Tag Archive: kayak ergonomics

Paddling and fishing in Kachemak bay, Alaska

By Pat Irwin

Homer, Alaska

I’m working my way up to a longer trip so the only pics I have right now are random photos around the bay in front of my house. The salmon are running (spawning) right now so my focus is to fill the freezer for winter.

This pic is from a rainy fishing day. The W500 pointing toward Grewingk Glacier and the Harding Ice Field.

BTW, the 500 is helping my MS by allowing me to stay even more fit than if I use my bicycle only. This boat is great!

Grewingk Glacier and the Harding Ice Field viewed from the kayak 1024

 

More paddling and fishing with Pat in Alaska »

 

For me it is the Wavewalk or nothing

By John Sealy

North Carolina

Not long ago I bought a W500. The 500 lived up to its billing. I could get in it with dry feet, I could paddle upright without back pain, and it was more stable than any canoe or kayak I’d ever been in. What a great “platform” for fishing and touring.
The Wavewalk 700 is everything the 500 is, and more.

I took the W700 out last week for my first trip and was amazed at how stable it was. The W700 is such a pleasure to paddle, easy to get into, easy to launch, and so incredibly stable. So I really put it to the test….my wife Kathy wanted to give it a try. Kathy is 60 yoa and hasn’t been on the water in 20 years. See the video of my wife coming to shore and getting out of my W700 for the first time. She’s now picked out a yellow one so it was an expensive test!

 

 

I’m 63 yoa and am no lightweight. I now have a kayak I can paddle with confidence. In the W500 or the W700 I can stand up!, move forward or back, lean forward or back, and change leg position.
I simply can’t use other kayaks or canoes due to my lower back issues and my size. For me it is the Wavewalk or nothing.

I’ve got fishing and exploring to do. I look forward to having my wife enjoy the water with me and to have grand children explore and fish with me in the 700 or alongside in their own 500.

See the pictures of me getting into and out of the W700:

Launching the Wavewalk 700

1-kayak-launching-stepping-into-the-kayak

1. Just step in

2-kayak-launching-entering-the-cockpit

2. Walk to the middle of the cockpit

3-kayak-launching-sitting-down

3. Sit down comfortably, with nothing pushing against your lower back…

4-kayak-launching-pushing-the-kayak-in

4. Push the kayak in with your paddle, and start paddling

big-guy-paddling-standing-in-his-W700-fishing-kayak-NC

Paddle sitting or standing, it’s easy even for a big guy like me

Beaching the Wavewalk 700

beaching-the-kayak-sit-in-the-back-and-raise-the-bow

1. Slide backward to the rear end of the cockpit – the bow goes up! Paddle directly to the beach…

beaching-the-kayak-slide-the-bow-up-the-bank

2. A few paddle strokes and a push, and the kayak’s bow slides up the bank

beaching-the-kayak-stand-up-easily

3. Get up (it’s easy!), stand up, and wave to your fans…

beaching-the-kayak-walk-out-effortlessly

4. Just walk out of the kayak. Feet always dry!

More from John »


More W700 reviews »

Are Sea Kayaks Seaworthy?

This article examines issues related to the seaworthiness of kayaks in general, including fishing kayaks, and of sea kayaks in particular, and it discusses an alternative approach to sea kayak seaworthiness based on the new W Kayak concept, and on micronautics – the art and science of designing watercraft that are small and lightweight enough to be affected by the size and movements of one passenger.
The reader is encouraged to watch online videos demonstrating performance of 11 ft long W500 kayaks.
The subjects discussed here include launching, going over and through incoming waves, going over lateral waves and playing with them, surfing and paddling standing at sea, and tracking in strong wind.

1. Sea kayaking – Past and Present

…safe on the sea is an oxymoron” Wayne Horodowich, University of Sea Kayaking

Well said!

Touring and sea kayaking were the two first kayaking applications outside the traditional use of kayaks by native people of the arctic zone. Nevertheless, after many decades these activities are still practiced by a small minority of kayakers whose number has been declining in recent years while recreational kayaking has become widely popular and dominates the kayaking scene in terms of participation and number of boats sold.
sea kayaks are faster than recreational kayaks, and paddling in the open ocean and in the surf is certainly more exciting and challenging than ‘recreational’ paddling. Also, younger generations are naturally attracted to speed and more exciting outdoor sports, so why is the number of sea kayakers small and decreasing?
Polyethylene sea kayaks are not much more expensive than the better recreational kayaks, and are for the most part equivalent in performance to FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastics) sea kayaks, so we’ll rule cost as a valid explanation.
It seems that in order to answer this question we’ll have to first determine what’s a ‘sea kayak’ vs. ‘recreational kayak’: A sea kayak is a long, narrow, traditional sit-in kayak (SIK) in which the paddler sits while being protected by a spray skirt, while a recreational kayak is either a SIK or a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak that’s wider (up to 42″ wide) and stabler, where the passengers are not protected by spray skirts.  Modern, commercial sea kayaks differ from the native kayaks by the fact they are all equipped with seats and foot braces, and in many cases rudders too.
Since recreational kayaks are slower than sea kayaks they also have a more limited range of operation, and since they offer little or no protection to their passengers they are generally limited to more warm and flat waters.
For these reasons many sea kayakers view sea kayaks as being seaworthy boats, and in fact some sea kayakers have crossed oceans in them. However this fact is by no means an indicator of seaworthiness since people have crossed oceans in a variety of contraptions including floating skis, sailboards etc.  Similarly, the world record for the longest unicycle trip is 9,136 miles but we doubt this fact would inspire anybody to switch from bicycles to unicycles…
But are sea kayaks really seaworthy, and if indeed they are why do the overwhelming majority of kayakers prefer recreational kayaks? If sea kayaks were indeed seaworthy shouldn’t we expect most kayakers, or at least a bigger number of kayakers to adopt sea kayaking as an outdoor sports activity?
Apparently, the vast majority of kayakers do not perceive the narrow sea kayak to be seaworthy although it offers superior speed and is constantly advertised as being the true and ultimate kayak.  Sea kayakers are likely to find this incomprehensible, but to most people the idea of being trapped in a narrow and unstable boat that offers the ‘Eskimo Roll’ as an only safety option is perceived as similar to being handcuffed to a motorcycle that has no breaks: It’s an equivalent to a death trap. Interestingly, the number of people who practice board surfing is many times bigger that the number of surf kayakers, which is extremely small. This means that under similar conditions surfers prefer a board to a kayak that requires both a spray skirt and a helmet.

Are the majority of kayakers right about this? Is the saying ‘Vox Populi Vox Dei’ valid in this case?  This article will attempt to examine the seaworthiness of sea kayaks from a number of angles.

