Richard Peel is an avid fisherman who fishes the Persian Gulf, in Dubai, UAE. He founded FishEmirates, a website about fishing the United Arab Emirates and Oman, described by Richard as a “Fishy Forum For Fishy People”
Richard got his w500 a while ago, but took it out to sea just recently, and wrote us:
Just thought I’d update you.
Took the W’walk out for its maiden voyage this weekend.
It’s quite a different ride to any other kayak I’ve owned, and I’ve owned quite a few – [list of 4 SOT fishing kayak brands, including a push pedal driven one]
It’s a good and comfortable casting platform, which is just what I wanted.
Tons of storage space, very handy, and really easy to load on the car solo, far easier than other kayaks. The flex in the hull feels a little unusual in the beginning, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
So, a happy customer after all the dramas of the last few months.
Oh, and I smashed the fish – queenfish and trevallies – up to 10 lbs. The larger ones tow the boat which is fun and shows how streamlined it is. Unfortunately all taken on poppers, as I had left the fly rod at home – it was just a test day, but I couldn’t help chucking a light spinning rod on the boat!
I was out solo but will try and mail you a few pics next time, though the season is almost over as summer is here – it’s 105 Fahrenheit today, and has been for a week. Ouch!
The title of this piece should have been: “The Barge – A New Class of Fishing Kayaks, And Why It’s Even Worse Than You Imagine”… But long headlines are not elegant, so it got cut.
Most people know what the term Barge means when kayaks are referred to: It’s a big, wide, long, heavy kayak that’s hard to car top, hard to carry, hard to launch, hard to paddle, and hard to beach.
A Barge is a kayak that’s slow, and doesn’t track well, hence the expression “A barge to paddle”.
Manufacturers and vendors who offer barge kayaks often claim their products are so stable that you can stand up and fish from them. Some vendors would even get some dude to perform stability tricks in front of a camera, while standing up on their barge kayak, but few people fall for this kind of advertisement, and those who do soon learn not to trust improbable advertising, and they learn it the wet way, after they fall overboard :D…
So far, I don’t think I’ve provided any information that’s new to the reader, but I had to lay the foundation for this article on a common and solid basis, so bear with me.
Here is the main point of this article:
Barge Kayaks are Hazardous to Paddle and Fish From
Seriously, they can be, and that’s because fishing kayaks are used by real, everyday people like yourself, in real, everyday conditions. Life is neither a commercial video, nor a glossy ad.
Everyday people are not Olympic paddling champs, and they’re often both overweight to some extent, and not very fit. The average kayak angler is middle aged, and many kayak anglers are elderly folks. Unfortunately, these are the same people who would normally purchase a barge yak, because they are concerned about the instability of narrow sit-in and SOT kayaks, and may not want to pay for a W kayak.
So why is a slow and hard to paddle fishing kayak potentially hazardous for such people?
Simply because in the natural world, which is where real people paddle and fish, you’re bound to get into unfavorable circumstances – sooner or later, unless you paddle and fish in a tiny pond, preferably close to home. Such circumstances usually involve changes in the weather, and since everyone has experienced such things, there’s no point to elaborate on that.
When bad weather happens while you’re seated in your kayak, you’d rather not overturn it, of course, and it is assumed that barge kayaks can normally handle this challenge – not always, and not as well as W kayaks, though… unlike other kayaks that are too unstable for that. However, if you happen to be away from shore in bad weather, being in a barge kayak could turn out to be a bad experience for you, and it may even lead to an accident, because you could find yourself unable to get back to your launching spot, or worse – go back to shore in any part of it. If back to shore means getting back to a beach, and the place you’re paddling and fishing in is the ocean, or a big lake, you’re in trouble. Big time.
This is because big bodies of water (E.G. ocean, lake, big river) also have currents in them, and the combination of wind and current is just too powerful for you to deal with when you’re paddling a barge kayak. Waves would likely swamp you. You won’t be able to direct the kayak to safety, and you’d be drifting somewhere you don’t want to go to. When this happens, you may find yourself in an even worse situation as night comes.
