Wavewalk is the world leader in motorized kayaks in terms of stability, load capacity, seaworthiness, speed, versatility, mobility, comfort, and more. This article answers the question “What are the advantages of motorized kayaks over non-motorized ones?”
1. Motorizing is easier than paddling
Not everyone can paddle their kayak over long distances, or in less than perfect conditions. Some kayakers suffer from disabilities, and others are elderly or not physically fit. Assisted paddling, namely paddling while an electric motor provides your kayak with additional propulsive power makes things easier, be it in strong wind, fast currents, or waves, as well as on flat water. When you motorize, you save your own energy, and you’re more comfortable.
2. Having a motor is safer than depending solely on paddling
A human powered kayak is an under powered vessel, by definition. In a sustained mode, an average adult paddler can produce between one tenth of a horsepower and one quarter of a horsepower, and this is very little, even in comparison to weak electric motors. In case you’re too tired to paddle back to your starting point, or due to unfavorable changes in water or weather conditions, being able to propel your kayak with a motor can be a critical factor that could save your trip, and even your life – A motorized kayak is safer than a non-motorized one.
3. A motor greatly increases your range of travel
Simply, having an extra source of power on board allows you to go further, since you can paddle to your destination, and motorize on the way back. So, whether you’re on a touring, fishing or on a photography trip, the motor allows you to cover more water, explore, and go to more places.
4. A motor allows you to take a bigger payload on board – cargo and/or passengers
You may want to take a passenger on board, or load your kayak with heavy camping gear, but this additional weight could make it too hard for you to paddle. In such case, a motor could make the difference.
5. Motors work well for trolling
You can paddle your kayak and fish at the same time, namely engage in trolling, but an electric trolling motor or a small outboard gas motor can do a better job than your paddle.
6. Driving a motorized kayak is fun!
Driving a motorized kayak can be fun too, especially if it’s a Wavewalk that’s outfitted with a powerful outboard motor. And driving standing, which is an option that all Wavewalk models offer, is even more fun – It’s comparable to skiing, except you’re going on water and not on snow, and it’s also comparable to water skiing, except for the fact that you’re free to go anywhere you want, including in choppy water and in waves, and you don’t depend on a powerboat to tow you.
7. A motor can get you to places that you otherwise couldn’t access
A Wavewalk outfitted with a mud motor (surface drive) can go where other boats can’t, and even where human powered kayaks can’t, such as mud flats, fast streams, etc.
8. Driving saves time
An S4 Wavewalk kayak outfitted with a powerful outboard motor can go at speeds approaching 20 mph, for as long as you want. This is more than five times the speed that a strong kayaker in a fast kayak (that is not a typical fishing kayak) can sustain for a limited amount of time, on flat water. In other words, a motor kayak can get you much faster to where you want to go, and back.
9. Motor boating is cool, and speed is exciting
Not everyone likes paddling, and not everyone thinks it’s cool. You may want to take someone on board your kayak, be it a child, your wife, an elderly parent, a fishing buddy, etc., and find that kayaking (or canoeing) doesn’t appeal to them, but going in a motorboat would, and to some of them the appeal would be greater if you go at high speed.
10. Helping other kayakers
Having a kayak powered by an outboard motor puts you in a unique position of being able to help other kayakers. You could do it by carrying heavy camping equipment on board your motorized kayak (realistically, only a Wavewalk…), taking passengers that aren’t fit for paddling, and by towing other kayaks.
The W700 series has redefined stability in kayaks and small boats:
The importance of stability in small boats and kayaks
Stability is the main attribute of small boats and kayaks. It defines passengers’ safety and comfort level, and determines how they can use the boat, or kayak. Insufficient stability limits a motorboat’s speed.
What makes a boat or a kayak stable
The hull’s width and form are the two main features that contribute to the stability of boats and kayaks –
Generally, the width of a kayak is derived mostly from the width of a person’s body, and more precisely the width of their shoulders, where the movement of the paddle begins. Hydrodynamics is another important factor that limits the kayak’s width. Wider kayaks are noticeably more sluggish and hard to paddle over long distances and in less than perfect conditions. Most kayaks today still feature a single, elongated ellipsoid hull (a.k.a. mono-hull), a fact that makes them inherently unstable. Patented Wavewalk™ kayaks feature a twin hull, and they are more stable.