2. Seaworthiness and Capsizing

For us the definition of a seaworthy kayak includes being “Forgiving of the most egregious paddling and judgmental errors.” John Winters, ‘The Seaworthy Kayak’

Indeed, this is a most seaworthy definition!

Look outside the kayaking world and ask yourself the following question:
-“What type of small sea vessel needs to be seaworthy?”
There can be a number of answers starting from sailing crafts to inflatable rescue boats, but all these examples would have one thing in common: their stability, and more specifically – lateral stability.
Why?  -Simply because all boats are narrower than they are long, and therefore small boats are particularly narrow, that is highly unstable and prone to capsize. The ways to deal with this problem are multiple, from weighted keels in sailing boats to very wide beams in traditional ‘cats’, rescue boats and some big canoes, but these solutions are not applicable in kayaks.
Kayaks belong to a group of watercraft that are just a little wider than their passengers, and weigh even less than them.  We like to call the field of nautical design of such very small boats ‘micronautics’.

Ask naval designers if they would consider a boat that’s prone to capsize as being seaworthy and you can be sure to get a categorical ‘no’ as an answer. Those of them who will remember the existence of those little boats called kayaks might add -“Well, maybe if you’re an experienced sea kayaker then a sea kayak could be seaworthy for you, to some extent”

Sea kayaks are faster than most paddle crafts and speed is a good thing in terms of seaworthiness: Slow kayaks that are hard to paddle expose their users to fatigue and could make it difficult or in some cases even impossible for them reach to their destination under unfavorable weather and/or water conditions.
But the sea kayak is a singularity in the micronautical world since it is the only seafaring boat that offers less lateral stability than what is required to maintain balance without constant, active intervention from the passenger/s.
This puts the sea kayak in an extreme position – that of offering little or no static (form) means to prevent capsizing.  In practical terms it is a watercraft designed to capsize.
sea kayakers might find this definition somehow harsh, and point to the fact that sea kayaks are designed to be rolled and not to be capsized.  The problem with this argument is that rolling is not a prevention strategy but a recovery strategy.  In safety terms sea kayaks simply don’t offer considerable means of prevention other than their passengers’ skill in balancing the boat, and therefore are seen as unsafe – a term that’s is commonly perceived as the equivalent of ‘not seaworthy’.
In response to this sea kayakers and sea kayak designers may point to the origins of the ‘Eskimo Roll’ as the native arctic people’s solution for the safety issue, and therefore as a ‘natural’ and acceptable one.  We find this argument to be weak for a number of reasons:

1. Although kayak designs are at least hundreds and possibly thousands of years old, it seems like some of the original kayakers had their own doubts about the usefulness of the ‘Eskimo Roll’ as the primary or optimal measure of seaworthiness and preferred to exercise more caution by relying on form stability.  While kayaks in Central and Western Canada were used mainly in rivers, lakes, estuaries and generally in protected waters, Eastern Canada kayaks which were designed to be used in the ocean were wider and stabler, up to 82 cm (32″) in width:

“The Inuit of Baffin Island, northern Quebec and Labrador used kayaks that were more or less flat-bottomed and relatively wide, characteristics that contribute to stability. With high, rising prows that helped to override the waves, these relatively heavy kayaks were well adapted to their primary function: hunting waterfowl and sea mammals in the open sea.”
‘Native Watercraft in Canada” – The website of The Canadian Museum of Civilization

2. The Labrador Inuit people used long sea kayaks with a 23″ beam, which should have made them easy to roll. However, these skilled sea kayakers chose not to rely on the Eskimo Roll:

“These huge kayaks were up to 24ft. long and had a beam of 23 in. They were never rolled by their occupants, and in the event of a capsize the paddler would need assistance from a companion in order to get back into this boat”
-Derek Hutchinson ‘The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking’ (1995.. Old Saybrook, Conn.: The Globe Pequot Press, Inc., p.166).

3. Native peoples’ kayaks were never equipped with a seat while all present-day sea kayaks are. This makes the latter both less stable and more difficult to roll than native kayaks.  On top of this, the average contemporary North American sea kayaker is significantly taller and heavier than the average native arctic kayaker was, a fact that further reduces the sea kayak’s safety from both stability and rolling perspectives.

4. For the vast majority of modern paddlers the Eskimo roll is impossible to practice and therefore not a safe option.  In fact, even seasoned sea kayakers can ‘miss their roll’, especially in emergency situations:  It’s one thing to roll your kayak in a pool with nose plugs on and the water around you perfectly still, and quite another thing to roll it in the surf after you’ve been slammed by a breaking wave and hit the bottom with your head  There are countless accounts of experienced sea kayakers who occasionally ‘missed their roll’, which indicates that the common perception of the Eskimo roll as being unreliable is anchored in reality.

5. Over the years sea kayakers and sea kayak designers have developed a ‘sea kayaking philosophy’ that seems to have turned things around: The highly undesirable situation in which you are trapped inside a narrow and unstable boat that you can’t even hold straight without keeping your paddle in the water has become justified by the glorification of an extreme, dangerous and unreliable recovery technique that requires endless, tedious practicing that wouldn’t even guarantee results in real life conditions.

6. A common sea kayaking myth links native kayaks to long journeys at sea, but it appears most native kayakers used their kayaks for short trips and only the Greenlanders used their kayaks fro long coastal summer expeditions:

For long trips the umiak, and more recently the whaleboat, are used“.
Hawkes, E.W. 1916. The Labrador Eskimo. Canada, Department of Mines, Geological Survey, No. 14, Anthropological Series, pp.71-73.

The other type of aboriginal boat, the kayak, was used by the men for short trips and for hunting“.
Taylor, Garth.  Labrador Eskimo Settlements of the Early Contact Period. Publications in Ethnology. No.9. Ottawa: National Museum of Man.  1974. pp. 39-40.

We conclude from these data that most native kayakers were well aware of their kayaks’ limited seaworthiness. The exception of the Greenlanders can be explained simply by the fact that extreme climatic conditions forced these people to stretch the use of their kayaks and rely more heavily on them.

A sea kayak’s seaworthiness is entirely dependent on the paddler.”  –
We found this sentence and similar ones in a number of sea kayaking websites.
It seems to summarize the situation where kayaks that are not seaworthy naval or common standards have become synonym to seaworthiness, so much that they are called as a group ‘sea kayaks’
Is it any wonder that sea kayaking has not grown to be a widely popular sport and has been continuously receding in recent years while recreational paddling in stable kayaks is popular and still increasing in popularity?
Unfortunately, some sea kayakers don’t perceive people who paddle other types of kayaks (e.g. recreational, SOT, W) as ‘real kayakers’ since they don’t roll their boats. These sea kayakers erroneously identify rolling with kayaking and vice versa.  Unfortunately, so far such attitude seems to have resulted in further alienation of the broad public from sea kayaking.

