Tag Archive: leg numbness

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 »

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

No Back Pain

Biomechanical and Ergonomic Solutions in Kayak Design

This article defines the causes of back pain and discomfort that most people feel when paddling kayaks and fishing from them. It also explains how Wavewalk’s patented invention solves these problems, and why people who paddle these kayaks and fish out of them feel neither back pain nor any other discomfort after long hours, including people with various disabilities, back problems and excess weight, as well as elderly people.

CONTENT

  1. Defining the problem
  2. What causes the problem
  3. Search in the right direction
  4. Engineering the optimal solution
  5. The riding posture
  6. The benefits of super stability
  7. Casting and fighting fish
  8. The cockpit 

 

 

 

1. Defining The Problem

Have you ever fished out of a kayak? If you did, you’ve probably noticed that something is wrong… Simply put, you weren’t feeling comfortable, and you may even experienced pain in your back and legs, and after some time, all you could wish for was to get out of that kayak as soon as possible, even if the fish were biting…

The problem you’ve experienced is simple, and sooner or later anyone who paddles kayaks and fishes from them faces it: Spending long hours
paddling and fishing in or on top of an ordinary kayak, whether it’s a sit-in, hybrid or sit-on-top (SOT) inevitably causes some circulation problems and leg numbness, occasional cramps, pain in your lower back, and often fatigue and discomfort in your shoulders and neck.
In fact, kayaking is so closely associated with back pain that kayakers commonly appear in TV ads for back painkillers and pain relief patches.

After you begin seeking information about your problem and advice on ways to solve it, you realize that the only thing that really works is paddling back to shore, standing up, and performing the exercises that physiotherapists recommend for kayakers.
In other words, there is no gear that you can outfit your ordinary kayak with that can provide an effective and long lasting solution to any of these symptoms, because they occur as a result of you being seated in the L position – the traditional sitting position in kayaks,
with your legs stretched in front of you while pushing your back against your seat’s backrest.

 

2. What Causes this Problem?

Being Seated In The Traditional, L Kayaking Position

The problem is caused by a combination of two things:

1.   Being seated in a non ergonomic position to start with, and
2.   Being unable to switch to other positions and release the stress that builds up in the critical pressure points in your body, especially in your legs and lower back.

Have you ever asked yourself why is it that the traditional, L kayaking position is used only in ordinary kayaks and in no other land, snow or water equipment?  The answer is that it’s because although the L position is the worst for you it’s simply the only one that ordinary kayaks can offer.

Double Trouble: The Combined Effect of Horizontal and Vertical Pressure on Your Lower Back:

L kayaking positionFigure 1.  Horizontal Pressure

Figure 1 on the left shows the horizontal pressure that your legs exert on your lower back in the traditional L position used in all ordinary kayaks including both sit-in (SIK) and sit-on-top (SOT).

The pressure points in the lower back region can cause irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve (sciatica) felt as pain traveling from the lower region of your back down across your lower thigh.
Foot braces and other support for your feet actually increase the horizontal pressure that your legs exert on your lower back.
The back support and foot braces may hold you in your torso in place and prevent you from falling backwards or slipping downward, but they also limit your freedom of movement, increase pressure on your lower back, cause leg numbness and cramps and result in increased fatigue.

Native people of the Arctic circle who were the first to make and paddle kayaks used neither back rests nor foot braces simply because they were accustomed since infancy to sitting on the floor with their legs stretched forward, unlike us modern Westerners who lose this ability in early childhood when we learn to sit on chairs.

L Kayaking Position 2

Figure 2.  Vertical Pressure (Weight)

Figure 2 on the left shows the heavy vertical
pressure (weight) applied on the lower part of your spine when you’re seated in the traditional L kayaking position.

The same sensitive area in your spine that’s pressurized horizontally by your legs pushing on it is being pressurized even more by the combined weight of your torso and thighs, that is nearly all your body weight.
Your legs are prevented from supporting your body weight in this position.

In addition, sitting in the L position without being able to change your body position increases your fatigue and discomfort, and reduces both performance and fun.
Cushioning your seat doesn’t really solve any of these problems since all it can do is spread the pressure from a single point to a wider
area, but the combined pressure is still there and it keeps working on your lower back all the time. Sooner or later you feel very
uncomfortable, and sometime it’s too late since you’ve already been injured.
Kayaking in the L position with no adequate support for either back or feet is not a sensible solution for modern anglers and paddlers who have to spend hours kayaking and fishing from this low and uncomfortable position.