Even the widest mono-hulled fishing kayaks are not stable enough to allow for a full size angler to stand and fish in full confidence and comfort. Such extra-large fishing kayaks aren’t stable or ergonomically suitable for motorizing with anything else than feeble electric trolling motors.
The width of a typical small fishing boat is determined mostly by the width of motor vehicles that transport them, and the width of roads on where such vehicles travel. The narrowest small boats are about 4ft wide, and the widest bass boats can attain 8ft in width. The most common way to transport a fishing boat is by trailer, as few fit into a pickup truck bed, and realistically speaking, even the lightest ones aren’t lightweight enough to be car topped by one person. Most small fishing boats feature a single hull. Typically, such hull is pointed at the bow and square and the stern, where its outboard motor is mounted. Some of the smallest fishing boats resemble large-size, square-stern canoes. Others are known as Jon boats, microskiffs, dinghies, and more. Even the smallest fishing boat is too wide for effective paddling. The Wavewalk™ 700 features a patented twin hull that makes it easy to mount an outboard motor at the cockpit’s rear end, and it works perfectly as a motorboat. It is also easier to paddle than other kayaks (and canoes) are.
Differences between kayaks and boats
In sum, mono-hull kayaks are designed for paddling but they don’t perform well enough when outfitted with outboard motors, and small fishing boats work well with powerful outboard motors, but they can’t be paddled. In fact, some extra-large fishing kayaks dubbed ‘barges‘ are too wide and heavy to allow for paddling to any reasonable distance, but that’s another story. Generally, kayaks can be car-topped while motorboats cannot. Typically, a fishing kayak is used by a single angler, including tandem fishing kayaks who perform rather poorly as as such. And while many fishing boats are designed for up to five passengers, their typical crew seldom exceeds two anglers.
The W700 works perfectly both as a solo and tandem fishing kayak, as well as a two-person fishing boat.
People who get into a Wavewalk™ 700 for the first time often comment that it’s “ridiculously stable”. What’s funny about a kayak being so stable? – What makes these people feel like laughing is the pleasant surprise they experience – They walk into the cockpit of what they perceive to be a “kayak”, but once they’re on the water, they almost immediately get an unexpected and pleasant sensation of being as stable as in a boat. This mixture of pleasant disbelief, surprise and relief makes them feel like laughing, and this is what they mean when they refer to the W700 being “ridiculously” stable. Unlike other kayaks out there, the W700 frees its user from thinking about stability and having to deal with it. As a kayak, the W700 is instability-free. It delivers boat-like stability, and as such it belongs in a class of its own –
A new class of boats
In the previous sections of this article, we’ve defined kayak and boat in terms of size, stability, usage, and performance, and when we positioned the W700 relatively to these two classes of watercraft, it stood out as a class of its own, namely an ultra-lightweight, trailer-free, two-person fishing boat that one person can easily paddle and car-top on their own, without assistance. The car-topping benefit makes the W700 a ‘launch and beach anywhere boat‘, since it frees the user(s) from the need to use boat ramps, and the ease of paddling it turns it into a ‘go anywhere boat‘, as it enables its user(s) to travel in very shallow water (a.k.a. skinny water) where an outboard’s propeller drafts too much, and through grass and other aquatic vegetation that can get entangled with the propeller and make the motor useless.
The W700 and W500
These two W series are similar in many ways, and they differ in others. The biggest difference between the two is in their load capacity – The W700 can carry 580 lbs and the W500 can carry 360 lbs. In practical terms, this means that both can serve as tandem kayaks (or canoes), but the W500 limits the crew size in terms of their aggregated weight, while the W700 doesn’t. As for motorizing, the W500 works well with a small outboard motor, but the W700 is easier for the driver to handle, and it can take both a heavier crew and a more powerful motor, as well as go faster and in tougher water thanks to its increased stability. When it comes to a big and heavy user (I.E. taller than average and heavier than 240 lbs), the W500 works remarkably well, but the W700 works even better. When car topping is considered, the W700 is easy for one person to upload onto a car rack, as well as to attach, but doing these things with a W500 is a little easier.