So try to imagine yourself wet, cold and exhausted from useless paddling efforts, your back is killing you, and you’re drifting somewhere in the darkness, in your barge yak. Scary, eh?
Again, the heavier, older, and less fit you are, the higher the chances you’d let some kayak dealer sell you a barge yak, and at the same time the heavier, older and less fit you are, the more likely you are to get in trouble because you’re paddling such a vessel…
Well, life is unfair, sometimes, especially to those who don’t take it seriously, and don’t imagine worse case scenarios that unfortunately are part of many outdoor recreational sports, including kayaking and kayak fishing.
It doesn’t make much difference whether you propel your barge yak with a paddle or a pedal drive – You’s better not venture too far from shore with it, especially in unfavorable weather circumstances, or when there’s a good chance that the weather could change for the worse, because such change may very well be unfavorable, and even dangerous to you.
Typically, very little water can get inside your W500 cockpit, because the kayak offers a high freeboard – more than any kayak does. This is true even when you’re launching in the surf, because you can lift the bow by sitting in the back of the cockpit, and thus go over the incoming waves, instead of through them, like you’d have to do with all other kayaks.
1. How to Prevent Water From Getting Inside the Kayak Cockpit
All W500 models except the R model feature a preparation for a cockpit cover system comprising a long bungee, 2 Nylon eyelets, and 12 lashing hooks attached around the spray deflector.
Attaching the cockpit cover to the cockpit’s spray deflector is quick and easy, and you do it by lifting the bungee, tucking the cover between the bungee and the spray deflector, and securing it between the bungee and the lashing hooks, this way:
Any plastic sheet, tarp, or waterproof fabric can serve you as a cockpit cover, and you don’t have to cut or sew it in any particular shape (unless you feel like it…)
You can use the cockpit to cover any part of the cockpit: Whether it’s just the front, or all the area between you and the hull tips, or just one side of the cockpit, or the entire cockpit, including yourself. It all depends on the size of your cockpit cover, and what you need the cover to do for you. You can even use two, separate covers for covering different parts of the cockpit.
Here is an example how you can use a simple, low cost 3′ x 8′ tarp as a cover for your W500 cockpit:
Here’s a real life account of a large size cockpit cover used to protect a W kayak bass angler during a rainstorm in Connecticut:
And this is the initial design, by a W300 fly kayak angler from Oregon, which inspired us to develop the universal preparation for cockpit cover:
A cockpit cover can add to your personal protection from the elements, even in cold weather, wind, snow, and hail.
This picture shows a car topped W500 in Ohio – Note how the owner covered its cockpit with a tarp:
2. What If a Little Water Gets In?
Like everything that has to do with the W500 kayak, it’s easy:
First, you don’t have to care too much about a little water getting inside, because unlike sit-in kayaks, all water that may get inside is automatically drained to the bottom of the hulls, where it doesn’t bother you. This is true for drops falling from your paddle, rain, spray, etc. The 14 inch high W kayak saddle stays dry, and since this is where you sit, so do you.
Keeping the bottom of the hulls perfectly dry is easy too, if you simply put a big sponge at the bottom of each hull. The sponge will absorb the water by itself, since the water will eventually reach it due to the kayak’s natural movement. By the end of the trip, or anytime during the trip, you’d just have to squeeze the water out of the sponges, and that’s it.
3. What If a Lot of Water Gets Inside Your W Kayak Cockpit?
Again, since the water is drained automatically to the bottom of the kayak hulls, and you sit on the 14 inch high saddle, or ride it, water in the bottom of the hulls doesn’t necessarily bother you, even if there’s several gallons of it down there. This is true even in cold water and weather, if you’re wearing rubber booties.
In any case, getting rid of this water is simple: Just scoop it out with a hand bucket, also called a bilge bucket. Making one from a 1 gallon plastic bottle with a handle is cheap and easy, and such DIY bilge buckets are perfect for the job.