Food for thought:

If you had to perform some hard work or other physical activity in any position of your choice, would you even consider doing it sitting with your legs stretched forward like this?
Do you fish or do you know anybody who fishes seated in this position from shore or from any other type of fishing boat?
-The answer is: No.

 

 

More food for thought:

 

Airplane coach seats are fairly comfortable – certainly more than regular kayak seats, but why is it that after some time most people feel uneasy sitting in them?  The answer is that the limited space makes it difficult for you to change positions, which leads to the buildup of discomfort and fatigue to a point where many people feel they must stand up and stretch, and those who can afford it promise themselves to fly first class next time – if only for the extra legroom.

Not all damages are felt immediately.
Sometimes it takes years for the damage to accumulate, and by then it might be too late to fix it.  This is true for back and shoulder problems.

Read more about kayaking back pain and leg numbness »

3. Search in the Right Direction

What do cross-country motorbikes, mountain bikes, horses, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and personal watercraft (PWC) have in common? It’s the fact that their user operates them in the Riding Position.
And what do skiing, surfing, water skiing, dog sledding, snowboarding, windsurfing, skating and skateboarding have in common? -The Standing Position.
This is simply because the Riding and Standing positions are the best for you in both ergonomic and biomechanic terms, which means they offer best control and more power, and result in less fatigue and injuries.
When we need to make long efforts during motion we have more available power and better control standing or sitting with our legs lower than our upper body (biomechanical advantage), and we also feel more comfortable and less tired this way (ergonomic advantage).

4. Engineering the Optimal Solution

Freedom to Choose = Less Fatigue = Enhanced Comfort =  More Fun + Healthier Paddling and Fishing

Only the W kayak solution departs radically from the L position and offers a new, comprehensive and effective approach to all ergonomic and biomechanical issues in paddling and paddle fishing.
The new, patented W Kayak re-distributes buoyancy from the boat’s longitudinal axis all the way to its two sides, and thus offers maximal support to the user’s balancing, control, steering, propulsion and fishing efforts.
The central part of the W Kayak, its ‘backbone’, which joins the two hulls, is shaped like a long, 14″ high saddle.
W kayakers can move back and forth along the saddle, according to their need (e.g. tandem, surfing, paddling in strong wind, launching, etc.). They can also switch anytime between numerous ergonomic positions, as shown below:

 

5. Riding (Mounted)

The Natural Position

Riding is the most stable, comfortable and powerful paddling position, and it offers best control over your boat and the most leverage on
your paddle.
In the Riding position your thighs, legs and feet are positioned directly below your body and take active part in all your efforts: Balancing, Control and Paddling.
Riding is the best position for beginning W Kayakers. It is also the best position in whitewater and surfing applications.

W Kayaking -Riding Position

Note that your legs support your upper body from both sides, and your feet are in a direct vertical line below your body.

 

 

 

 

 

paddling a fishing kayak - top view For Fishing: Riding is the preferred position, rivaling only with standing. When you cast riding you have more power than when casting in the sitting position.
Riding a W Kayak is similar to mounting a pony:
Your upper body rests on the saddle and your thighs hold its sides, while each foot rests firmly on the bottom of a hull, as it would in a stirrup.
This position is similar to the riding position used in other high performance vehicles such All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), Snowmobiles, and Jet Skis.

Watch this slow-motion demo video of the Riding position:

 

 

Sitting

Leisure Positions

Sitting means having your legs positioned in front of your body.

Sitting positions are less stable and powerful than Riding, and not recommended for beginning W Kayakers, or for paddling in moving water. The sitting positions are good for relaxing on flat water.

Adding a back rest (lumbar support) is not necessary in the W kayak, and few W kayakers choose to outfit their boat with such an accessory.

W Kayaking -Sitting Position - regular

Variations:

1. Regular sitting, which is similar to sitting in a canoe
2. Sitting with both legs stretched forward
3. Mixed: one leg in the regular position and the other stretched forward

Standing

 

The Stand Up Kayak – For Real

Unfortunately, stand up paddling is often described as a feature offered by many kayaks and stand up paddle boards out there, but nothing could be further from the truth – In fact, when it comes to normal paddlers and anglers, who are neither lightweight nor extremely athletic, only W kayaks offer the possibility to paddle and fish standing up in comfort and confidence, and only W kayaks offer a critical safety feature in the form of a 14″ high saddle to fall on, in case you lose balance.

To understand what standing up in a kayak really means from all aspects, including ergonomics, safety, stability and balance, go to this website’s Stand Up Paddling and Fishing section »

You can paddle on both sides of the boat or just on one side- in parallel and with a J stroke.

After some practicing you can try to paddle standing in moving water and in the surf.