Since boat classification is about clarifying differences and drawing lines, we think the following definitions could be helpful as basic reference:
The W500 is a ultra-stable fishing kayak with limited tandem capabilities that works well when motorized, even with an outboard motor.
The W700 is an ultralight, car-top fishing boat that can be easily and effectively paddled by a crew of one or two large size users.
Could we further reduce these definitions to “Essentially, the W500 is a kayak and the W700 is a boat”? – We think this would be an oversimplification, namely an expression that misses the point and overlooks too much important information. For example, the fact that the W700 is world’s best tandem kayak (and canoe) for fishing and touring, and an amazing solo kayak as well, and the fact that when motorized, the W500 works great as a little high-performance motorboat.
Classifying boats isn’t easy because it requires taking into consideration so many parameters and factors, while keeping things simple, if possible. Therefore, classifications are not necessarily clear and complete – If you feel somehow confused it’s perfectly natural, and you’re welcome to contact us by email or by phone. We like to hear what’s on people’s mind, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions and provide you with more detailed and specific information.
I took a potential customer to a nearby lake to test paddle a W5oo. A few yards away, 2 ladies were launching their new paddle boat for the first time.
As this guy was returning to shore we heard a cry for help from the middle of the lake. The pedal craft was in trouble; the drive mechanism on their new boat had failed and they were stranded. As soon as my kayak reached shore I got in, paddled out and towed the grateful castaways to safety. I captured a few moments of the event using the camera on my phone. Of course, the lake was small and I don’t think they were in any great danger, though they certainly were grateful for the tow.
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
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 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.
“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’
This section provides basic, ‘getting started’ tips and advice on using your Wavewalk® Fishing Kayak, and it offers links to other parts of this website that contain in-depth information. It is written in a sequential order of use, as much as possible.
Always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) when using your Wavewalk® Fishing Kayak. Do not wear heavy shoes or rubber boots, waders or any heavy or cumbersome clothes since they might prevent you from getting back into your boat or swimming back to shore in case you fall overboard. Never drink alcohol or take medication that might make you drowsy before and while kayak fishing.
Car Topping and Loading
You don’t need a special kayak rack since the Wavewalk® Kayak fits on top of any car rack.
Have one tip of the boat lean on the car rack and push upward and forward until the boat is on top of the car:
The easiest way to attach your Wavewalk® Kayak to the car rack is with its cockpit facing upward but you can also attach it with the cockpit opening facing sideways when transporting two Wavewalk® kayaks. Use strong straps, bungee cords or rope to secure the kayak to the car rack. Note: All plastic boats are sensitive to the combination of excessive heat and pressure – Make sure your Wavewalk® Kayak doesn’t come in direct contact with exposed metal parts heated by the sun.
The simple way to attach a Wavewalk® kayak to a regular car rack:
fishing kayak attached on top of vehicle
Carrying (Portaging) – One Person
On your shoulder (see ‘Downloading’) – For short and medium distances. Over your head with your head between the hulls and each hull supported by one of your shoulders and one of your hands – For short, medium an long distances. On your side: Hold the boat on its side with one hand gripping the cockpit rim in one hand supporting the lower hull – For short distances only. Dragging: Attach a rope or a leash to the boat and pull it behind you. This way you can portage for long distances and in difficult terrain. If you don’t drag it over asphalt, concrete or oyster beds the bottom of your Wavewalk® Kayak’s will be only mildly scratched, in a way that will not affect its performance. For short, medium and long distances. Watch video » Wheels: Also, see ‘Transportation’ section of the ‘Outfitting’ page »
Storing Your Fishing and Camping Gear On Board
The Wavewalk® 500 kayak offers you 8.8 cubic feet (66 gallons) of dry and accessible storage space, which is more than any kayak does, including expedition style kayaks. Take the time to think and experiment before you take any definitive action like drilling, cutting or buying new gear. Finding the optimal solution for placing and attaching your fishing gear in your W Fishing Kayak might require more than one fishing trip simply because you have much more storage space inside and outside the boat, and therefore more possibilities to consider, test and evaluate. In general, it is advised to store heavier gear such as fish tank, battery etc. in lower places, and not to fill the cockpit with large size objects that may be attached on top of the hulls’ tips in front or behind it. You may want to read this website’s ‘Outfitting’ section as well as customer stories.
