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Paddling and Battling Fish & Wind in My S4

Chris Henderson

Northern Tribe Outdoors (NTO), WA

Fishing Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho –

Design: Looks Matter

We launched the S4 in 2017, so why did I write this article only now?
This is an important question, and I can think of two answers to it –

  1. Since I started designing kayaks and boats, I have focused on functionality and performance, and aesthetics came after these primary considerations.
    I have always thought that the way people perceive the beauty and appeal of a product stems first and foremost from the advantages it offers to them in terms of usage.
    Compared to the first three series that Wavewalk produced, the S4 was a departure from this strict practical approach, as it incorporated a pointy bow that was not an absolute necessity in structural or usefulness terms. I designed it in order to make this boat more appealing, visually, namely more “sexy”.
    When I designed the S4, I felt totally confident in its performance, however, I felt much less sure about the attractiveness of this design, which leads me to the second answer:
  2. Technically speaking, the S4 is a continuation of the W700 and the previous generations of Wavewalk kayaks, all based on our patented invention, but visually, it was totally different, and unlike any other kayak, boat or microskiff out there.
    Our clients and dealers have been enthusiastic about the S4 starting day one, but I felt that we could claim that it’s beautiful only after many people would express their appreciation of its looks, regardless of any technical merit it has, and based purely on aesthetics. This is a high hurdle to pass, and five years later, after talking to countless clients and reading countless emails and reviews, we can say that the S4 is a very attractive boat – the kind of boat that makes people stare at it in appreciation, and engage in conversations with its driver and passengers.

What makes the S4 microskiff look great?

It’s hard to summarize so many inputs that people have provided over the years, but nevertheless, I’ll try here –

The most obvious is the fact that the S4 is a bold and unusual design. It looks like no other boat out there, big or small. It is special in every way, but that in itself would have not been enough to make it look great without the other attributes that people perceive at first sight, namely those associated with performance: The S4 looks both fast and stable, as well as comfortable, and this first impression associates it with fun. More specifically, its catamaran hulls produce a reassuring effect of stability, its pointy bow signals that it’s built for speed, and its large size saddle seat evokes high performance jet-skis.
In addition, the S4 benefits from the following pleasant as well as intriguing visual attributes:

    1. Simple, streamlined forms and surfaces – There are no accessories of any kind attached to any part of the S4.
    2. A slender stern – Unlike other microskiffs and small motorboats that feature a wide and bulky stern, the two rear hull tips of the S4 are pointy, which makes them look more hydrodynamic.
    3. Aggressive “in your face” bow – Together with the pointy nose, the front molded-in handles and other structural elements are reminding of the head of a big predatory fish, more specifically a shark or a ray, and the molded-in brackets of the saddle seat vaguely remind of the anatomy of a big and powerful fish. It’s almost as if the S4 radiates vital energy.
    4. The slanted sides of the cockpit make it look smaller than its actual large size, and together with its narrow front end, they enhance the boat’s overall sporty look.
    5. Viewed from above, the S4 sides are straight and parallel, a feature that can be observed in large racing catamaran motorboats. This creates an energetic, “no-nonsense” effect that’s not commonly found in small watercraft.

In sum, people love the S4 for its looks too, and looks matter.

Yoav