Full W500 Kayak Review, by Gary Johnson, Texas

Wavewalk 500 fishing kayak from Texas

I am 61, 280lbs, retired, 100% disabled, veteran Navy Officer. I have a very bad back resulting from damage done while I was on active duty. My back has 4 bad disks in the lower end, three bad disks in the neck, and pinched nerves going to my legs. Added to this I suffer from Fibromyalgia. My meds for the most part keep the pain at a semi-manageable level, but the hurt never goes completely away. If I can help some other Vet or civilian with frequent orthopedic pain be able to enjoy kayaking it’s good enough for me.

I think it is important to clarify why I am passionate about the WaveWalk W500 Kayak.
I used to be an accredited Canoe instructor, and have taught lots of Boy Scouts how to make a canoe go straight. For me a regular kayak makes “Pain Management” impossible. I have tried conventional kayaks and NONE OF THEM give me the freedom to stretch and move that I require in order to keep my back from cramping up and making fishing pure hell. The W500 was my last hope for a personal watercraft. If it weren’t for the W500, I couldn’t be a kayak owner – my back will not allow me to sit in a regular kayak for more than about 20 minutes.
The W500 allows me to move into positions that relieve the pain from where it is hurting the most and have it hurt somewhere else for a while. I found the ONLY KAYAK AVAILABLE that allows me complete freedom of movement – something none of SITS or SOTS can claim. I will match my W500 up against anything the SITS or SOTS have shown me, especially since I can use the W500 and I CAN’T use the others. It does bother some other yakkers though that I always have easy answers for the problems they are trying to solve…
I think that eventually I will manage to give HOPE to disabled people that Kayaking is not something beyond their capabilities.

Before I found the W500, kayaking was beyond my capability. You couldn’t have gotten me in a kayak for a days fishing on a bet. I would have passed on an all-expenses paid fishing trip with a guide who was fishing out of kayaks. I COULD NOT HAVE STOOD THE PAIN. Hurting just isn’t worth it.
In late January through early April the white bass will be running in the rivers near me. Kayakers have a field day getting into water that others can’t get to. I plan on showing the W500 off to many of those guys and will offer free rides. They will be bundled up in their waders and still be getting wet. I plan to entice them with a DRY RIDE.
I promote your product on the net for FUN. Its something I believe in and would like others who have the same problems as I do to have the freedom to participate in kayaking without hurting themselves more.

The biggest problem I have faced with my W500 is the comments from non-believers. Some of the things they say can be painful if you don’t have a thick hide. They make their comments UNTIL they get on the water with me. I then do things like reversing direction in the kayak and watch their faces. I also make a big deal about stretching and twisting, standing up to show that I am completely free to move as I desire.

I needed a stable kayak, that kept me dry (I mean 100% dry except for sweat) and after almost a year’s search finally decided that a WaveWalk W500 was the ticket. You are welcome to come to my home and try mine out on our neighborhood private lake. I offer this, because I had to buy mine sight unseen, untried, acting only on faith of others testimonials and several phone calls to a preacher in Corpus who owns one. The W500 is stable enough to not only stand in, but to paddle standing up. If you get wet in one its your own fault or because you decided to go wading. It has so much storage space that is so accessible that a crate isn’t needed. Unlike conventional kayaks I have a seat that is 6 feet long that I can sit anywhere on. I can stand, bend, twist, do anything I desire and stay in the kayak. Without doubt I feel I made the right choice, and I am however, a completely satisfied customer.

I read the Texas kayak fishing boards (texaskayakfishing.com and the kayak section of www.Texasfishingforum.com) and just laugh. “Regular” kayak owners complain about lack of stability, lack of storage space, wet butts and wet feet, etc. An owner of a W500 has NONE of these problems. Take launching for instance – in a regular kayak you wade out half the length of the kayak and then get in – WET already. In a W500 I walk down between the hulls for 2 1/2 feet and step into the cockpit pushing off with the last foot on dry land and have launched completely dry. Landing I do essentially the same. To land I merely slide back in the seat, thus raising the “bow” and paddle or push quite far up onto the beach. I then slide up to the front pinning the hull tips to the beach and walk out between the hull tips – DRY.