3. Seaworthiness from a sea kayaker’s perspective

In the first part of this article we examined the question of sea kayak seaworthiness from a general perspective of safety, as viewed by the overwhelming majority of boat designers, boaters and paddlers. In this section we’ll examine the seaworthiness of the sea kayak from its own cockpit, in performance terms, and while comparing with solutions offered by the new W Kayak concept:

Pitching
“…Because the pitching inertia varies as the square of the distance from the center of rotation … tremendous forces are involved and their reduction is advantageous.” -John Winters, ‘The Seaworthy Kayak’

Pitching is the vertical rotation of the boat around its center of gravity (CG). Pitching causes significant increase in residual resistance (Rr), especially when the kayak goes through waves – The longer the kayak the greater the loss of energy because of pitching.
All mono-hull kayaks are constrained by the need to place the paddler in a fixed position in the center part of the hull’s longitudinal axis.  This puts a strict limitation on the kayaker’s ability to control his boat’s pitching.  However this constraint is nonexistent in W kayaks where the kayaker is free to travel forward and backward along the longitudinal saddle inside the cockpit and thus distribute his/her weight ad hoc where it is likely to be more needed in a proactive manner.  For example, when facing waves coming from the direction of the bow it is highly advantageous to place yourself at the back of the cockpit and thus lift the bow. This would not only be helpful for riding up the wave instead of smashing right into it, but also in reducing the impact and loss of momentum when descending on its other side.

Rocker

Rocker is a must in monohull sea kayaks since without it the boat won’t turn well. But rocker also decreases the monohull sea kayak’s ability to track, and therefore its potential speed and by that its seaworthiness since speed is a good thing to have in terms of seaworthiness.
Both tracking and maneuverability are desirable in terms of seaworthiness, and the unwanted tradeoff between them is typical of monohull kayaks only:
W kayaks can turn effectively by having the W kayaker lean into the turn, which means That W hulls don’t necessarily need not be curved vertically to offer rocker. This, among other reasons enables W kayaks to perform the impossible in terms of monohull kayaks, which is to both track and turn very well and without requiring a rudder, which is a considerable source of drag and added complexity in operation.

Primary and Secondary Stability

Monohull sea kayaks are designed for speed and for rolling.  These two requirements make them very narrow below and above waterline, and therefore lacking in both primary and secondary stability.  There is no way a monohull kayak can be fast if it is wide.
The first production W kayak (a.k.a. W300 series) was 25″ wide, and each of its hulls has a waterline beam (WB) of 6″ when the boat is loaded with 200 lb.
The W500, which is the second generation of W kayaks is 29″ wide, and each of its hulls is 8″ wide.
Most kayakers are impressed with this W kayak’s unmatched primary and secondary stability, which allow for a 200 lb man to stand up in it as well as jump up and down and from one leg to another (see demo videos).

Tracking and Rudders

Monohull kayaks, including sea-kayaks track extremely poorly in currents and under strong wing, a factor that gravely reduces their seaworthiness. For this reason, nearly all sea kayaks come outfitted with rudders or skegs, which help their users track at a price of additional, unwanted drag that slows them down.

Wavewalk’s twin-hull kayaks are different since they require to be outfitted with neither rudders nor skegs. A W kayak can track better in strong wind thanks to its two thin, parallel hulls, and the fact that their user can easily relocate the kayak’s center of gravity (CG) for and aft along the saddle, thus determining whether the kayak would point into the wind or away from it, and by how much.

 

Storage

Part of the storage problem …has always been hatches.” -John Winters, ‘The Seaworthy Kayak’

Adding weight above the boat’s center of gravity (CG) is undesirable, especially if this weight has no means of its to balance itself… This is why the optimal storage solution should offer the possibility to store things as low as possible.  Since a monohull sea kayak must have some rocker the bottom of its front and back hatches will inevitably above the hull’s lowest point, which is in its middle section…
On top of this, sea kayaks generally offer a very limited storage space so that sea kayakers often find themselves obliged to attach gear on top of their boats. This is bad for stability and not particularly good for the gear itself.
W kayaks don’t present these problems since their hulls can have a straight bottom and even an eleven feet long Wavewalk™ 500 Kayak offers far more protected storage space than the biggest ‘expedition’ sea kayak does.

And last but not least, hatches are prone to let water in not only when the kayak is overturned but also in wavy sea, when water flows over the deck.  This is not just a storage problem but can also quickly become one of speed and maintaining proper control over the boat.

‘Narrow beam vs. wide beam’ or ‘speed vs. stability’

Does this mean that narrow boats are more seaworthy than wide boats? Absolutely not. So long as the boat can be heeled to present a favourable attitude to the waves the adverse effects of beam can be offset.” -John Winters, The Seaworthy Kayak

Unfortunately, most of us don’t look like we would have wanted to look, and most monohull sea kayaks are not 18″ wide as sea kayakers would have liked them to be for speed sake.  In fact, most sea kayaks are wider simply because even for experienced and dedicated sea kayakers the narrowest monohulls are too unstable for practical purposes.

Since speed is relevant to seaworthiness we would like to refer the reader to another article on this website, which discusses speed factors and particularly the effect of the beam on total resistance (drag): http://www.wavewalk.com/COMPARISON.html

To make a long story short, stability is desirable in sea kayaks as in all other boats – big or small.  The problem with monohull designs is that they can’t be made both stable and fast since one has to come on account of the other.
This constraint of speed vs. stability is nonexistent in catamaran (twinhull) designs, and since W Kayaks have twin hulls they can be made to be both very stable and very fast.
This has two implications:
1.    sea kayakers who are willing to give up their reliance on the Eskimo roll for a very stable kayak would be able to do so without having to give up the speed that is so dear to them.
2.    More important is the fact recreational kayakers wanting to go on longer trips and paddle faster without giving up the higher stability they are used to could do so and paddle W sea kayaks that are as fast as ordinary (monohull) sea kayaks and offer a higher level of stability than recreational kayaks do.