6. Super Stability

Nothing Compares

Stability is key to comfort and good ergonomics. The patented W Kayak offers unmatched stability trough a unique combination of three factors:

  1. The boat’s buoyancy is sensibly distributed along its sides, instead of being wasted along its central, longitudinal axis.
  2. The passengers make natural use of their legs and feet to balance themselves by shifting their weight sideways, from one leg to another, and  they apply this weight directly to the bottom of the hulls – below waterline, thus creating an effect of ‘dynamic ballast’.
  • The immersed profiles of the boat’s twin hulls act as multiple ‘Hard Chines’, thus offering maximal lateral resistance, and unmatched initial (primary) stability.

The effect of hard chines on kayak stabilityW Fishing Kayak – Front View

The W500 hulls at a 200 lb load.
Learn More About Kayak Stability »

Watch our demo movies »

 

 

 

7. Casting and Fighting Fish

The W Kayak offers you the ability to throw to longer distances, which presents two advantages:

1.   Being able to cover more water from a stationary position before you need to move  your kayak
2.   Some fish species can sense the presence of your kayak nearby and therefore are better caught from a distance.

For more information visit our website’s Shallow Water Fishing section »

When fighting powerful fish you want to be in full control of your
kayak, and the W kayak offers you all the means for it. Read More »

 

 

8. The Cockpit – A Place To Be In, And Work In

Your kayak’s cockpit has other functions besides protecting you and offering you optimal comfort.  It is also a workplace in which you store your gear and handle it. In W kayaks all the gear you need is within arm’s reach, and there’s no chance of it going overboard since in case it slips out of your hand it would end at the bottom of one of the hulls, where it’s easy for you to find and reach it.

Can I outfit the W kayak cockpit with a seat on top of its saddle?

Most W kayakers don’t add anything to their W kayak’s saddle, because they find it perfectly comfortable.
Some people cover the saddle with a blanket or a thin foam mattress.
Adding a kayak seat to the W kayak saddle is easy, but virtually no one does it. We know of a couple W anglers who outfitted their W kayaks with lightweight swivel chairs, and a couple more who added a DIY reclining back rest because of scoliosis problems.
In fact, you can simply drop a plastic chair or a lawn chair in the cockpit, as seen here in this image, but hardly no one does it, simply because the W saddle offers the best comfort.

Lawn chair added to the cockpit of a fly fishing kayakRead more about what it’s like to fish from a lawn chair in your W kayak’s cockpit »

 

 

 

 

 

More reading

 

Children kayak fishing User Manual: Launching, paddling, fishing, recovery

My Wavewalk 500, by Steve Lucas

I live in Southeastern Florida, close to the Everglades, and I fish both freshwater and saltwater.
I have been buying and flipping a lot of different boats in my endless search for a car top, light weight, shallow draft, stand up fishing, flats poling, gas motoring, electric motoring, great paddling, straight tracking, comfortable, gear packing, easy launching, rugged fishing boat that I don’t have to worry about scratching gel coat at ramps and Everglades launch sites.
I knew this was a lot to ask from one vessel but I am nothing if not stubborn.
I kept looking and looking and recently got a WaveWalk W500 Kayak. I am not done testing or learning about this boat but I think I may be able to check off the box that says “all of the above”.

First test

I took the W500 over to Chokoloskee for a test paddle I was well pleased with the boat’s paddling, tracking, car topping, comfort and stand up fishing capabilities.
The W500 is not a “barge”. It tracks extremely well and moves quickly through the water. You can put a really powerful stroke on this boat using a long shaft paddle.
There’s a learning curve to paddling a W500. You “ride” this boat as opposed to sitting in it. You can stand up and feel very stable doing so anytime you feel the urge.
This boat is only 29 inches wide. It’s the same width as my [15.5 ft long touring kayak].

I’m nowhere near done messing around or rigging/configging the W.

In my opinion the W 500 is not a kayak, canoe or catamaran. It’s a horse of a different color. I really, really like this boat so far.  It’s also a dream to carry and lift. I just tip it up, walk under it and let it fall on my shoulders.
Weight is relative. All my boats have been near to 100 pounds. Most of the fishing kayaks that they’re selling now are near to 100 pounds, and therefore 60 pounds for me is very lightweight.
So the W 500 lets me stand more easily at about half the weight of the barges.
I’m not fully versed on the W paddling yet but from what I’ve done so far I’m impressed with the tracking and speed.

The storage on the W is huge but it’s a different kind of storage space. You just need to rethink how you stow stuff. I carried my 8 foot stake out pole in the bottom of the hull all day and never stepped on it.
It’s going to be fun to rig this boat because you can get to every area like a canoe.

