Tag Archive: sore back

Special art from the Wavewalk 500

By Larry Durfey

Wisconsin

Here are some photo art that I have taken for my 500 kayak on the back waters for the Mississippi.
See my web page for more info on my process and images lgdimagery.com

 

 

river reflections

 

twin mounts

 

I have found a very inexpensive seat for my 500. It is a cafeteria chair I got for $3.00 at a yard sale. Because of the shape of the legs it fits over the center of the 500 and the cross mettle supports on the chair fit into the slots on the 500 just right. I did not have to cut anything just set in the 500 and slide it so that it locked into the slots.

I have some lower back problems and can not sit in a normal kayak and the 500 works so well for me. I do get tired easy with out any back support but now that is not a problem. I hope that others that have the same problem will benefit from this info.

W500 with a chair

 

seat that fits in my W500

 

seat that fits in my W kayak

 

More photographic art and kayak outfitting from Larry »

KAYAK TOURING

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

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

Things To Know And Consider When Choosing A Touring Kayak

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

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

1. A Brief History Of Kayak Touring

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

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

1.3    The Roaring Nineties

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

1.4    Kayak Touring Today

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

2. Categories Of Kayak Touring

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

3. The Touring Kayak Design

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

3.1    Safety

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

3.2    Ergonomics and Biomechanics

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

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

3.4    The Cockpit

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

3.5    Storage Hatches

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

3.6    The Rudder

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

3.7    Additional Passengers On Board

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

3.8    Speed

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

4.    The Kayak Touring Experience

4.1    Comfort

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

4.2    Mobility: Launching, Beaching Etc.

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

4.3 Stand Up Paddling

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

5. Summary – What’s Important To Remember

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

6. New Approach And New Solutions For Kayak Touring

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

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

Questions? Comments? Please call or email us

7. REFERENCES

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

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

Getting trapped in your kayak

Are sea kayaks seaworthy?

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

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

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

The Seaworthy Kayak, article by John Winters.

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

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

A Wet Ride – Problem Overview and New Solutions

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

Lumbar Spine and Kayak Back Pain

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

 

What is the Lumbar Spine?

Here is a short definition we found in a dictionary:

(lumbar)

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

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

 

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

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

 

How Does the L Posture Affect the Lumbar Spine?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Higher Seats

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

 

What Your Lumbar Spine Requires When Kayak Fishing is Considered

 

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

 

More reading

Article about ending the problem of back pain in kayaks »

Article About Pedal Drives in Fishing Kayaks »

No Back Pain

Biomechanical and Ergonomic Solutions in Kayak Design – Kayaking With No Back Pain

Back problems are the number one source of disability in the United States, and one of the main reasons why many people do not engage in kayaking and kayak fishing, or drop out from these activities after they realize that they cannot enjoy them.

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

Things are going great with my W500, by Mike Brown

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

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

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

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

Mike

Virginia

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rod-rack-for-4-fishing-rods-close-up

 

diy-paddle-holder-virginia-fishing-kayak

 

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More rigging and fishing from Mike Brown »