Kayak Seaworthiness and Comfort

Sitting with stretched legs feels comfortable for a little while but cramps are sure to follow if you cannot get good circulation.” ‘Choosing a Sea Kayak’, Article by Vaclav Stejskal

Seaworthiness and comfort are two terms which are closely linked. An uncomfortable sea kayak is dangerous as its paddler might develop fatigue, leg numbness, cramps and back pains that could put him in jeopardy and create a severe problem for other paddlers in the group.
The reason why present-day kayaks are equipped with seats and foot braces is because unlike native kayakers, present-day kayakers are unable to sit and paddle in the L position without support for their backs and feet.  These support elements known as ‘seat’ or ‘lumbar support’ and ‘foot braces’ or ‘foot rests’ are the source of various ergonomic problems that directly affect safety and therefore are strongly related to seaworthiness.
sea kayaks are particularly narrow and offer no way for the passengers to change or even modify their sitting position in case a problem develops while paddling. Consequently, the overall seaworthiness of present day sea kayaks is being further reduced.
These poor ergonomics typical to monohull sea kayaks are in contrast with the ergonomic solution offered by W Kayaks, which includes a number of interchangeable comfortable positions.

Kayaking biomechanics and ergonomics are discussed in detail in another article on this website.

Paddles and the Bio-mechanics of Kayaking

Some sea kayakers erroneously believe that shorter paddles offer a better bio-mechanical solution and therefore the longer, 9 ft paddle commonly used in W Kayaks are less ergonomic.  Since this issue relates to propulsion efficiency and fatigue it belongs to this article’s subject.
These people’s error is double:

1.    The paddling positions in W Kayaks offers more leverage on the paddle, which makes it easier to use a longer paddle i.e. to move the paddle faster. A longer paddle enables applying longer strokes aft while making a better use of the W Kayaker’s own weight, and thus minimize effort. See demo movies »

2.   The original, native kayakers themselves sometime used very long paddles, as the following quotes teach us:

The Labrador paddle (pau’tik), is double-bladed, like the Greenland type. It is quite long – 10 to 12 feet…
Hawkes, E.W. 1916. ‘The Labrador Eskimo’. Canada, Department of Mines, Geological Survey, No. 14, Anthropological Series, pp.71-73.

…paddles in Baffin Island could reach 110 inches” -Chuck Holst ‘Making a West Greenland Paddle’

REFERENCES

Reviews of the W Kayak

The Canadian Museum of Civilization: http://www.civilization.ca/aborig/watercraft/wak01eng.html

Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador Kayaking Club: The Inuit Kayak

‘The Seaworthy Kayak’, article by John Winters.

‘Making a West Greenland Paddle’ Article by Chuck Hols.

‘Greenland Style Paddle Building’ Article by George Ellis.

Speed Fundamentals, the Twinhull Advantages and the Principles of the W Kayak Concept:
http://www.wavewalk.com/COMPARISON.html

Biomechanical and Ergonomic Solutions in Modern Kayaking

W Kayaking in Strong Wind

A Wet Ride – Problem Overview and New Solutions

Getting Trapped In A kayak

Kayak Stability Factors

How Much Gear Can You Store Inside a W Fishing Kayak?

KAYAK TOURING

KAYAK TOURING

Must-read kayak review: Paddling 340 Miles in a W500 Kayak, By Clint Harlan, Missouri »

Fishing is the most popular application among people who use Wavewalk™ kayaks. These people need kayaks that are particularly stable and comfortable, and would enable them to go on lengthy trips in the quest for fish, and spend long hours in their kayaks without suffering from any sort of pain, discomfort or wetness, while moving swiftly from one fishing hole to another in the same fishery, or between different fisheries. Such trips often take place in less than favorable weather and water conditions, such as under wind, which is why these paddlers appreciate their Wavewalks’ unrivaled tracking capability. Needless to say that such anglers take plenty of fishing gear on board, and some take camping gear as well, and they love their W kayaks because it offers more storage space than any kayak out there.
The same basic requirements apply to kayak touring, which makes the Wavewalk™ particularly appealing as a long-distance touring kayak, a.k.a.  expedition kayak.

Things To Know And Consider When Choosing A Touring Kayak

The purpose of this article is to explain the basic terms and facts related to kayak touring in order to enable the reader to make informed decisions when choosing a touring kayak.

Kayak touring is a recreational paddling activity involving one or more kayakers going on medium to long range trips on freshwater and/or at sea. Kayak touring usually does not include traveling in whitewater, fishing and hunting, but it is sometimes combined with camping, bird watching and photography.
A touring kayak is a kayak designed for one or two kayakers (tandem) going on kayak touring trips.  In the range of kayak speeds touring kayaks offer average to high speed.

1. A Brief History Of Kayak Touring

1.1    The Origins Of kayak Touring
Native peoples of the Arctic Circle used kayaks for touring expeditions for hundreds and possibly thousands of years before kayak touring became a recreational activity sometime around the beginning of the twentieth century. Their custom sit-in kayaks were hand crafted, and already had the basic design of modern days touring kayaks except for the fact they featured no kayak seat, rudder or hatches that were introduced only in recent decades. Some of the native kayaks were narrow and designed to be easily rolled in case of capsize, and others were wide enough to offer sufficient stability for a native kayaker. It is important to note that native kayakers were considerably lighter as well as shorter than the average, modern North American paddler. On top of this, native kayakers practiced kayaking for long hours since early childhood and were in most cases more athletic and in better physical shape than the average North American touring kayaker. Such differences in stature, weight and skills have a critical effect on essential issues from safety to comfort, recovery, speed, tracking and maneuvering etc.

1.2    The Beginning Of The Kayak Touring Era
Canoeing became popular among settlers in North America, who adopted various native canoe designs for touring the continent’s waterways as well as for transportation of people and goods. Kayaks remained unused because canoes had the advantage of having a greater load capacity and were easier to paddle with a crew of two or more passengers. Sometime after the middle of the nineteenth century trains, motorized boats and later trucks and cars made canoes obsolete for utility touring, but at the same time people began to have more free time and disposable income, and began paddling canoes instead or rowing boats as a popular recreational, outdoor activity.  Kayaks were accepted as mainstream recreational paddle crafts starting in the sixties, as the new American society became increasingly centered on the individual. For this matter, the kayak had the advantage of being easier to handle and propel by a single passenger than a canoe is. It is then that the traditional sit-in kayak design was hybridized with the paddle board and the first commercial sit-on-top (SOT) kayak came to this world (1). Gradually, with the evolution of the consumer society it became fashionable to own a touring kayak, similarly to owning other individual recreational equipment such as a pair of name brand skis, a set of golf clubs or the latest model of fancy bicycle.