1. Regular: Put the boat halfway in the water and facing forward. Step into the cockpit from behind (no need to step in water) and install yourself on the saddle. You can get the boat to move forward by either placing a foot on the front part of the spray deflector and ‘kick’ and/or by pushing your paddle backward. When the boat is sufficiently in you can pole and paddle forward. Similarly, you can put-in standing.
2. Surf launching: Standing in the water beside your Wavewalk® Kayak and lean over it while holding the two sides of the spray deflector. Then hop inside and start paddling.
This old video shows a 2006 W300 (smaller series, discontinued in 2010) launched in the surf:
3. Launching from a dock: Hold the boat in parallel to the dock and carefully get inside, one leg after another. 4. Seal launching (Warning: only for advanced paddlers): Put the kayak on a rock or a slope facing the water, position yourself in the back of the cockpit only in the Riding position, and slide down to the water while leaning backwards in order to minimize the impact. It’s possible to perform this trick from a dock or from a deck of a bigger boat.
You don’t ride a chopper the way you ride a dirt bike, and canoeing is different from kayaking in a number of ways. in paddling there are some similarities between canoing and W kayaking, and other things that W kayaking shares with regular kayaking. In addition, there are also things that are unique to W kayaking. It is important to keep this in mind before you begin paddling your W Kayak in order to improve both your experience and performance.
Getting started: It is advised to get used to the boat on flat water before venturing to moving water. As a beginner always make sure you are in the Riding (Mounted) position:
Riding, or ‘Mounted’ Position
Your legs are on your sides and deliver optimal stability, power and control
Riding (Mounted) – The Best Position For Learning, Balancing and Controlling Your Wavewalk® Kayak: Beginning W Kayakers should start in the Riding position, that is with their legs and feet on both sides of the saddle in a direct line below their upper body (see picture on the right). Riding is the stablest position and it offers best control over the boat. This is especially true if you don’t have good canoeing experience and you’re not used to balancing a boat with your legs. Your experience with regular kayaks (SIK or SOT) may help you in some ways but it does not guarantee that you’ll learn faster because of the differences between ordinary kayaking and W kayaking. Riding is also very comfortable once you get to used to it.
The Riding or ‘Mounted’ position is particularly stable and effective because all the muscles in your legs from your feet through your ankles, knees and hips can deliver quick, accurate and powerful reactions. Riding is a position that’s comfortable enough to allow horse riders to travel for thousands of miles during many months. In past centuries, a cavalry man would throw javelins, shoot arrows or slash his enemies with his saber – all while being mounted on his horse’s saddle, while a cowboy would use his lasso to catch and control cattle from the same powerful and stable position.
The Riding position: This video shows in slow motion how the paddler maintains his stability while powerfully tilting his Wavewlk® 500 kayak:
Balancing: The right way to balance yourself in your Wavewalk® kayak is to hold the paddle with both hands and use your hips, thighs, knees, ankles and feet to respond to the boat’s lateral movement by gently shifting your weight from one leg to the other and keeping your upper body upright and centered. Leaning with your hand on the spray deflector is not practical at all. Also, unlike in ordinary kayaks keeping one of your paddle’s blades in the water is not recommended for balancing your Wavewalk® Kayak since it is better if you get used from the beginning to rely on your lower body to perform this task.
Note: The new W700 car-top boat is so stable that it hardly requites any balancing.
Do not confuse Riding (mounting) with Sitting – In the Sitting position your legs are positioned in front of you – see Figure 2. Sitting is not a recommended position for beginning W kayakers.
Figure 2 The Sitting Position
Your legs are in front of you and therefore deliver less stability, power and control
For more information on the different paddling positions go to the ergonomics section.
Getting used to the Wavewalk® 500 Kayak is personal and can take from a few minutes to several hours. It’s advised not to try to rush things and not to expect to become an expert Wavewalk kayaker after one paddling session – for many people it takes more time. There is a lot you can achieve with a Wavewalk® kayak that you can’t achieve with a regular kayak, and it’s only natural to need some time to learn it.