Don’t believe the hype you will hear from folks who have other kayaks, and criticize the W500, because they have no idea what they are talking about (99.9% of whom have never even seen a W500 much less paddled one) that the W500 won’t turn, is hard to paddle, won’t track. Phooey on them. I can turn a W500 literally in place using 2 methods they don’t have in their arsenal. IF I need to change direction immediately I just turn around in the kayak (don’t try this in a regular kayak) and paddle the opposite direction OR I slide to the back of the seat lifting the front tips and do a couple of back paddles on the same side of the W500 and pivot in place. Regular turning is no problem either. Anchoring is another problem solved in a W500. A regular kayak MUST have an anchor trolley to be able to keep the anchor in the proper position to keep the kayak from going broadside to waves. The anchor trolley moves the anchor from place to place. In a W500, I can move from the back to the front of the kayak and I can move the anchor with me. I do have an anchor trolley on my W500, but its for MY CONVENIENCE mostly with Drift Socks so I can move the socks in small increments to keep me in position on a drift Quickly so as not to interfere with my fishing.

The WaveWalk kayak will keep you completely dry (no scuppers for water to enter to soak your butt) both on using the kayak and upon getting in and out of the kayak. The W500 has more storage than I can effectively use (14 cubic feet). I use a crate, not because I have to, but because it allows me to have a convenient place to fly my 360 light and flag from, and a place to keep my anchor and drift sock where it is instantly available should I need it. I use an anchor trolley because it makes the adjustment of where an anchor is located, not because I have to. Unlike those who use a conventional kayak and are largely confined to one place, I have a 6 foot long cockpit seat that allows me free access to the kayak tips on both the bow and stern which are interchangeable since the kayak can be paddled equally well either direction as they are exactly the same. You talk about turning – I can turn on a dime by sliding back to the rear of the seat and giving a couple of back paddles and the W500 will swivel in place. I can reverse direction simply by turning around in the cockpit and paddling the other direction. I don’t need to add flotation as that comes standard in the kayak tips and no it does not use up some of my storage space. Can anyone who has a regular kayak even approximate these features?? The features are as they are, and I will be posting about the merits of the W500 because I believe for the big guy and more importantly for the person who has disabilities that the W500 is the best kayak going.
It is so much easier to throw a cast net when you don’t have to do it from the sitting L position, and it’s so much easier it is to get things from your crate and from the 14 cubic feet of storage in the hull tips, if you can turn completely around like in the cockpit of a W500.

I did a lot of research before I finally settled on the WaveWalk W500, and I am glad that I can continually point out the things that are HARD OR IMPOSSIBLE from a regular Kayak that are so easy from a WaveWalk. It is most important to me for DISABLED KAYAKERS to know about the only kayak that I can own and actually use. As I have said before, my legs and back will not let me sit in a regular kayak for more than about 30 minutes before I have to get out. The having to get out is true for both paddling or sitting one place fishing.
The other fun and easy stuff like having max storage space, having max stability, ability to throw cast nets, are just gravy, because if you can’t get comfortable in the kayak, then you won’t use it and the subject is moot. IF I had a fishing kayak with the pedal drive I could not use it, and would not use it, because my disabilities keep me from using it. That said, after having a WaveWalk W500, I would still not use a pedal drive kayak even if I could. There are just too many other advantages to the WaveWalk that I would want to take advantage of. Why would I use a kayak with reduced capability and comfort???”
Give me a call or better yet come and paddle my W500,

Gary Johnson

17 thoughts on “Full W500 Kayak Review, by Gary Johnson, Texas”

  1. A most compelling review. I’m very impressed. I also like the outfitting solutions Gary invented, especially the stakeout pole and the bait tanks! Excellent stuff!

  2. Thanks for the comments. I just had a posting deleted (censored??) on the Texas Fishing Forum (www.texasfishingforum.com) in their kayak forum where I guess the regular SIT and SOT kayakers got tired of hearing about the stability, dryness, etc of the W500. Most interesting is there is a posting that is going on now on that board where the same kayakers who got tired of hearing from me, are now wanting to add outriggers to their kayaks. Imagine that!! One of their links in their postings even talks about how the added outriggers would allow the kayaker to stand and get rid of the TINGLYNESS in their legs. IMAGINE THAT!! I wonder if their SIKS and SOTS are able to turn as well as a W500 once they add outriggers to the party??