1.3    The Roaring Nineties

This trend reached its peak during the second half of the 1990s, as the soaring stock market coupled with the boom in Information Technology markets made it easy for urban professionals to buy increasingly expensive recreational sporting gear. It is during that period that expensive touring kayaks hand made from new, fiber reinforced plastics (FRP) became fashionable, and many small and medium size touring kayak manufacturing businesses thrived. This trend was equally fueled by the natural tendency that people have to compare the gear they’re using, and to assume that the more expensive the kayak the better it is.  It is in this brief half decade that many kayak touring clubs were founded and many paddle shops got into the business of selling touring kayaks.

1.4    Kayak Touring Today

Things have taken a downward course around the 2001 depression, and a new era in kayak touring has begun. Some called the beginning of this new trend the ‘Touring Kayak Meltdown’, and it reflected a number of developments – The first being a considerable drop in sales of expensive touring kayaks and at the same time a rise in sales of low-cost recreational kayaks. The second is a decline in participation in kayak touring activities such as club tours, and a rise in recreational kayaking activities including rentals, non organized short trips and kayak fishing. The difference between the trend setting kayaks in the nineties and the trendy kayaks today is not only in price and materials (rotationally molded polyethylene being the most popular material today), but also in the basic design concepts. The typical touring kayak used to be a very long, very stiff (I.E. brittle) and very narrow sit-in kayak. These attributes served the purpose of enabling higher speed and practicing the Eskimo Roll. In comparison, today’s typical touring kayak is shorter, wider and roto-molded I.E. not as rigid as an FRP (‘composite’) kayak, and it’s as likely to be a sit-on-top as it is to be a sit-in kayak.  As for the sit-in concept, most of these modern kayaks are very wide and not used with a spray skirt since they are not intended to be rolled.

2. Categories Of Kayak Touring

Expedition – Many miles and several days or more. This type of kayak touring is the most demanding from both kayak and kayaker.  The kayak needs to be solidly built and gig enough to store the gear and provisions required for a long trip. Because of its size a weight it should be stable enough to minimize the need for rolling.
·    Sea Kayaking – Kayaking on very large bodies of water (E.G. Great Lakes, Ocean) in a group of at least two kayakers. Typically, sea kayaking trips are not longer than one day.  The sea kayak is required to be fast enough for its user to keep in pace with the other kayakers in the group. As for the actual seaworthiness of such boats, the reader is welcome to read the article ‘Are Sea Kayaks Seaworthy?
·    Tripping – Long journey, mainly on rivers and lakes. The tripping kayak is required to be strong enough to withstand the hardships of going down rapids, multiple beaching on rocky shores etc. It also has to offer sufficient load capacity for gear and provisions.
·    Touring – General term for recreational paddling through longer distances, usually in groups and sometime for more than one day. Touring is often combined with other recreational activities such as camping, photography, bird watching etc.  Touring kayaks include a broad range of designs that are generally faster than whitewater, surfing and recreational kayaks and slower than racing kayaks.
·    Day Touring – Leisure kayaking for trips shorter than one day.
·    Recreational Touring – Leisure paddling limited to short trips in both time and distance terms.

3. The Touring Kayak Design

The touring kayak has to fulfill a number of sometime contradictory requirements of which the two essential ones are safety and comfort. Next come speed and maneuverability, which are important as well but not critical. Load capacity and storage come last and their importance is reduced if the kayak model is designed for shorter trips and calmer waters, as most touring kayaks are nowadays.

3.1    Safety

This is obviously the most critical requirement, and it is a complex, multidimensional one.
The first thing that comes to mind when discussing kayak safety is the ability of the kayak to protect its passenger from dangers including drowning, injury, exhaustion, hypothermia etc.
For example-
A kayak with too little free board might eventually fail to prevent water from getting inside the cockpit. In extreme cases the extra weight might impede and even sink the boat, and in cold water and weather it could cause the passenger severe discomfort, exhaustion and even death as a result of hypothermia.
A kayak that’s too narrow to offer sufficient lateral stability to its passenger is prone to being overturned by external forces such as waves, boat wakes etc., or as a result of an accidental error made by the passenger in a moment of inattention.
The paddling community is divided between the traditional, small and diminishing minority of those who see the Eskimo Roll as the ultimate recovery method and an already overwhelming and growing majority of those who prefer to paddle wider, more stable boats than increase the risk of capsizing by paddling narrow ones.
A kayak that does not offer sufficient legroom and good ergonomics will cause its passenger to suffer from discomfort, fatigue and sometime exhaustion. Such kayaks often cause cramps in the legs and thighs, leg numbness and back pain that could lead to serious boating accidents. In the long run uncomfortable kayaks might cause lasting back injuries.
A kayak designed for high speed and therefore made from very lightweight and rigid materials such as carbon fiber is also more brittle than a kayak molded from polyethylene, and might develop cracks when hitting rocks or ice.  Needless to say, that a cracked hull in cold water can be fatal. Unfortunately for passengers of such kayaks, the colder the temperature the more fragile the hull becomes.
These examples show how the requirement for additional speed might reduce both the kayak’s mobility and safety.
In this context it is appropriate to stress that designs and techniques that were perfectly acceptable and useful for native kayakers are no longer practical for most modern non-professional kayakers – including those who think otherwise.

3.2    Ergonomics and Biomechanics

These subjects are already discussed in depth in another article called ‘Biomechanical and Ergonomic Solutions To Modern Kayaking’ (Article).
In essence, when choosing a touring kayak it is useful to remember the following points:
You are going to spend many hours at a time in this kayak, and what may seem comfortable to you in the first fifteen minutes of paddling might turn to be a nuisance and sometime a source of pain after an hour or two, and it may even cause back injuries over longer periods of time.

3.3    The Kayak Seat
This is a modern-days accessory that native kayaks did not feature. Kayak manufacturers introduced it as a support for the kayaker’s back in order to prevent it from ‘falling’ backwards as a result of sitting in a position that’s not appropriate for people who are no longer used to sitting on the floor, that is nearly all of us Westerners.
But the seat has not solved the ergonomic problem at its root- it just changed the symptoms: Now the supporting structure itself I.E. the seat’s backrest created a pressure point in the kayaker’s lower back, and while generous cushioning may dissipate to a certain level and postpone the discomfort it certainly does not eliminate it.
In fact, the kayak seat created a second problem, which is the lack of sufficient support for the kayaker’s feet: Instead of the back ‘falling’ backward the feet are ‘sliding’ forward, which is why they require a rigid, vertical accessory to stop them, and that’s what the foot rests or foot braces effectively do at the cost of increasing the pressure on your lower back.
And while the kayak seat has become standard in all commercial kayak models because without it hardly anyone would be able to paddle them, it has also become the Achilles Heel of the touring kayak since it merely transforms one ergonomic problem to another, and touring kayakers paddle for long hours…

