Tag Archive: kayak fishing ergonomics

Quest for kokanee (video)

By Chris Henderson

Fishing Kayaks of Gig Harbor

Went to Clear Lake again for this week’s fishing adventure. After my success last week I was feeling very confident. It was a confidence that was misplaced. Kokanee are sometimes a big challenge to catch. The challenge is often not getting them to hit the lure but in landing them. They are incredibly athletic fighters (for their size) and they have very soft mouths. Combining the two means that you can have a day like I did. I went 1-9 on hooked up fish. The rest all came off before I could get them in the boat! I will be changing out my hooks to a different style before I go back. I did manage one kokanee and a nice 15 inch trout.
Because the Wavewalk is so easy to troll with, I was able to stay out all day and not get tired.
I still need to get some grip tape for my paddle so I am not fighting it all the time, but it is on the list!

Keep fishing!

More kayak rigging, fishing and bow duck hunting with Chris »

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 »

Things are going great with my W500, by Mike Brown

Things are going great with my W500. I’ve had it out many times on local lakes.
Fishing is a whole new experience with my Wavewalk. I’ve had no issues with car-topping, launching or navigating on the water.

I attached some pictures of a couple homemade improvements. I’m pretty pleased with the rod holder. Found that I wanted at least three rods with me on the water. Came up with a way to mount four rods without intruding upon the interior hull space or penetrating the hull for mounting brackets. What I came up with also puts rods pretty close at hand without getting in the way.

I was looking for some kind of earth toned floatation modules. These appear to be very rare. Ultimately, I did find some brown pool noodles from Tundra Industrial Thermo Polymers Ltd. in Brampton, Ontario, Canada

I’m very pleased with my W500. I rarely take it out without getting questions from other anglers. I really get looks from other kayak anglers when I stand up to cast.
I also suffer from some pretty sever lower back issues (two surgeries in the last three years). My Wavewalk lets me enjoy a kayak experience that would never have been available to me otherwise.

Mike

Virginia

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6’7″ and 280 lbs, fishing and paddling standing in my WaveWalk, by Peter Aweeky

WaveWalk 1st and 2nd impressions

1st  impression

So I have to say from the start I was very excited to discover WaveWalk. I was very close to buying an inflatable pontoon boat to fish the local electric only lakes within 50 miles of NYC where I live. I had a great purchase experience with Joe Stauder out in Pennsylvania but what I didn’t do was sea trial the craft. This was my choice as I met Joe in a mutually agreeable spot halfway across the State.
Now let me say that I am no lightweight. I’m 6’7″ and 280lbs on a good day. The center of balance on me is not quite where most people are so my maiden voyage was not as easy as most people experience. The boat seemed a bit tippy and unsettled.
The tracking was amazing and the space I had was huge compared to the [12′ brand-name fishing kayak] I came from. The W seating position was awesome and the back pains I normally experience were nonexistent.
I was able to stay on the water much longer in the WaveWalk. I was even able to stand and cast but I have to admit I had some misgivings on the maiden voyage.
One of the mods I had done to my prior Yak was inflatable pop in pontoons and a standup bar. The light bulb went on and I went home and put the pontoon setup on my WaveWalk and it transformed my boat into the standup fishing platform I wanted!

Some of the things I learned along the way were to keep everything low and the C/G as close to the waterline as possible. I scrapped the early version of a milk crate with built in rod holders for sub surface mounted ones and I also upgraded the factory noodles for bigger ones. I’m writing this so that other customers who are of the heavier persuasion are aware of what they too can expect.

2nd impression

My second trip in the WaveWalk was a totally different experience and I found myself standing and casting very comfortably and even stand up paddling. I would not have attempted that the first time. Wind, waves, shallows all easily handled and I can’t wait to get back on the water.

Here are a few pics of my craft and right now I’m working on a dolly to move it around to and from the boat launch more easily.

Thanks WaveWalk.

Peter

New York

big-and-heavy-fisherman-fishing-standing-in-kayak

 

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Norwegian outdoors magazine Villmarksliv publishes its review of the Wavewalk kayak, by Eric Overdijk

At last, the popular Norwegian outdoors magazine “Villmarksliv” published an article about the Wavewalk kayak. In order to test Wavewalk 500 they have used it over a long period of time.
They gave the W500 five points out of six, which is highest.
This is very positive.

Eric

Wavewalk 500
Stable Fishing Kayak

Fishing from a kayak can be an unstable experience, so some choose a canoe instead, where there is also better space for equipment.
Wavewalk 500 is a kind of middle ground, and an exciting alternative for those who like to fish or hunt from a kayak or canoe.
This is a catamaran where you sit on a raised platform in the middle. Thus your position is more upright than in a kayak, and you get less tired.
You can also get up to stretch your legs and stand when you’re fishing, since the design makes the Wavewalk steady enough.
It is fitted with four convenient carrying handles, which allows two people to carry the kayak in a comfortable way.
It is somewhat cramped for fishing for two adults, and this is primarily a kayak for one person or an adult and a child.
On relatively quiet water, two medium-weight adults can sit back to back to fish.

Wavewalk 500 is pretty fast to paddle.

Because there’s storage space under the deck forward, it is convenient to stick the paddle down there when it’s not not in use.
There is also a bungee cord around the cockpit and the carrying handles can be used to fasten the luggage,.
An advantage of the Wavewalk is good directional stability during paddling, and that it does not turn or drifts away quickly because of wind.
This property makes it suitable for hunting for waterfowl.
I have not tried to hunt alone, but when you’re hunting sitting you can rotate completely around the seat, an advantage for hunting flying birds.
Although the material of the boat seems a little thin, and it gives a little under load, it is sturdy enough.
+ Stable.
Directional stability.
Good sitting position.
Ability to customize for larger luggage on top but little storage inside for large-size items.
The kayak is best paddling alone, and with two people it is a compromise.
Testing Results [rating]: 5 out of 6

Norwegian-outdoors-magazine-kayak-review

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