I recently purchased the Wavewalk boat for paddling. The Wavewalk is actually a very small catamaran, designed to allow one to paddle while standing up with one foot in each hull, as well as while sitting, with either a canoe or kayak paddle. It’s designer calls it a “W” boat; I describe it as a “catayakanoe.”
For comparison purposes, you should know I am 6’3″, 220 pounds. I mess about in boats year round thanks to the mostly mild South Mississippi winter. I have circulation problems, and also a history of occasional low back pain. In consequence, while I love small paddle boats, until now every one I’ve owned and/or tried (quite a few) has presented me with serious drawbacks to their use and enjoyment. Sea kayaks cause my legs to fall asleep, thus rendering graceful exits not only impossible but occasionally highly embarrassing. Recreational kayaks’ large cockpits, while facilitating entry, exit, and leg movement, are at risk of swamping in the Mississippi Sound where I normally paddle, as are canoes. Sit on top kayaks are wet, and due to their high center of gravity typically have shallow seats which are even less comfortable than those of a sea kayak. All the aforementioned boats also create issues for my lower back after a few hours of paddling.
The W boat has effectively addressed all these problems. Within 5 minutes of taking delivery I was able to launch it at the local ramp and enter dry shod in my office clothing. A half hour of paddling later I exited the same way without even a damp, far less wet, rear end to show for it.My second trip I tried paddling standing up. After ten minutes of careful experimentation I was paddling around in 1 foot waves and 10 mph winds with no problem.
Since then I have had the boat out several times in 20 mph winds and 2.5 foot waves, albeit seated, without taking any water either head on to the waves, or traversing them laterally. Entering the local harbor with its flat protected water I have been able to paddle standing with no issues.
Paddling standing feels remarkably natural, and while the ability to do it is not why I bought the boat, it has been a revelation. There is a qualitative difference to paddling standing, perhaps due to evolution having designed us to take in and process the world from a vertical position. Beyond any qualitative difference the higher standing perspective is also useful to pick out channels, spot fish, retrieve snagged lures from low hanging branches, or simply to see over the marsh grass. Equally important the standing position furnishes a welcome break for one’s muscles and circulation.
The ability to stand also allows one to simply step in and out of the boat without wading in many situations. In the interest of objectivity I must note, however, that one will have to wade if confronted with a shallow shelving beach. Steep banks, boat ramps, finger piers and the like allow one to remain absolutely dry while embarking and disembarking.
The high seat and split hulls so far have kept waves from entering the cockpit.I have now been out without shipping a drop in waves I know would have swamped my 9′ Critter SIK, and which would have been problematic in my 14′ [brand name] SIK.
The same high seat which raises one about 14 inches higher than one’s seat in a SIK necessarily increases one’s torso’s windage. Fortunately, the Wavewalk’s seat is actually a long center bench, almost five feet in length. By sliding fore and aft one can effectively eliminate the boat’s tendency to weathercock due to windage on almost every course. Thus, the Wavewalk is actually less affected by wind than a lower profile SIK, at least one – like the Wavewalk, that has neither skeg nor rudder.
The ability to slide fore and aft also allows one to access the storage in the four (4) hull tips while under way. This was for all practical purposes impossible in any of my other kayaks and canoes. It also allows one to lift the boat’s bow to take on waves, or to facilitate landing and exiting with dry shoes by raising the bow to slide ashore a little distance before grounding
I do not have a GPS, but the boat feels fast for its size. I have been unable to compare it to other paddle craft because – being late November – there are none. This alone is a testament to the Wavewalk’s user friendliness.
I waited a long time to purchase the boat due to its differentness, the lack of dealers where I could try it out, and a few unfavorable reviews (very much the exception) out there on the web. Having used it a few times now I think the few unfavorable reviews resulted from the reviewers’ lack of familiarity with the boat. Paddling the Wavewalk feels very different from a normal yak, in some ways more like riding a horse or bicycle. In this connection the manufacturer calls one’s normal paddling posture the “riding” position, a very apt description. Additionally, one leans into turns, not out as in a traditional hull, and the more experienced one is as a paddler, the more off-putting this feels when one initially experiences it. As one grows accustomed to the boat and its stability characteristics it all starts to feel natural and predictable.
If the boat has a drawback it is its weight. 56 pounds is a lot for a 10’6″ boat. Still, its short length makes it easier to pick up than larger boats of equal weight. Additionally, its twin hulls allow one to center oneself between them when moving it on a dolly, just like pushing or pulling a wheel barrow ( In this connection my dolly was easily modified to accomodate the Wavewalk in 30 seconds by attaching a PVC cross piece with a bungee cord). I think the extra weight is primarily due to the heavily reinforced bench seat, and is probably a good thing inasmuch as it reflects the boat’s heavy duty quality construction.
I now have no reason not to paddle, and have been out each weekend since getting the boat. I am being careful since due to the cold water I have not been able to practice reentry techniques, but the website shows that re-entry is more easily accomplished than in a standard SIK. I look forward to some less extreme weather to try out the boat in “normal” ocean conditions.
No boat is perfect, and the Wavewalk, as a forerunner of what will hopefully be a fleet of progressively refined and specialized designs, may be capable of improvement. I wonder for example whether an inch or two more width in the hulls would not increase stability and decrease draft, and whether a few inches of rocker would decrease resistance. The answer is I don’t know, and that any design change is a compromise with costs as well as benefits. What I do know is that the Wavewalk has made a great improvement to the quality of my boating life, and – as described above – has a number of unique, useful, and enjoyable attributes. Try it, but be careful, you may just find you have to have one.
If you are on the Mississippi Gulf coast and would like to try mine out, shoot me an email at jeremydeisler@gmail . I’ll be happy to take you paddling.