3.4    The Cockpit

What’s a cockpit?  -Basically, it’s the space in the boat from where the person who controls the vessel sits or stands.
Sit-in kayaks have a small cockpit in the boat’s center, where the seat is fixed in its place. This design offers little protection from waves and spray, and enables a single sitting position with restricted legroom. If you want better protection you can cover the opening with a tight spray skirt, and by doing so you’ll be locking yourself inside the cockpit for better or for worse… with intermediary degrees of discomfort such as being seated for long hours in a puddle of water since eventually water doesn’t fail from getting inside.  You may also experience overheating in the summer and cold in winter, and acute discomfort resulting from the fact you are forced to remain seated in the one and only sitting position that’s offered to you – and it’s not even a comfortable one.
When it comes to sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, you’re not even offered a proper cockpit space to speak of but rather an area on the open deck of a craft that’s basically little more than a re-designed paddle board that’s paddled like a traditional kayak.  The (virtual) cockpit of a SOT offers you no protection at all. In fact, SOT kayaks’ cockpits have holes in them that go from their deck to the bottom of the kayak.  These ‘scupper’ holes are there to drain the water that accumulates in seat area, but as soon as the water gets a little rough they also let water go up in the other direction, wetting you and your gear…
As far as comfort goes a SOT’s cockpit may be somehow less restrictive than the cockpit of a sit-in kayak, but the essential problems remain the same, plus you’re more likely to go overboard unless you attach yourself to the deck with ‘thigh straps’, which isn’t safe even if you can roll a sit-in kayak.
The SOT’s cockpit (or lack thereof) is the reason why you would hardly see SOT touring kayaks anywhere in colder regions.
In sum, as a touring kayaker you should consider whether the cockpit of a kayak model offers you a functional space or if it is just a ‘place’ inside the boat or on its deck.

3.5    Storage Hatches

Imagine yourself paddling your new touring kayak on a big lake or some other large body of water, and the weather is getting windy and unexpectedly cooler so you’d like to wear your sweatshirt, which you stored just two feet away from you… but you’re unable to grab it because it’s in the hatch…
Then your cell phone rings and you’d like to answer the call but although your cellphone is just a couple of feet away it’s unreachable because it’s in the hatch… Then you run out of paper handkerchiefs for your running nose, and although the extra package is onboard your kayak there’s no way for you to reach it until you beach somewhere – because it’s in the hatch…
So, the rule for hatches is that they are designed for storing objects that you wouldn’t need on board.
Now that same unexpected change in the weather is generating some waves. -You paddle to shore and beach your kayak (while stepping in water) and open the hatch just to find that the sweatshirt you stored there for such cases got wet from water that got in, as well as the extra package of paper handkerchiefs and your cellphone…
Such stories are so common that some kayak outfitters would tell you that whatever you bring onboard your kayak is likely to get wet – including yourself.

3.6    The Rudder

Even your kayak dealer or outfitter is likely to tell you at some point that you should try to avoid using one…
Native kayaks had no rudders but modern kayak manufacturers noticed that most of their customers were facing difficulties in tracking and maneuvering their kayaks.
The problem with conventional (I.E. mono-hull) kayaks is that the longer they are the harder it is to maneuver them, which could be a severe problem in rough waters and weather since you may be going in a straight line but not necessarily in the direction of your choice because the wind, waves and currents would outmaneuver you…  -But the shorter the kayak the less well it tracks, which is too bad since in a short rudderless kayak you’ll find yourself zigzagging your way to your destination instead of going straight there.
So why are rudders so controversial?  -Simply because they obviously add an element of complexity and technical difficulty to the kayaking experience.  However, there is another tradeoff to consider – one that’s less apparent, which is the fact that a rudder slows your kayak down by 10% in average. In other words you have to spend 10% more time to get where you want to go, and you’re likely to work harder getting there because using a rudder requires that you overcome a new set of hydrodynamic and biomechanical problems…(2)

3.7    Additional Passengers On Board

Traditionally, touring kayaks are solo boats, and if you want to go kayak touring you need a tandem model, which is not practical for a single kayaker.
This is a less than optimal solution, and in fact it’s even inferior to solutions offered by canoes.
SOT kayaks are somehow more flexible on this issue, and in some cases the ‘guest seat’ on the deck can accommodate an additional passenger for short rides, but in such cases the kayak becomes laterally unstable and is not it’s not balanced fore and aft and therefore becomes even more difficult to paddle.
But additional passengers don’t necessarily have to be paddlers like you – They can also be small children or dogs, and it goes without saying that both their safety and comfort must be assured.

3.8    Speed

This is possibly the most discussed subject related to kayak touring yet it seems to be unclear to many kayakers.
The first issue that needs clarification is what makes a kayak go faster?
The answer is obviously the power and skill of the kayaker, plus the design of the kayak itself that enables the kayaker to use these resources efficiently.  Since kayakers differ greatly in physical attributes such as height, weight and strength as well as in their specific paddling skills and touring style a kayak that’s fast for one paddler may be slow for another, and vice versa in some cases or even as a general rule.
For example, a very narrow and long sea kayak may enable a kayaker to go faster on flat water than a shorter and wider kayak would, but it could be difficult to control in moving water such as rapids and surf, and therefore force the kayaker to go slower or even give up paddling it in such waters.
The classic example used by both kayak designers and outfitters is a very long and therefore potentially fast kayak that requires more power from its paddler because its increased length inevitably increases its surface area and thus also the frictional drag it generates when moving in the water…
Since the kayak is a passive object without a motor or sail of its own its speed depends its hydrodynamic qualities but possibly even more on its ergonomic and biomechanical design, or simply on what its physical impact on the paddler is.
Therefore, when choosing a touring kayak it would be beneficial for you to consider speed not necessarily as the first and foremost parameter but as yet another feature that comes at a certain price that you may or may not want to pay. You should take into consideration what type of kayak touring you’re likely to practice, and who are going to be your paddling partners. Obviously, if you intend to paddle together with kayakers who paddle fast you’d better paddle a fast kayak – but only if you’re a good kayaker yourself.  Otherwise, if like most touring kayakers you’re planning just to spend time kayaking alone or in the company or others who share the same mindset without rushing anywhere you should put speed in a much lower priority.

4.    The Kayak Touring Experience

4.1    Comfort

After reading about the safety requirements it’s easier to understand why comfort should be a critical requirement from your touring kayak.
Comfort is a multidimensional issue as well, which pertains to ergonomics (mainly minimizing fatigue), biomechanics (mainly efficiency of paddling and injury reduction) and easing the operation of the boat (just ‘Keep It Simple S…’)
In previous sections of this article we discussed some comfort issues in a safety context, but comfort is also important in itself since it’s the number one factor that’s likely to determine the overall quality of your kayak touring experience, and thus will determine if you’ll be satisfied with your kayak choice and possibly even whether you’ll stick with kayak touring as a preferred outdoor activity.

