Tag Archive: upwind

Paddling in Strong Wind

Paddling and Tracking in Strong wind

Tracking is the main problem that paddlers need to overcome when paddling in strong wind.
Wavewalk paddlers usually report excellent performance of their boats under wind, since catamarans tracks well, generally, and also thanks to the fact that it offers multiple means for power-paddling, as well as for counter-affecting the wind.
Since 2004, thousands of people have been paddling Wavewalk kayaks from the 300, 500 and 700 series, and none of these paddlers outfitted their Wavewalk with a rudder – that cumbersome device that has become an integral part of all other types of high-end kayaks used for touring and fishing.

Here are some tips that can improve your Wavewalk kayak’s performance when you’re paddling in strong wind:

1. Paddle only in the Riding Position, which is the optimal posture for power and balancing, and lean a bit forward, with your knees lower than your hips – That would give you extra power.

2. Paddle from the middle of the cockpit, as much as possible –

  • If you paddle from its rear it would raise your W kayak’s bow and expose it to the wind, and the boat will turn away from the wind.
  • If you paddle from the front of the cockpit, the stern will go up, and the kayak will turn into the wind.

3. Lean your W kayak into the wind – That would make it harder for it to affect the course of your W kayak.

4. Apply short J strokes on the side from which the wind is blowing, and more powerful strokes on the lee side (the sheltered side) – That would help you track. You may even hold the paddle not from its middle, so that you can apply longer strokes on the lee side.

6. Any object protruding from the deck is exposed to the wind, and therefore generates additional drag – Detach the spray shield if you have one attached, dismount deck mounted rod holders, and store your fishing rods inside the hulls whenever possible. A milk crate would act as a small sail that’s controlled by the wind, so you’d better avoid using one altogether.

7. Keep paddling in a steady pace and a straight course – This is not about one-time corrections, but about minimizing your effort and getting there. Precision and efficiency are as important as power.

8. IMPORTANT – Remember that you can easily move fore and aft along the Wavewalk’s saddle, and by doing so control the angle in which your W kayak will point relatively to the direction from which the wind blows: Paddling from a forward position will tend to point the kayak’s bow into the wind, and paddling from a backward position will tend to point the bow away from the wind.
By applying small changes to your own location on the saddle, you can minimize the wind’s unwanted effect on your Wavewalk, and keep it tracking with little effort.

Here is an instructional video on this subject:

What makes the Wavewalk 500 faster and easier to paddle than other fishing kayaks?

Before getting their Wavewalk kayak, many of our clients had tested or owned common fishing kayaks, and they weren’t too happy with the way these kayaks performed with regards to several basic requirements which are essential to paddling. In contrast, the same people find the Wavewalk 500 very easy to paddle and handle.
This article explains some of the technical differences between the W500 and all other fishing kayaks, and how these differences work to the advantage of W kayakers.

What makes common fishing kayaks special as a class of kayaks?

If you walked into a store that sells all kinds of paddle craft (e.g. canoes, touring kayaks, sea kayaks, recreational kayaks) and you looked at at the fishing kayak models side by side with the other kayaks, you’d notice that fishing kayaks look chubbier. In other words, they are wider than the other types of kayaks, and some of them are almost as wide as the big canoes displayed in the store.
The main reason for this is that fishing kayaks are required to be more stable than other kayaks, and the only way to make a mono-hull kayak stabler is by widening its hull.
This gain in stability comes at a price, and you as a paddler pays it by having to paddle harder since your kayak is slower and tracks poorly – It zigzags and responds better to the wind that deflects it from its intended course than to your efforts to go straight forward.
For this reason, fishing kayaks have a bad reputation among kayakers, who call them barges, and rightfully so.

What makes the common fishing kayak design so problematic?

Poor tracking – To begin with, a wide kayak hull compels the low-seated paddler to move their paddle more horizontally than vertically. This drives the paddle blade in a curved trajectory rather than an efficient straight trajectory in parallel to the kayak’s direction on travel. As a result, each paddle stroke changes the kayak’s direction in a way that’s easily noticeable, and the paddler must correct it with a paddle stroke on the kayak’s opposite side, which in its turn would deflect the kayak to the other direction… Such alternation between left and right is known as zigzagging, and it’s a most inefficient way to go forward because it increases the actual length of your route, and on top of this, changing course in itself requires acceleration, which is lossy in energy terms, especially when it’s done repeatedly with every paddle stroke.

