vendors make, one way or another… Etc.

Are These “Deluxe” Fishing Kayaks Different?

No, they’re not. Those are wide, sit-in kayaks, featuring rod holders. They are no different from any other sit-in fishing kayak, and they’re not different from sit-on-top fishing kayaks, or ‘hybrid’ fishing kayaks (low canoes), in the sense that SOTs and hybrid kayaks too force their users into the notorious L posture that hurts their back, they too get their users wet as soon as there’s some wind blowing, and they also become hard to control and paddle when the wind picks up. They’re all the same, as far as sensible anglers are concerned.

Fishing Kayaks As Fair-Weather Friends

Stay away from fair-weather friends, because they’re unreliable, and they won’t be there for you when you need them. Any boat, or kayak, must be dependable, and a kayak that’s not dependable cannot properly serve sensible anglers.
We would argue that fishing kayaks are not even friendly to begin with, as far as nearly all anglers in this country are concerned, and rightfully so. Here is an article that discusses how fishing kayaks are perceived by most anglers »

The Only Fishing Kayak That’s both Friendly and Dependable:

The W is the only kayak worthy of being called a fishing kayak. This is a broad and far reaching statement, and here is some in-depth information to back it:

  1. This article explains how you can easily and effectively paddle, steer, and control your W fishing kayak in strong wind, without using a rudder »
  2. There is no need to say much about how W kayaks offer more free board, and provide more protection to their users than any other kayak out there, but here’s some information about how you can stay dry in your W kayak in waves, rain, etc »
  3. As for how long anglers use their W kayaks in single fishing trips, you can find plenty of testimonies from actual clients, in our website’s fishing kayaks reviews section » You’d find we have elderly clients who suffer from a variety of back problems and other physical limitation that spend long hours in their W kayaks, even when the weather is less than perfect  🙂
  4. ‘Ergonomics’ is a word that everyone uses, and rather loosely, but if you’re interested to know why kayaks are synonym to back pain (a.k.a. ‘yak back’), have a look at this article about fishing kayaks’ ergonomics » The article also explains why W kayaks are known as the ‘No-Back-Pain’ kayaks
  5. Stability is recognized as being a key factor when kayak fishing is concerned, and W kayaks are far more stable than other fishing kayaks, including ones that feature various stabilizers – Here’s an article discussing fishing kayaks’ stability »

Yep, that pretty much summarizes the difference between all those fair-weather yaks, and yaks for fishing in the real world, known as W kayaks: The only kayaks worthy of being called fishing kayaks, because they actually solve problems that other kayaks merely address.

The Hybrid Fishing Kayak – Facts, Hype and Plain Nonsense

Hybrid Kayak Defined

The term ‘Hybrid Kayak’ is an abbreviation of ‘Hybrid Canoe-Kayak’. It’s a type of small, typically human powered watercraft that takes from the kayak in the sense that its passengers sit in it with their legs stretched forward, and use dual blade (i.e. ‘kayak’) paddles for propulsion.
The hybrid’s canoe genes are harder to track, although it’s possible to argue that a hybrid kayak is nothing more than a small, flat canoe.
However, all hybrid kayaks are very wide, and designed to provide more stability than narrower, traditional kayaks offer. It’s likely to assume that those who design and manufacture hybrid kayaks view the canoe as a watercraft that’s stabler than common kayaks are, and the reference to canoes is therefore an implicit reference to stability.

The Hybrid Kayak – A Canoe With No Free Board

One thing that hybrid kayaks don’t have is the high free board that’s characteristic to canoes. This means that hybrid kayaks offer less protection to their passengers, be it from wind, spray or waves, and water can easily get inside their hull, even from small eddies hitting the sides of the boat.
Hybrid kayaks don’t feature scupper holes in their hulls, which means that whatever water gets inside stays inside, and will get your gear as well as yourself wet. Eventually, your hybrid kayak could become too heavy to paddle, unless you pump or scoop the water out of it.
Anyone paddling a hybrid kayak in less than perfect water conditions should be prepared to deal with a drainage problem, and for this reason it’s almost impossible to see pictures or watch videos of people paddling hybrid kayaks or fishing from them unless they’re doing it on perfectly still water.