4.2    Mobility: Launching, Beaching Etc.

Both launching and beaching go to the kayak’s performance in terms of mobility, which is at the core of kayak touring: A good touring kayak should offer you the ability to launch from more places and get back to land whenever you want.
Many people find it difficult to enter a sit-in kayak, and they don’t appreciate the elaborate maneuvers required to perform what should be a simple thing. Obviously, the same thing goes for beaching your kayak and exiting it…
This is not just a matter of basic convenience but also one that has safety implications, especially if your kayak is made from one of those extra-light materials (E.G. carbon fiber reinforced plastic) that are very rigid as well as brittle. You may find that your pride and joy developed a crack in its hull because you beached it a bit too roughly, and such a discovery may occur while you’re paddling it…
So a touring kayak should be easy to get into and out of, and it should better be ‘built tough’.
Sit-on-top (SOT) and open-cockpit kayaks are much easier to enter and exit than sit-in kayaks, and this is one of the reasons that make them more popular than sit-in models. However, what makes such kayaks easier to enter and exit is what eventually will offer you less protection from the elements…

4.3 Stand Up Paddling

Back in 2004, when Wavewalk offered the first generation of kayaks enabling stand up paddling in full confidence, some pundits of the kayak touring world scoffed, and others ignored us. Today, after the market for stand up paddling (SUP) on paddle boards has become much more popular than kayak touring, the Wavewalk™ kayak is till the only one to offer all people regardless of their physical fitness both kayaking and stand-up paddling in full confidence and comfort. W paddlers enjoy both a relaxing change of paddling positions, as well as a new way to look at the world around us, and enjoy it.

5. Summary – What’s Important To Remember

The kind of kayak touring you practice may be different from someone else’s, but all touring kayakers are basically seeking an experience that may have to do to some extent with nature, freedom, escape, adventure, group participation, family, friends, healthy exercise and most of all – fun.
This precious, personal experience could be damaged by people who confuse kayak touring with racing, or others that have a tendency to compete in kayaking skills and knowledge, or by those who show off their latest acquisitions in expensive kayaking gear, electronic gadgets etc.
Your kayak touring experience can also be ruined by an inadequate kayak:  Regardless of price, your kayak is no good if it doesn’t contribute to your own, personal touring experience, so if anyone tells you what experience you should be after or what boat is proper for you just remember that these are personal things that you need to discover by yourself and for yourself – even if it takes a long time and possibly switching kayaks.
The type of kayak touring you like and the touring kayak you like are best for you, period. You shouldn’t let individuals who may be ‘purists’, ‘gear freaks’ and ‘tribal chieftains’ affect your personal judgment.
It is inconceivable that your choice of a touring kayak would be affected by considerations that may have been relevant to native hunters of the polar circle in the distant past.  Things have changed since then, and both your needs and capabilities are very different form theirs, as well as the number and types of kayak concepts and designs you can choose from nowadays.

6. New Approach And New Solutions For Kayak Touring

We hope this article has informed you in some way about the subject.
You are welcome to learn about the solutions offered by the W Kayak in this website’s Touring section, and watch W Kayak demo movies

(1)    Interestingly, small, personal sit-on-top board-like paddle boats were quite common around the world for millennia, of which some were paddled with dual blade paddles similar to kayak paddles E.G. in Italy, Pre-Colombian South America etc.
(2)    More information on rudders is available in the article ‘Are Sea Kayaks Seaworthy?’

Questions? Comments? Please call or email us

7. REFERENCES

Kayak Review: Paddling 340 Miles in a W500 Kayak, By Clint Harlan, Missouri

What do Wavewalk kayak owners have to say about the W Kayak?  Reviews of the W Kayak

Getting trapped in your kayak

Are sea kayaks seaworthy?

How Much Gear Can You Store Inside a W Fishing Kayak?

The Canadian Museum of Civilization: http://www.civilization.ca/aborig/watercraft/wak01eng.html

Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador Kayaking Club:
http://www.kayakers.nf.ca/sea_kayaking/labrador_kayak/inuit_kayak.html

The Seaworthy Kayak, article by John Winters.

Speed Fundamentals, the Twinhull Advantages and the Principles of the W Kayak Concept:
http://www.wavewalk.com/COMPARISON.html

Biomechanical and Ergonomic Solutions to Modern Kayaking:
http://wavewalk.com/blog/no-kayaking-and-fishing-back-pain/

A Wet Ride – Problem Overview and New Solutions

Encyclopedia MSN Encarta: Inuit http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761561130/Inuit.html

Lumbar Spine and Kayak Back Pain

The term ‘Lumbar Support’ appears frequently in discussions about kayak fishing and paddling related back pain. The underlying assumption in those discussions is that the lumbar area of your back (lumbar spine) requires adequate support, and if such support is provided your back pain will disappear, or at least become tolerable.

 

What is the Lumbar Spine?

Here is a short definition we found in a dictionary:

(lumbar)

▸ adjective: of or relating to or near the part of the back between the ribs and the hipbones (“Lumbar vertebrae”)

Lumbar_Spine_Kayak_SittingAs you can see, the lumbar spine consists of rigid vertebrae and more flexible cartilage between them. This part of the spine supports the combined weight of the upper part of the body, including the torso, head and arms, and it is normally supported by the massive structure of the hip bones below.
In other words, in its natural state, there is nothing that pushes, holds, or supports the lumbar spine from any direction except from its top and bottom, and what holds it in this normal position are the muscles around it.

 

How Did the Lumbar Spine Become a Problem for Kayak Fishermen and Paddlers?

The native people of the arctic, who originally created the first kayaks were used to sit down on the floor with their legs stretched forward, and therefore didn’t have any use for additional support for their lumbar spine. This is why native kayaks did not feature a backrest, or any other ‘lumbar support’.
When Westerners began paddling those aboriginal kayaks they noticed they had problems staying upright with their legs stretched forward, in the posture known as the L position. This is because they were not used to sitting in this position in everyday life, and the muscles in their body weren’t adjusted to it. Rather than adjusting the paddler to the kayak, designers and manufacturers decided it would be easier to try and adapt the kayak to the paddler, and introduced a combination of backrest and footrests designed to lock the kayakers in the L position, and prevent their upper body from ‘falling’ backward or sliding forward (‘slouching’).
The kayak paddler, or fisherman is effectively ‘supported’ by three rigid points anchored in the kayak: two footrests and one back rest. By continuously pushing against those three points, the kayak fisherman’s legs provide the power necessary to maintain his body in its place, and in the required posture.