Laying down to rest on the W saddle when the rods are in rod holders is a no brainer. It’s something you can do in a W500 that you probably would have a hard time doing in any other paddle craft. You can lay down at will, completely horizontal with no problem. There’s no gear or seat to move out of the way – just lay down. I’ll be watching the next meteor shower stretched out under the stars I think.
You can also easily use the W 500 and not get your feet wet at all, or your butt or your legs or your crotch.

When I got back the launch I figured I try dis-embarking without using the ramp. I stood up and got out on the floating dock. I grabbed the boat and dragged it up on the floating dock without any effort at all. Then I took it one step further and dragged the boat onto the marina from the floating dock. It was easy as pie. No bull. Drag over possibilities with a W 500 are numerous.

Another thing you can do in a W 500 is move forward or backward to lift or drop the bow. It lets get up on obstructions or anything else quite easily. You can’t do that in a regular SOT. I can’t wait to plow into some skinny and just move backwards to get off the flat without ski poling.

I was really surprised at how well the W paddled. I was looking at some video I took while heading in to the launch and I noticed that the W has a lot more glide than my [fast 15 ft long kayak]. This is from a dead stop. Watch the bow of the boat when I drop the paddle and pick up the fishing pole.


Note that I’m 230 lbs.

 

Chokoloskee-park-fishing-kayak

rigged-fishing-kayak-chokoloskee-park

rigged-fishing-kayak-chokoloskee-park (2)

small-draft-for-shallow-water

View of the bottom of the hull – small draft

 

view-from-fishing-kayak-cokpit

 

30-inch-snook

30-inch-snook-in-the-kayak's-cockpit

30 inch snook

docked

my-kayak-on-the-deck

scenic-view-of-the-park

scenic-view-of-the-park (2)

sitting-sideways

sunshine-on-the-water

view-from-the-cockpit

 

More testing

I took the W 500 down to Flamingo to test out paddling seated and standing on the flats. I am really impressed with the way the W paddles. I was going to try poling but it’s so easy to stand and use the paddle that I’ll save that for another trip.

I did some fishing but mostly I wanted to get into some currents and paddle the flats. I really enjoyed the comfort of the W as well. Not being stuck in the L position and being able to stand at will was such a pleasure.

bow-with-two-rod-holders

jack-crevalle-in-hand

scenic-view-of-the-water

stake-out-pole-in-the-water

unhooking-a-fish

 

Speed

I met up with a fishing buddy at Flamingo. We launched early and paddled out to Snake Bight. The skeeters were nowhere to be found and sorry to say so were the fish. We got a couple of hits and jumps from small Snook and Tarpon but nothing boated.
The day wasn’t a total loss because I got to stand and paddle the flats in complete comfort. The W500 is a true flats machine.
It was fun seeing my buddy Pete again and getting out on the water. The weather was very nice early on but we could see the clouds getting fluffy as we were heading back to the marina. I hit three or four storms on the road back to civilization… if you can call it that.

My fishing buddy paddled alongside me in the boat and I thank him for his first hand opinion. I asked him to paddle at a normal pace in his [16 ft long and 27″ wide, fast kayak] to see if I could keep up with him. Of course his kayak is a faster boat but I was able to stay with him. That’s the true test… not racing but paddling normally with a buddy.
I guess the twin hull cat design is the reason the W boat paddles so well although it isn’t even 12 feet long.

W500-kayak-next-to-16ft-long-kayak

beautiful-sunset-on-the-lake

inside-the-cockpit-01

view-of-the-water-and-mangroves

Night fishing

I wound up paddling the W 500 a lot and got to test her in some strong currents and a bit of occasional wind. So far the W has been a dream to fish from and paddle. If any of you ever get a chance to paddle one do yourself a favor and hop in the saddle.

beached-at-the-ramp-at-night

kayak-on-the-beach-01 (2)

kayak-on-the-beach-01

rainbow-on-the-water-between-two-rod-holders

trout-boated

 

About Wavewalk’s marketing…

Before I got my W500 I looked at everything I could find on the internet concerning the W500. I waded through tons of [verbal trash] posted by people who had never tried a W500, and I read all the marketing from WaveWalk. The two things that convinced me that the boat was a great flats fishing design were the videos and talking to Yoav.
Some of the videos are over the top but they don’t lie. The W500 can do everything that you “see” for yourself in the videos.

The bottom line is…

I really like the W 500. The comfort factor is a giant plus for me. I have no back, butt or leg pain after a trip in the boat. The ability to stand or even just sitting higher on the water is a huge advantage.

Steve Lucas (I Fishhead)

Florida

More from Steve »

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.