If you feel like being more sophisticated, just use an inexpensive, plastic, hand activated bilge pump, the same as sea-kayakers, canoeists, and other small boat passengers use for the same purpose:
4. Getting Rid of Water on Land
You may want to get rid of water that’s in your W kayak’s cockpit when you’re on dry land. Again, nothing could be easier: You just overturn the boat, and the water will get drained out through the special drainage holes at the top of the spray deflector. Normally, this is the kayak’s highest point, but when it is upside down, the holes are at its lowest point, which makes the water come out in no time, and from all parts of the kayak hulls.
5. Safety – Why Are SOT Kayaks Hazardous?
Simply, because if your kayak hull is leaking, you want be able to detect the problem immediately, in real time, since any delay might be critical. Therefore, closed hulls, such as sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks feature, present a potential hazard, because water can leak inside them without you having any way to notice it, until it’s too late. This is one of the downsides of the so-called ‘self bailing’ (paddle board) SOT kayak hull. Worst of all – those SOT hulls are rarely fully watertight, because of various reasons – The first being the basic design flaw putting their parting line too low above the water, combined with the weakness in the scupper holes area. The second reason being the fact that once the SOT kayak is molded, it has numerous big and small holes drilled in its hull for hatches, rod holders, seat etc., and such holes are extremely difficult to waterproof in the long run, and can easily leak, since the SOT kayak deck is too low above waterline, and is often washed by waves, or immersed in case the SOT kayak is overturned in the water.
SOT kayak anglers are required to drain their kayak hulls through special drain plugs installed in them, preferably after each trip, and sometimes even during the trip, if they can find a place to beach. Read more >>
In comparison to SOT kayaks, the W kayak’s parting line is 6 to 12 inches higher above the water surface, the kayak features neither scupper holes nor hatches, and its deck is much higher too, and the cockpit part of it is protected by a spray deflector. Since it sold its first W kayak, back in 2004, Wavewalk has received no complaints about water leaking into a W kayak hull.
Some anglers refer to themselves as being ‘fisholic’, and that’s basically the same thing, although phrased in different pseudo scientific terms
That new article is amusing, but it’s also serious, since anglers and paddlers who spend too much time in sit-in and SOT kayaks can develop chronic pain, especially in the lower back (yak-back) and eventually be forced to quit kayak fishing and paddling, as many do – and that’s too bad.
I have back pain and and have to say my w-500 is the most comfortable boat I’ve ever paddled. I had an unfortunate encounter with a bad chiropractor and have issues with L5 and sciatica now, and had tried SOT kayaks with bad results… but I could see the w kayak is entirely a different story after only one outing!
After I’ve had my w500 out for only 4 times and I could see that once you get your technique down it’s FAST, easily as fast as a 13′ kayak (if you’re in the aggressive mounted position)… and the leaning into a turn works really well, especially if you’re seated near the stern. I have gotten used to a milder cruising stroke in the seated position that allows me to paddle for literally hours with no problems or back pain (holding the paddle closer towards the center and letting the paddle and gravity do some of the work).
Last night I took it out into some choppier, high traffic areas and got a lot of inquiries from some sea-kayakers who were very impressed with a boat you can stand up in.
I am loving my w-500… After I’d been out about 6 times, took it out with a 230lb friend… I am an intermediate paddler and my friend had minor experience. After several failed attempts to paddle together I had him try it solo. He had a good sense of humor, and I’m not deterred! Good times indeed!
I am very comfortable paddling it by myself now and spend 1/3 of the time paddling it standing, and get tons of inquiries. I’m getting questions from Salmon fishers and sailboats (mostly because I row near a fishing/sailing boat moorage now).
I did not try my W500 first before I ordered it, I simply did TONS of research and asked many people I know who are experienced. I am one of the very satisfied customers who’s incredibly happy with his decision, it was not hasty.
I was asked last night by some kayaker where he could try a w-kayak… i said “right here, right now… pull up to that dock and I’ll let you give her a spin”
The last 3 times I’ve been out on my w-500 was to lurk outside the fish ladder and watch the salmon return to spawn, kind of fun watching 24″ fish jumping all around you, oh but I have a better view than everyone else!
I have still yet to try my w-500 for fishing, but will soon once I find a few good nearby spots, and will be sure to take more pics.