  3. Yoav forgot to add that the PVC T-handle on the stake out pole is epoxied to the fiberglass handle. The 4-8 foot extension pole costs about $19.95, a buck or two for the PVC fittings, glue from your junk drawer, and another 3 bucks for the roller handle which you take down to where they sell chain and have them cut the roller part off. Then you take an hammer and bend the thing straight and take your handy grinder and sharpen the end. BTW – When mounted there is a space inside the plastic handle between the metal part of the roller handle and the metal end of the roller pole. I dropped two appropriately sized bolts in their so if I was to hit something hard the rod wouldn’t have any way to break loose from the plastic handle. Most bottom I fish over is either mud or sand so I don’t expect any problems, but why not be careful? Add another 50 cents.

  4. Gary Rankel says:

    What a great review. Thanks for your service, Gary, and I hope your W keeps you on the water for many years. If I were Yoav, I’d consider hiring you to pitch the W.

  5. Hi Gary,
    Gary Johnson’s review is indeed great. When I read this kind of testimonial, it makes me feel that what I’m doing is meaningful beyond just fun, and it’s actually important. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get this kind of feedback, and it makes me feel really good!
    As for working for Wavewalk, I offered Gary to become our local dealer in his area, but be declined my offer 🙂 saying he’s happily retired… I’m sure you could easily relate to this 😉


  6. Bravo Gary, that has to be the Read of the year.

    I also suffer many of the same issues as you, and if it was not for the WaveWalk yaks,
    I’d be shore bond.

    And yes, Other Yakers can be down right cruel when it comes to my beloved W500 or W300.
    I’ve offered rides to many naysayers, but no one will bite.

    But I don’t let it get my dander up, because my buddy and his SOT are now side lined, while I’m still paddling and fishing till the Ice comes.

    Tight lines and Paddle safe all.

  7. Till the ice comes??!! I sure am happy I live in Texas. I would Dealership for Yoav and still may, but then I have to work … I then also would become a “partial” commentator (which I am anyway but it would be official). I’d have to get a tax license and file sales tax reports etc etc etc. I really just want to fish.
    I have enough demands on my time as it is as a Texas Master Gardener and my herd of California Red Sheep.
    I also propagate Jungle Orchid Cactus, cold hardy avocados, and am trying to breed a new breed of sheep by crossing California Red Sheep (which have wool) and Red Paint Katahdin Sheep (which have hair).
    The Cal Reds originally came from a cross of a hair sheep called Blackbelly Barbado and Tunis sheep.
    I am trying with some success to capture recessive hair genes in the Cal reds, and match it with the hair genes of the Katahdin.
    Shearing sheep is what I want to get away from as I pay a fortune to get my sheep sheared only to get rid of really nice oatmeal colored wool that has to be marketed to have any value – again the time away from fishing time constraints.
    Btw, when I am successful at making a new red and paint red hair sheep I will then christen them Texas Reds and I will be famous (yeah sure).
    All of the above notwithstanding, I am getting old and need to maximize my fishing time.

    One of the reasons I have the W500 is to allow myself the maximum amount of fishing time. I have other, inflatable boats, but I wanted a boat that I could quickly load and unload from my truck, and if the fishing wasn’t good where I unloaded the boat could be quickly reloaded to change fishing spots. The W500 fits that need to a T.

  8. Hey Gary,
    We’d love to see pictures of you with your cactus and sheep!

  9. I’ll have my bride get you some pictures of me with the sheep tonight. Its a ritual that I go through every night. Corn and their normal grain makes sheep VERY FRIENDLY and there is a good bit of jostling around as the sheep push each other trying to get the other sheeps allotment of grain. It looks like a Rugby Scrum. At this time of year the Jungle Orchid cactus are not in bloom so its not very impressive. Just a lot of large heavy mother plants hanging in the greenhouse. Now come spring and summer when they go into bloom, that’s a picture worth having. Here is a link to a sample picture:


    I propagate several that my wife’s father hybridized about 40 years ago. They are a family thing. We also have a couple we hybridized ourselves.