Poor tracking under wind – This is a special case in which the wind works to deflect the fishing kayak from its course, and since these kayaks neither paddle nor handle well, they become particularly hard to paddle, to a point where getting back to shore may no longer be guaranteed… This difficulty in tracking is why practically every high-end fishing kayak is outfitted with a rudder, which can help the paddler track, but further slows them down – Using a rudder slows the kayak by 10% in average.

Low speed – A boat’s speed is closely associated with its hull’s length – The longer the faster. It’s also associate with its hull’s width – the narrower the faster.
In hydrodynamic design terms, a hull whose Length to Beam (length to width) ratio is below 6:1 is considered to be slow, and a hull whose L/B ratio is over 20:1 is considered as optimal for speed. Typically, recreational boats’ hulls have a L/B ratio somewhere between the two.
To better understand this, let’s check a few examples –

  1. a typical sea kayak (fast touring kayak) can be 18 ft long and 24 inches wide. Its L/B ratio of 9:1 makes it fairly quick.
  2. a large size fishing kayak that’s 14 ft long and 30 inches wide has a 5.6:1 L/B ratio, which is rather slow.
  3. a fishing kayak that’s 12 ft long and 36 inches wide has a 4:1 L/B ratio, which is extremely slow and pretty much impossible to paddle to a long distance.
  4. a fishing kayak with a 12 ft long and 41 inch wide hull has a 3.5:1 L/B ratio, which makes it really hard for a one person crew to paddle to any distance, and –
  5. a fishing kayak that’s only 10 ft long and 38.5 inches wide has a 3.1:1 L/B ratio, which could make paddling a stack of plywood easier, if you wanted to try paddling either of these floating objects.

In other words, the chubbiest among fishing kayaks are unfit for paddling, unless your plan is to fish in ponds or in small, protected lakes.

How does the Wavewalk 500 compare?

Unlike mono-hull kayaks, the W invention offers a totally different way to make the kayak stabler without making it excessively wide. This offers advantages in speed and tracking as well –

L/B and speed – In comparison, the W500 is 11.4 ft long, and each of his twin hulls is 8 inches wide. This 17:1 L/B ratio for one hull and 8.5:1 ratio for the two hulls joined together is far better in speed terms than the fastest fishing kayak hull out there. In real life terms, this design allows the W500 to be as fast as a 13 ft touring kayak, which is a narrower and faster design than fishing kayaks of similar size and even bigger size.  More info on kayak design for speed >

Easy tracking – The W500 is just 29 inches wide, which makes it the world’s narrowest twin hull (a.k.a. catamaran). It also allows the paddler to paddle it from a higher position. The combination of these two attributes makes it easy for the paddler to apply vertical strokes and have the paddle blade travel efficiently in parallel to the kayak’s direction of travel, instead of moving in a curved trajectory. This in itself improves the W kayak’s tracking, but the fact that the paddler rides the saddle in a position that’s more powerful and ergonomic than the L kayaking position offered by other kayaks adds another dimension of efficiency and power to the paddler’s ability to handle their kayak and make it go where the  want.
Catamarans have a longer wetted length (WL) than mono-hull kayaks of similar size, and this feature makes them track better. In this sense, the W kayak is a catamaran, and indeed it tracks better than any other kayak out there, including sea kayaks that are much longer. In fact, no paddler ever found it necessary to outfit their W kayak with a rudder.

Great tracking under wind – One the the W kayak’s unique features is its long saddle that offers the paddler a simple and easy way to relocate for and aft in the cockpit. By doing so, the paddler can instantly change the kayak’s center of gravity (CG), and with it the way the kayak reacts to strong wind. In other words, the W kayak enables the paddler to use the power of the wind to help them direct the kayak, I.E. to stay on track. This simple, unique and most effective steering method is explained in an instructional article entitled W kayaking in strong wind >

Other considerations – Ergonomics and bio mechanics

Since all mono-hull kayaks offer variations on one paddling position known as the L position, these considerations are not useful for understanding differences between mono-hull fishing kayaks and other types mono-hull kayaks, such as recreational kayak, touring kayaks, etc.
In contrast, W kayaks offer several paddling positions, including the Riding position, which is both more powerful and more comfortable than the L position. This offers yet another advantage to the W kayaker, in the sense that they don’t suffer from back pain and leg numbness that are typically associated with traditional kayaking, and for this reason they don’t have to struggle with premature fatigue and discomfort, and thus dispose of more energy to keep paddling even in adverse weather and water conditions.
This is why the W kayak is favored by paddlers and anglers who suffer from disabilities, are middle aged or elderly, non-athletic, and by those who don’t benefit from a high level of physical fitness.
Indeed, W kayakers can often be seen out there on a river or a lake in poor weather conditions that drive other kayakers back to their homes, or discourage them from going on water to begin with.

