Driving the S4 standing up

This piece should be entitled Driving the Wavewalk S4 motor kayak skiff standing up, at full speed, in the ocean chop, while shooting video.

The Wavewalk S4 is the world’s most stable kayak, and the stability and control it delivers in rough water surpass the stability and control that a Jon boat or micro skiff offer in such conditions. This is achieved through the combined effects of the twin-hull (catamaran) built and the ergonomic jet-ski style saddle-seat. The S4 is more seaworthy than many bigger boats since its driver and passengers can balance themselves easily and effectively, even when going in the ocean chop.

Last year, when I visited Larry (Captain Larry Jarboe), in Key Largo, I saw him driving his S4 standing while holding in his right hand a rope attached to the bow. This year, after experimenting driving this way, I found that the stability and control I achieve surpass those that the extremely stable Riding position offers. This statement might seem strange to many people, including those who drive their S4 in the chop, but consider this – When it comes to very small vehicles and sporting equipment, the height of your center of gravity is not necessarily the most important factor, and your ability to balance yourself effectively is what usually determines the performance level you can achieve.

Here are some examples to illustrate this notion –
A pair of skis offer the skier standing on them better stability and control than a luge does.
A standard bicycle offers its rider better stability and control than a recumbent bike does. If you ride your bike on a rugged terrain, you’d tend to prefer doing it standing.
A sailing board offers the user who stands on it far better control and much higher performance than a sailing kayak does to the person sitting in it.

Technically speaking, I hold the strap attached to the bow in my right hand, and I steer with my left hand holding a U-jointed (articulated) tiller extension. Shifting my body weight adds a lot to my balancing capability. The ability to gain some extra leverage on the tiller extension by hold it next to the side of my body makes steering even easier. 

The lower part of my legs touch the saddle, so that I can lean on it if necessary, such as when making a sharp turn at high speed, or tilting the boat into a big lateral wave. This is not a typo – You can do it when you drive an S4, and it works.

While driving this way, I wanted to shoot video using my cellphone. in order to do this I let the strap enter my fist from below (next to the pinky, and made one loop around my hand. This freed my thumb, index and middle finger to hold the cellphone, and even point it in different directions. Grabbing the strap does not require force, and the main advantage it gives is offering a fourth reference point, in addition to one’s two feet and their left hand that’s grabbing the tiller extension.

Note that all this requires practicing before things become easy, intuitive, and fun.

Interestingly, waves look smaller when you’re standing 🙂

More on designing fishing kayaks that offer the best stability »

3 thoughts on “Driving the S4 standing up”

  1. Yoav,

    Should anyone be prone to motion sickness, it might be a good idea to take Dramamine prior to viewing this video.

    Had my head spinning and I am used to the motion of the ocean.

    Larry J.

  2. 😀
    The next ones will be worse. I promise.
    Maybe the solution is watching these videos standing?

  3. In this video, it’s possible to see that sometimes the bow strap is pulled tightly, and sometimes it’s loose. This shows that it doesn’t necessarily serve as a physical attachment and balancing point all the time, and sometimes it just provides additional psychological comfort.

Leave a Reply