In other words, the hybrid performs poorly in moving water as well as when the wind is blowing. It’s essentially a fair weather, flat water boat.

Paddling A Hybrid Kayak

Typically, hybrid kayaks are 32 to 42 inches wide, which makes them less comfortable for paddling than traditional, narrower kayaks. This is because the extra width limits the paddle’s range of motion , and the paddler is forced to move their paddle more horizontally.
Being very wide relatively to their length (i.e. low Length to Beam ratio – L/B) makes hybrid kayaks track poorly, much like other broad sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks.
Being typically big and heavy, the hybrid kayak is what is commonly referred to as a ‘barge’.
Hybrid kayaks track so poorly that it’s hard to paddle them, and for this reason a hybrid kayak typically comes equipped with a rudder, designed to correct its tendency to zigzag.
You will seldom find a hybrid kayak used for paddling, unless this paddling effort is done as part of a fishing trip, and preferably a short one that doesn’t require much paddling. In other words, hybrid kayaks are not suitable for paddling over long distances, including camping trips.

Inevitably, like all kayaks featuring a wide hull, hybrid kayaks lack hydrodynamic features that contribute to speed, a fact that makes them notoriously slow to paddle.

Hybrid Kayak Design Features

Hybrid kayak manufacturers seem to like carving one or more long and wide ‘tunnels’ on the bottom of their kayaks’ hulls. These ‘tunnels’ are sometime big enough to allow for calling the hull a ‘tunnel hull’, but since these tunnels ‘ceiling’ (top) is always submerged, they don’t make the hull qualify as a catamaran, or twin hull. This technical fact doesn’t prevent some vendors from claiming their hybrid kayaks feature a ‘catamaran hull’, and whether such claim is made with the intention to mislead customers, or simply based on ignorance , it is a falsehood.
A tunnel hull forces some of the water to flow straight, in parallel to the boat’s direction of motion, so it is known to improve tracking. However, and contrarily to what some hybrid kayak manufacturers advertize, a tunnel hull does not increase the boat’s stability in a meaningful way, simply because it doesn’t change the fact that most of the boat’s buoyancy remains distributed along its center line, where it can’t do much to prevent the boat from tilting when it’s off balance. This is because a hybrid kayak featuring a tunnel hull is still just a mono hull kayak, and not a twin hull ( a.k.a ‘catamaran’) kayak.

Next time you see and ad claiming that a hybrid kayak features a catamaran hull, just ask yourself if it features two distinct hulls attached to each other (i.e. twin hull), or a single hull (mono hull) with a tunnel carved on its bottom (tunnel hull).

Stability In Hybrid Kayaks

The quest for better stability is the hybrid kayak’s reason for being. It’s the only thing that justifies the existence of this relatively new type of boat, and the market where kayak stability is appreciated the most is fishing, since a fishing kayak is required to be as stable as possible, and the more stable it is, the better.
However, the additional stability offered by hybrid kayaks stems just from their being wider, and it’s not necessarily enough. In other words, the hybrid concept is more stable than the Touring kayak concept, but it’s not necessarily stable enough for fishing in real world conditions, which include fishing standing in full confidence and reasonable safety, and fishing in moving water. Sales of hybrid kayaks are often promoted through images and staged movies showing someone fishing while standing in them. Such visuals can be misleading, since standing in a kayak always means that sooner or later the person standing will lose balance for some reason, and since there isn’t enough buoyancy on the hybrid kayak’s sides, that person will fall overboard and in many cases flip the kayak. Falling overboard is the only possible reaction, since falling inside the hybrid kayak is impossible, as it is in any other kayak, except W kayaks, which are equipped with a high saddle on which the passenger can easily fall and regain their balance instantly and intuitively, and since W kayaks offer several times more buoyancy on their sides – away from the center line of their twin hull, and since the passenger standing in a W kayak have each of their feet positioned lower, at the bottom of each hull.
A tunnel hull adds a little resistance to rolling (lateral motion), but when push comes to shove, a hybrid kayak is not much stabler than a similarly broad, flat bottomed sit-in kayak. It may be more stable than a wide sit-on-top kayak just because the passenger of a SOT kayak is seated or standing on top of a deck that’s several inches above waterline, which puts their center of gravity (CG) very high without offering any means to compensate for the lost stability.