Positioning Yourself Along the Saddle
You can move forward and backward along the saddle according to your needs and according to circumstances. For example, when paddling against eddies and waves you can sit in the back of the cockpit and by that lift the bow, which will make paddling easier, since you’d be going over the waves instead of through them. For more details visit this website’s surf and ocean section.
You’ll find that poling your W fishing Kayak in shallow water is easy. We recommend that you pole using a long and sturdy paddle such as our Wavewalk® PSP, or a poling pole. The advantage of the long and sturdy Wavewalk® paddle is the fact you can use it for both poling and paddling.
Steering by Leaning Into the Turn
You don’t need a rudder in order to turn sharply in your Wavewalk® Kayak: Turning is very easy if you lean into the turn and paddle on the exterior side. Caution: Since this is an unusual thing in paddling it is advised that you first get used to controlling and balancing the boat before you start leaning it into the turn. It is advised to do it carefully and gradually. Getting used to turning by leaning into the turn is personal and can take anything between a few minutes to several hours. You can lean into the turn in all positions but you can lean more effectively in the Riding, Kneeling and Standing positions, and less in the Sitting position.
By the time you start practicing leaning into the turn you’ll probably know that beginning in the Riding position is best for you.
The ability to lean on one hull and paddle alongside the other hull is also useful when paddling in the surf. For more information visit this website’s surf and ocean section.
Easy, Rudderless Tracking In Strong Wind
How to get the wind to help you track – You can move fore and aft along the saddle, and thus displace your Wavewalk® kayak’s center of gravity (CG). The heavier end will tend to point into the wind, while the lighter end will tend to trail. With occasional, minor adjustments of your position along the saddle, you’ll be able to track perfectly.
This kayak is the only one that offers true stand up paddling and fishing for everyone, in real life conditions, in the sense that you don’t have to be young and fit to do it, and once you get used to it, you won’t need to waste time and energy in continuous balancing efforts. True stand up paddling and fishing also means that in case you lose balance, you can simply, easily, instantaneously and intuitively regain your balance just by dropping to the Riding position on the kayak’s 14″ high saddle. This is critical for both convenience and safety. And needless to say tat rising from the lower position to standing is a breeze. To paddle standing adults need a paddle that’s longer than ordinary kayak or canoe paddles. Our company offers two extra long and rigid stand up paddles that work perfectly for paddling in the lower positions too. Children, teenagers and some people may find it as easy as paddling in lower positions but for most adult paddlers stand up paddling is a skill that can take some time to acquire, like any other skill, including kayaking. It is advised to begin practicing stand up paddling on flat water before venturing in moving water.
You can easily motorize your Wavewalk® kayak by outfitting it with either an electric motor or an outboard gas engine. We offer standard transom mounts for 15″ (short) and 20″ (long) propeller shaft models. We strongly recommend using long (20″) shaft motors rather than short (15″) ones. Motorizing your Wavewalk® kayak would greatly expand your range of travel, and could increase your safety since getting back to shore in bad weather and against a strong current is easier when motorizing than while paddling. Our website features a special section dedicated to motorized fishing kayaks »
Before going on a motorized trip, verify that the wide wooden bolt knobs that secure the motor mount to the boat are safely tightened to the maximum. Failing to tighten the bolt knobs could result in unwanted vibrations and noise. If you feel such unusual vibrations and/or hear unusual noise, stop the motor, turn around, and tighten the bolt knobs to the max. Driving with loose bolt knobs is hazardous, similarly to driving with the motor’s clamp screws loose, and it could result in an accident.
Never operate the motor without the motor’s stop switch (“kill-switch”) attached to your arm.
For motor operation and maintenance please refer to the motor’s owner’s manual.
Scouting and Sight Fishing
Scouting is best done on flat water while paddling in the standing position. Since scouting is usually done at a slow speed without much maneuvering it is advantageous to learn how to paddle on one side of your kayak using a canoeing style J-stroke to keep tracking.
Many anglers are concerned about spooking the fish by making unnecessary noise, such as when they drop their paddle in order to seize a fishing rod and cast a fly or a bait at a fish they’ve just spotted. These anglers usually outfit their W kayak’s cockpit with thick foam along its rim (coaming), which dampens the impact and noise of the paddle when they let it down to rest there, sometimes in a groove they make in the foam.