The W kayak cut an impressive wake and didn’t even notice the chop, by Rich Brown, WA

Our W kayak’s new home – Lake Limerick, WA

I first became interested in a W kayak when I saw some amazing videos of owners doing amazing feats in it. Then I read about the other benefits… walk in, sit down, stand up, turn around, lay down… any position you want. I even saw one guy paddling while standing on the saddle!

I decided this W500 kayak would be perfect for me. I looked at the dealer list on wavewalk.com (excellent site) and found the closest one was Oregon Fishing Kayaks in Hood River, Oregon. Living on a Lake and somewhat away from things, I am used to driving an hour or so to get some of the things I need, but the drive to Hood River was about three hours. I called Perry Platt the proprietor of Oregon Fishing Kayaks. He is a very friendly guy. With the help of Perry giving directions on the phone, I was ready to go to get my W500.

If you have never taken the trip down the Columbia River Gorge along I-84 from Portland, it is worth the trip. My wife and I decided to make a day of it. The scenery is gorgeous; with lush greenery and rocky crags on one side, and the mighty Columbia on the other. If you have never seen the Columbia River, it is so wide it looks more like a bay. The wind always blows there, and today the wind was blowing against the river current, dotting the river with small chop and whitecaps (more on that wind later).

Well, because a trucker hit a dog on I-5 (I swear to God, that was the explanation) traffic was backed-up for miles, so we arrived very late at the demo site. I think Perry thought we were a no show. We called him and he arrived very quickly. Perry, is even a nicer guy in person than he is on the phone. He had two W500s loaded on his nifty double-decker hand cart with bicycle wheels and easily wheeled them across the parking lot to the demo area.

Now, more on that wind; Waterfront Park in Hood River is a favorite place for kite surfers and wind surfers. When I looked out at the river, there were probably 25 – 30 surfers out there, cutting tracks with their boards and holding on for dear life to their kites in 15-20 mph wind. Perry took us to a “protected” area where a small jetty protected us the worst winds and where the wind surfers launch their boards. We looked completely out of place and got some funny looks from the crowd. Perry took the sturdy W500s off his cart and we dragged them down to the water. He gave us some instruction and threw the life jackets in the kayaks. Just like in the videos I had seen on the websites, we stepped in from the back, sat down, scooted forward, and we were off.

Now, in this “protected” area the chop was still about 8 inches and the winds 8 – 12 mph. I sat in the riding position in the center of the boat. The chop and the wind were doing their part in rocking the W500, but I did a little rocking myself. I couldn’t tip this kayak over if I tried. Ok, great conditions to demo a new kayak. I paddled against the wind to get back to the launch site. The W500 cut an impressive wake and didn’t even notice the chop. We loaded the W500 back on that nifty double–decker cart and pushed back to Perry’s shop.The demo ride sold me. We loaded a W kayak on the little trailer I had hooked up to my trusty Ford van. It fit the W like it was built for it. We strapped it down, (paid Perry) and off we went for Lake Limerick, WA. If you want a Wavewalk kayak in the Northwest (and why wouldn’t you?) call Perry at Oregon Fishing Kayaks.

-Rich Brown
Washington

Read more kayak reviews »

THE BARGE – A NEW CLASS OF FISHING KAYAKS

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.

Sailing The W500 Kayak With Outriggers

Jim Luckett, turned the Wavewalk™ 500 into an upwind, stable, swift, easy to use, versatile and portable sailing craft for 1-2 persons. The W500 under sail is a personal, mini sailing catamaran, a cartop high performance sailing boat.

You can carry the W500 kayak on top of any car, and the sailing kit would fit in your trunk.

As previously shown, it’s possible to sail the W500 kayak standing, and without outriggers, but this is not for everyone, obviously, so adding outriggers to such a large size sailing rig is a good idea, or else the kayak might be overpowered.

In addition, we’ve come up with a clamp mounted transom mount for an electric trolling motor, which turns the W500 into a compact, car top, high performance motor sailing boat.

More information: How effective are outriggers for your fishing kayak’s stability?


 

NEW (2016): Wavewalk® XL Outriggers »