    Gary J

  10. A very impressive post and most of what is said about the Wavewalk does make a lot of sense to me, a man who is handicapped and has limited mobility too.
    I have been eying with the Wavewalk for quite a while but what really holds me back is, there is not one post, review, report etc that would name something negative about the Wavewalk…not one! Well, we are all old enough to know, nothing is really perfect and I’m sure the Wavewalk isn’t either.
    Gary says, he “walks” into the yak when launching, with one foot still on the dry ground … well, I really would like to see how he is doing that with the milk crate being installed!
    As a fisherman, I would install a milk crate too but it definitely would mean, I have to enter the yak from the side, same like if I was entering a SOT, which due to the higher cockpit wall might even be harder to enter for someone with limited mobility.
    There is another point that obviously nobody of the Wavewalk owners want to see or they all love to keep their mouth shut about – HOW TO RE-ENTER THE WAVEWALK IN OPEN WATER!
    The Wavewalk is meant to be a kayak and nobody, not Yoav or Gary or anybody else need to tell me it never could flip. (Actually I even read on another review someone saying, they did flip it.) I would think it’s much easier to swim on a SOT and then to roll back on your back, to slip in your yak seat and to be sitting on the yak again than it would be trying to climb on a Wavewalk in deep water while maybe having some waves of 1-2 feet around.
    Nobody mentions how hard it is to turn a Wavewalk back over in case it got flipped over in rough open water conditions.
    Speaking of waves…Yoav loves to bring up the extraordinary dry ride the Wavewalk provides and in another post about busting kayak myths he says, the SOT scuppers are not really self bailing and may the kayaker may still get wet feed or a wet butt. Ok, now let’s assume someone in a Wavewalk gets hit by bad weather and waves will come over the bow or side and water enters the cockpit. Everybody knows how quick weather and conditions can change, especially when fishing the bays or even the open sea and such a scenario may happen.
    Nobody suggests, it’s better to have a bilge pump on board in case water does enter the cockpit because the Wavewalk does not have scuppers and does not drain any water at all out of the cockpit at all. A spray skirt in a size like the Wavewalk cockpit would require, is not available either.

  11. Rick,

    How to find info on our website
    If you weren’t able to find some information on our side, there is no need for you to point an accusing finger at Wavewalk and its fans.
    Next time you you’re looking for information, try using the ‘Search’ function on this blog, or go the ‘Articles’ section of our website, and look for articles related to the topic you’re interested in.
    If this doesn’t help, you’re always welcome to call us, or email your questions to us, or post them on this blog. We prefer simple questions, such as “where can I find information about A and B?” or “what do I do in case this or that happens?”, and we always provide full answers.
    Being used to sit-in and SOT kayaks inevitably limits one’s paddling and fishing experience to what these obsolete craft are capable of offering. This seems to be the main reason behind the fact that you’ve been finding it hard to accept certain advantages of the W kayak.

    To your questions –

    1. Negative information:
    You mention that you read in several W kayak reviews on our site that people flipped it on their first trip. Although these reviews are nearly all about the W300 series (a narrower and less stable design than the W500), they answer your question about the lack of negative information, as well as about whether it’s possible to flip a W kayak or not: It is possible, of course, and for this reason all our models feature at least one pair of flotation modules that can either help preventing the W kayak from flipping over, or just make it easier to recover it.
    By definition, the term ‘Recovery’ pertains to post-accident situations.
    Flotation has no other usage but recovery – It adds neither stability nor load capacity.

    2. Milk Crate
    You can’t walk into the W500 from behind if there’s a milk crate in your way.
    However, you can walk into it from the front, and then simply turn inside the cockpit.
    Generally, I’m not a fan of milk crates, since they are not necessary for storage (their primary usage in other types of kayak) since the W500 offer several times more storage space than any other kayak does. More reading on this subject: https://wavewalk.com/blog/2009/05/29/is-rigging-your-w-fishing-kayak-with-a-milk-crate-necessary/

    3. Reentry in Open Water
    Getting back into a W500 is fairly easy, even in deep water, as well as in moving water. Here is a movie shot by a couple of W kayakers in upstate NY: https://wavewalk.com/blog/2009/11/10/re-entering-w500-kayak-from-deep-water-tim-kerr-ny-movie/
    And here is movie showing a W300 reentry in moving water ad waves, in the surf: https://wavewalk.com/blog/2008/09/11/w-fishing-kayak-deep-water-reentry-video/
    turning the W500 back is easy, and it’s even easier if you didn’t forget to attach flotation modules on its sides – See movie shot by a client from Massachusetts – https://wavewalk.com/blog/2008/07/25/brandons-fishing-kayak-in-the-surf-nuntucket/