Next time to see a picture or a movie of someone fishing standing in a hybrid kayak, ask yourself a simple question: -“Does it make sense?”. Your answer is likely to be something like “This is nonsense”, and if this is the case, you’d be right.

‘Ergonomic’ – A Misused and Abused Adjective

It is an established fact that being seated in a kayak hurts your back. Practically all sit-in and SOT kayak manufacturers try to address this problem by offering seats padded with extra foam (a.k.a. ‘ergonomic’ seats). Such seats can’t do do much to solve the problem, since it originates in the L position, and the combined effect of footrests and backrest, with your own legs continuously pushing your lower back against the latter, while getting leverage from the first.
The L position is a back killer, and not the material from which the seat is made, but hybrid kayak manufacturers often outfit their product with a canvas seat resembling a beach seat, and claim it is more ‘ergonomic’ than a conventional kayak seat made from foam.
A canvas seat can’t do much to solve the back pain felt by the passenger paddling a hybrid kayak, because the passenger has to push with their legs against something in order to maintain their own balance, as well as their kayak’s balance – whether the are paddling or fishing.
The fact that such canvas seat is slightly higher than the typical kayak seat, is used by hybrid kayak manufacturers to claim that it’s less hard on the passenger’s back than the typical kayak seat is. However, such claim is not necessarily anchored in reality, since a canvas seat can elevate the kayaker’s center of gravity (CG), without offering means to compensate them for the stability lost by the extra height. Therefore, passengers of hybrid kayaks need to push stronger with their feet against the footrests, and inevitably, with their back against the seat. Pushing harder while sitting higher leads to back pain and other problems that are similar to those that other kayakers experience in regular sit-in and SOT kayaks.
The bottom line is that you can’t create better ergonomic solutions to a problem without having the means enabling you to adopt a truly different approach to it, and if a different approach is not physically possible, the new solution offered may seem different, but it won’t be better.

Motorizing Hybrid Kayaks

The hybrid kayak is a barge. Period. However, since it’s stabler than narrower mono-hull kayak designs, some people use it for fishing, and among these anglers there are some who outfit their hybrid yak with electric trolling motors. This is not a bad idea in itself, except that it makes the already heavy and cumbersome kayak heavier and more cumbersome, to a point where car topping it is no more possible, and transporting it to the launching beach becomes very is hard. This effectively turns the motorized hybrid fishing kayak into a small, slow motorboat that offers far less comfort and protection than a dinghy or a small skiff, and being a small boat, it demands transportation on a trailer, and launching from a boat ramp. In other words, it loses the comparative advantage that kayaks have compared to bigger boats, which is their light weight, relative ease of transportation, and more places to launch from.

If you happen to drive a motorized hybrid kayak too fast, or through waves and even just eddies, you’ll get sprayed from the bow and the sides, and water would get inside your kayak’s cockpit.

More about motorized fishing kayaks >>

Pedal Driven Hybrid Kayaks

Pedal drives for kayak propulsion are hyped as much as hybrid kayaks are, if not more. Without getting into details, pedal drives for kayaks are not the panacea, and they exacerbate the basic ergonomic problems that are typical too all kayaks paddled in the L position. There are basically two types of pedal drives for kayaks: one featuring push pedals and flapping ‘wings’, and the other featuring rotating pedals and a rotational propeller. All we can say here is that the latter is not as bad as the first, and these complex technical issues are discussed in depth in another article, dedicated entirely to the subject of pedal driven kayaks.

The Hybrid Fishing Kayak – Bottom Line

Hybrid fishing kayaks are suitable for fishing trips that are short in distance, and of short duration, on flat water, in fair weather, and when no wind is blowing. They are suitable neither for stand up paddling nor for stand up fishing.

Typically, hybrid kayaks are used in ponds and small lakes, or on slow moving rivers. The hybrid fishing kayak is a barge to paddle, and although it is possible to outfit it a trolling motor, doing so results in some non-negligible problems.

The hybrid fishing kayak offers no solution to the yack back problem that’s typical to other kayaks in which passengers are not properly seated, i.e. must paddle and fish with their legs stretched in front of them, in the infamous L position.