You can easily drop an anchor is in the space between the hulls’ tips in front or behind the cockpit – according to your fishing needs. You can also make an adjustable anchor trolley system as shown in this website’s ‘outfitting’ section. If you fish in a stream you can use an anchor to slow your drifting downstream or a heavier anchor to keep your kayak in place. Some W anglers use an anchor pulley. For flat shallow water, using a stakeout pole can work better than an anchor.
The Wavewalk® Kayak offers you the ability to cast 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.
You can cast to longer distances with any gear from the powerful riding position. The standing position is also good for casting to longer distances. Casting from the sitting position is less powerful, although it still enables better casting than the traditional kayaking position does in other kayaks.
You will find that netting smaller catch is very easy, and by gripping the fish through the net the hooks can be removed with minimal damage to the fish. As for bigger fish, dropping them in one of the hulls will assure that they don’t slip away and will give you the possibility to deal with them on your own terms.
Reentering Your Wavewalk® Fishing Kayak From Deep Water
From the back: To enter your Wavewalk® Fishing Kayak from the back you need to position yourself behind it and grab the hulls’ two tips. Hoist yourself upward and start crawling upward and forward with your legs positioned on both sides of the boat. Use your legs to help you balance the boat. Doing it slowly and carefully is better than trying to rush things. After you have going forward enough over the cockpit just let your legs drop into the hulls, and position yourself in the stable Riding position. It is possible to perform this entry without help from other people if you do it slowly and carefully. Obviously, it is easier if someone can help you balance the boat by holding one or both handles in the bow.
From the side: Position yourself on the side of the kayak with one hand holding the spray deflector. Push yourself upward and grab the spray deflector on the other side of the kayak, then quickly move one leg up and on top of the cockpit while your head and shoulders point in the other direction, so your body is in an angle and almost sideways to the kayak. This method requires more agility and fitness than reentry from the back of the kayak. If it doesn’t work and you feel the kayak isn’t stable, slide quickly back into to water, and then try again, or try reentering the cockpit from the back of the kayak. If one hull has water in it, it can serve as a counter-balance, and you should reenter the kayak from the other side.
Demo video contributed by Berny Marsden, from the UK:
Berny designed and built this DIY Wavewalk with some help from us, and he named it “Banana Split” 🙂 . The load capacity and dimensions of this boat are comparable to those of the W700.
Before you go back into the cockpit make sure the paddle is secured, and it’s not in your way. Practicing will improve your deep water entry skills.
Your Wavewalk® Fishing Fishing Kayak offers some exceptional advantages in shallow water, so we’ve dedicated a special section of this website to shallow water fishing
Surf And Ocean
This website has a special section dedicated to surf launching, surf playing, paddling, surfing and beaching in this challenging, fun environment. Please visit our our surf & ocean page.
Normally the interior of the boat stays dry, and if some rain or spray gets in it is drained to the bottom of the hulls where it does not bother you. Similarly to other small boats, when you’re on the water in your Wavewalk® Fishing Kayak you can drain it using a small bucket, a hand operated bilge pump or an electric bilge pump. Some W kayakers use a big sponge or a big towel for this matter. When the W Fishing Kayak is on dry land you drain it in no time just by grabbing the handles and overturning it. The water will drain out from the special drainage holes in the top side of the cockpit rim.
When beaching (taking out) you normally don’t have to step in water: When paddling to shore position yourself in the back of the cockpit – This will raise the bow and make it easy for you to advance high enough on dry ground. When stepping out from the boat do it from the front so you don’t have to get your feet wet.
Tandem (Two Adults)
Paddling in Tandem
-Two children weighing less than 100 lb each can hardly be considered a real tandem in terms of the special challenges facing two full size paddlers i.e. adults.