    4. Cockpit cover
    Traditional spray skirts are hazardous, and we don’t like them at all (see: https://wavewalk.com/blog/2008/01/29/getting-trapped-in-a-kayak/ ) Instead, most W500 models come equipped with a preparation for a cockpit cover, exactly for extreme situations as you mention. The W cockpit cover is safe, since it does not constrain the W kayaker like a traditional spray skirt does, and it protects both the cockpit and the kayaker: https://wavewalk.com/blog/2011/01/28/how-to-keep-your-w500-fishing-kayak-cockpit-dry/
    Any plastic sheet or waterproof fabric can serve you as cockpit cover for your W500, and you can cover any part of the cockpit with it, or the entire cockpit.
    The way to launch your w500 in the surf and to stay dry is by paddling it from the rear of the cockpit. This way the kayak’s bow goes up, and you simply hop on top of the incoming waves, instead of forcing your way through them like you have to do when using obsolete sit-in or SOT kayaks. You can even launch a W kayak in the surf standing up, and launching a W kayak in 4 ft waves is a breeze even for a 10 year old kid: http://www.wavewalk.com/CHILDREN_KAYAK_FISHING.html
    Tip: Don’t try launching a SOT or SIK in 4 ft surf if you’re handicapped – You’re in for a rough time. many adults SOT and SIK yakkers fail in similar conditions.

    5. What if some water gets in?
    Again, this article provides deatiled advice, including a bilge pump, a hand bucket, and a sponge: https://wavewalk.com/blog/2011/01/28/how-to-keep-your-w500-fishing-kayak-cockpit-dry/
    In comparison, this article details the dangers of offshore fishing from a SOT: https://wavewalk.com/blog/2008/09/22/are-sit-on-top-sot-fishing-kayaks-safe-for-offshore-fishing/
    Remember that scuppers let water into the SOT deck, and so does the low freeboard of these hyped paddle boards, while a W500 loaded with 200 lbs still offers some 9 to 10 inches of freeboard.

    6. Disabled W kayakers and anglers
    Our website features multiple reviews contributed by W kayakers and W anglers who suffer from various disabilities that prevent them from using older types of kayaks, as well as articles on related subjects.
    We created a special blog called Painless Kayak Fishing, dedicated entirely on issues pertaining to disabilities, pain, injuries etc. in kayaking and kayak fishing, and a blog called Senior Kayak Angler, dedicated to problems that elderly kayak paddlers and anglers may experience with their kayaks.

    I hope your questions have been answered. If not, please let us know, and preferably in a more conventional way.

  12. Rick,
    I just don’t get what you’re saying. Why would a company say bad things about their own product, or advertise such things that others may have written? It doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t recall coming across such a thing.

  13. Moshiko,
    I often publish reviews that include things that I don’t agree with, or that I’m not particularly happy about. For example, reading about W clients capsizing their W kayak while attempting to paddle it in tandem without both paddlers being well acquainted with the boat as solo paddlers doesn’t make me very happy, but at least other people can learn from it.
    Same thing is true for any other issue that our clients may have had with their W kayak.
    We often publish ‘first impression’ reviews, which are not 100% positive, followed by more comprehensive and positive ones from the same client.
    In any case, each and every review we publish needs to be approved by the client who contributed it, and they are always asked whether there’s is anything they’d like to add, remove, or change in it.

    We came out with the W500 in response to some of the issues that our clients reported having had with the W300, mainly a longish learning curve for big and heavy guys, and it’s been a big success.
    I was particularly pleased with the way old timer W kayakers have reacted to the new W500 series: To summarize what such people have said, you can improve on a product even if your clients say it’s great 🙂

    We like our clients to make educated decisions before they place their order. This is why our website offers so much information, which sometimes makes it difficult to navigate and locate specific data, and in such cases we provide it by phone or by email.
    Wavewalk does not accept payments by credit card because of the high merchant fees that credit card companies charge without justification, but we also gain some peace of mind by making it harder and slower for the client to make their order, so we don’t have to deal with impulse buyers, who may order our product for the wrong reasons.

  14. Alex Heron says:

    Don’t you think it’s time you took credit cards? I’ll bet many of your customers are disappointed by your refusal to get paid this way.

  15. Up to three years ago, some people seemed a bit annoyed by our requirement that they pay us by check and not by credit card.
    These days, most people understand it perfectly, and some even support our attitude in this matter.

  16. Gary – That is the best review I have read yet. Let me personally thank you for two things. 1st – for serving in the Navy. Thank you very much. 2nd – for posting a review on this yak for disabled folks. Like you, I suffer from ruptured disks in my upper back and neck. I gave up my kayaks (all except 2 for my boys) and have been stuck on the shore for far to long. Your review has confirmed what I was already thinking about this kayak and I’ll be buying one for myself very soon. From a fellow Texan, thank you again for a great review.

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