 

How Does the L Posture Affect the Lumbar Spine?

Your legs have the most powerful set of muscles in your body, capable of making you run, jump and kick. When you’re locked in the L position, your legs are constantly pushing against the kayak’s footrests, as well as against your lumbar spine, which is ‘supported’ by the backrest behind it.
This strong, continuous pressure on your lumbar spine comes from an unnatural angle, that is from the backrest behind it. There is no way for you to stop it or relieve it as long as you’re in this position, which is the only one that sit-in and sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks are designed to offer.
Effectively, when you’re paddling such kayak or fishing from it, the only way for you to relieve the pressure is to get out of the kayak, stand up and stretch, walk, etc.

 

How Does it Lead to Pain, and to the ‘Yak Back’ Syndrome?

 

Getting out of the kayak in order to relieve the pressure on your lower back is not a realistic option in most cases, and this is why most kayak fishermen and paddlers keep sitting in their kayaks although they feel a growing discomfort, and eventually pain in their backs.
This pain is known as ‘Yak Back’, and most people who paddle sit-in and SOT kayaks for periods longer than an hour experience it sooner or later, to some extent.
The pain is the result of the abnormal pressure on the cartilage rings, and the contraction of the the muscles in this area as a result of the effort they have to make in order to prevent back (spine) injuries, or at least minimize them.
Try to imagine the fight between the extremely powerful legs pushing your lumbar spine against the backrest behind you, and the much less powerful muscles in your lower back that are trying to protect your spine, and prevent it from being damaged.
Luckily for you, your lower back would soon enough start to ‘scream’ that it’s being hurt, or in other words – you’re going to feel pain. This pain should tell you to stop this unhealthy struggle between your legs and your back, before your back gets seriously injured.
Ignoring the pain at any given moment would result in the aggravation of the problem, that is to more pain, and eventually to a more severe back injury that would take you a longer time to recover from.

 

How much pressure do your legs exert on your lower back (lumbar spine) in the L position?

 

We’ve measured 40 to 60 lbs in adults.
You can try and measure the pressure yourself, using a bathroom scale positioned vertically between your lower back and your kayak backrest: Have someone stand behind you and read the dial for you.
It’s bad news for your lower back, considering the pressure is constant, and you can’t avoid it.
It’s even worse news considering the fact that effectively, this pressure is applied on a few lumbar vertebrae and cartilage discs that are badly positioned to resist it in such angle.
In terms of lbs per square inch, these pressure figures would be impressive, as well as most alarming.

 

Proper Paddling Technique, Cushioned Seats, and the Reality of Back Pain and Injury

 

Kayaking and kayak fishing instructors would tell you to sit straight in order to improve your kayaking technique and perform the required rotational movements of the torso in a more efficient manner. However, you need to remember that the people who initially invented and perfected this technique or paddling styles never used a backrest in their kayaks, because they didn’t need to. Consequently, they didn’t suffer from ‘Yak Back’ – unlike you.
This is to say that perfecting your kayaking technique would not improve your lower back’s situation in any way: You will keep feeling discomfort and pain, and you’ll keep being at risk of back injuries, and even chronic damage.
The obvious reason for this is the fact that your legs will keep pushing your lumbar spine against your kayak’s backrest.

Sit-in and SOT kayak vendors would offer you to ‘upgrade’ to the latest ‘ergonomic’ seat, that’s bound to more more expensive than the last one you bought. They would praise the extra cushioning offered to your hips and lower back, and claim that such seats would get rid of your fatigue, back pain and leg numbness – once and for all.
The reality is quite different: Special kayak seats have been around for decades, and none of them has produced the desired effect of ending the Yak Back, simply because all seats have a backrest by definition, and no amount of cushioning can reduce the total amount of force that your legs use when they push that backrest against your lumbar spine.
On the contrary: The extra soft cushioning may reduce the point pressure on softer tissues in your lower back (E.G. skin), and by that somehow delay the sensation of discomfort and eventually pain in your lumbar spine and in the muscles that support it. In other words, you’ll start feeling the problem when it’s already at a more advanced stage, which is not necessarily a good thing for you, if you think about it from your a health perspective.

 

Higher Seats

In recent years, manufacturers of fishing kayaks have attempted to address the back pain problem by offering bigger and wider kayaks a.k.a. ‘barges‘ outfitted with higher seats. Their rationale was “We’d better allow the user to sit higher, and we’ll compensate them for the lost stability by making their kayak wider and thus stabler”.
But does this approach work?  – Not really, since due to their mono-hull, elliptical form, increasing the width of sit-on-top (SOT) or sit-in kayaks (SIK) has a rather limited effect on itheir stability.  Therefore, their users (especially if they’re heavy people) must compensate for some of the lost stability by working harder with their legs, which in this case of SOTs and SIKs results in them applying more horizontal pressure on their lower back, which leads to discomfort, pain, and in some cases even injuries.

 

What Your Lumbar Spine Requires When Kayak Fishing is Considered

 

Obviously, you need to avoid paddling and fishing in the L position, because it’s not merely uncomfortable, but in fact potentially harmful to your lower back, and sitting in it regularly for prolonged periods of time could lead to back injuries and chronic back pain.
Having said that, what would be the ideal fishing kayak for you? -One that would offer you comfort at all times, and the ability to take care of your sore back.
In fact, such kayak does exist. It’s the patented Wavewalk™ kayak, and by patent we mean a patent for an invention (utility patent), and not just a design patent.
To begin with, W fishing kayaks feature no backrest whatsoever – similarly to all-terrain vehicles (ATV), snowmobiles, off-road motorbikes, and jet-skis. What all of those have in common is the fact that when you ride them it’s your own legs that support your upper body. This is good news for your lumbar spine, since it’s basically a posture equivalent to walking, or running – since no unnatural pressure points are being created.
Second, the saddle type seat that W fishing kayaks feature offers a variety of positions, including standing up, plus the ability to change between any two positions at any given moment. Thus, whatever discomfort felt in your back, or local pressure building up in any part of your body can be effectively relieved as soon as you feel it.
As a result, even paddlers and fishermen suffering from chronic and acute back problems report spending long hours in their W kayaks without feeling discomfort or pain. You can find such testimonials in a number of fishing kayak reviews, where they say that without their W kayak paddling or fishing from kayaks would be impossible for them – because of their back condition.

 

More reading

Article about ending the problem of back pain in kayaks »

Article About Pedal Drives in Fishing Kayaks »