Paddling any kayak in tandem is always a challenge, but paddling a Wavewalk® Kayak in tandem is easier. Before anything, do not attempt to paddle a Wavewalk® 500 Kayak in tandem unless both paddlers are experienced W kayakers. The heavier and more experienced paddler should preferably ride in the back of the cockpit, where he/she can see what the new paddler is doing, instruct him/her and compensate for errors if necessary. Paddling a Wavewalk® 500 Kayak in tandem is not recommended if one of the paddlers weighs over 200 lb, and if the total weight of both paddlers exceeds 350 lb. Do not paddle in tandem in any position other than Riding, which is the stablest, and the one that offers best control. Do not attempt to paddle a Wavewalk® 500 Kayak in tandem at sea or on moving water unless you’ve gained considerable experience in W Kayaking in general, and in tandem W Kayaking in particular.
You and your padding partner can paddle a Wavewalk® Kayak in tandem using either two canoe paddles, one canoe paddle and one kayak paddle, or two kayak paddles -What really matters is your teamwork, ability to understand each other and your individual paddling skills. Note: The W kayak is a small vessel, and like any other vessel it becomes slower and less stable when overloaded. You need to take into consideration these factors when planning any tandem activity with your W Kayak. Most importantly, make sure you’ve read about the weight limitations for this kayak » Also, beaching in tandem is more difficult than solo because you can no longer raise the bow effectively. W kayaking in tandem can be a lot of fun if performed correctly and safely.
Fishing in Tandem
Generally, it is not advised for two people to sit in a small boat and fish together since this is an accident prone situation. This is especially true for young and inexperienced fishermen. It is possible for two people fishing together from the cockpit of a Wavewalk® 500 fishing kayak to have one fisherman face the bow while the other faces the stern. This leaves more room in front of each of them for casting and reeling the fish in, but in any case both fishermen will not be free in their actions and they must be very careful in everything they do, and constantly aware of their partner’s actions. It is possible to paddle this way for short distances but only if the front passenger (I.E. the one facing forward) is paddling. Since the W fishing kayak is totally symmetrical from bow to stern the two passengers can take turns in paddling. For example: while the one at the bow is paddling forward the other that’s facing backward can cast or troll providing he/she does it carefully. Turning inside the cockpit is easier for lightweight passengers, but heavier passengers can learn to do it too after some practicing. It is important to do it in full coordination with the other passenger, and advised to practice in shallow water first.. It is best for people fishing and/or paddling in tandem to do so in the riding position, which is stabler than sitting. It is not advised to stand in this kayak while two people are fishing from it.
Note: Unlike the W500, the new W700 is a full-tandem paddling, fishing and motor boat
Storing the Kayak
The proper way to store this kayak is with its cockpit facing up.
Do not store this kayak with anything heavy resting on top of it, or with anything pulling its hulls apart. It’s best to cover the cockpit with a tarp, in order to prevent rain, snow, animals and insects from getting inside.
Cold weather You can store this kayak outside even in cold weather but you’d need to make sure it doesn’t get filled with water or snow, since freezing water expands and could damage it.
Hot weather You can store this kayak outside in hot weather and direct sunlight, although storing it in the shade is better in the long run.
A Wavewalk® Kayak requires no maintenance, and you can store it outside in cold and hot weather. The W Kayak is rotationally molded from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) which is stronger, more durable and more resilient than other materials used in kayaks and canoes. This is why it is unlikely to get damaged, but it also makes it difficult to repair so it is not advised that you try and perform repairs by yourself without first consulting with us.
You will find that your Wavewalk® Fishing Kayak offers many possibilities and is very easy to outfit. For more information please visit this website’s outfitting and rigging page.
Exceptionally tall and/or very heavy people, and/or people with certain physical disabilities can find it more difficult to paddle traditional canoes and kayaks. Similarly, such people might experience some difficulties in W Kayaking that most people won’t experience, or would experience to a lesser extent.
These limitations are true mainly for the 500 series, while the 700 series offers practically anyone to paddle, solo and in tandem
Attaching outriggers to a fishing kayak offers limited benefits in terms of initial (primary) stability, and even less so with secondary stability. Outriggers significantly impede the kayak and make it harder to paddle. Outriggers are also known to limit the kayak’s mobility in shallow water where weeds and grass grow. Outriggers also reduce the kayak’s ‘fishability’ by snagging your lines.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone or by email if you need additional information.
We’d welcome your comments and suggestions about the design of this page, and what additional information and links we should include in it.