This short movie shows Captain Larry Jarboe driving his S4 kayak skiff powered by a 9.8 HP Tohatsu outboard motor with a 6’3″ 260 lbs passenger on board, in a narrow and winding mangrove creek. The total payload carried by his S4 is over 500 lbs.
The S4 is perfectly stable and maneuvers easily despite the high speed and heavy load.
Larry is driving seated side-saddle, dinghy style, with both feet in the left hull and facing sideways, and his passenger rides the saddle PWC style, with a foot in each hull, and facing forward.
“Kayak”??… This is likely to be the last thing that comes to mind of anyone watching this movie, but indeed, the S4, like all Wavewalk’s patented catamaran boats, is officially designated as a kayak, not just because of its light weight (98 lbs) and high performance as a paddle craft, but mainly thanks to certain design features required by law.
Skiff?… The kind of performance seen in this movie is not what you’d expect from a skiff or skiff by name.
Wavewalk likes to bring forward the S4’s performance as a skiff, namely a fishing boat for flat water, but there’s no flat water to be seen in this offshore movie… far from that!
PWC?… Such comparison would have been more appropriate if we used wheel steering instead of direct steering with the tiller, and possibly an even more powerful motor than the 9.8 HP Tohatsu that features in this movie. Nevertheless, the movie conveys some of the action and excitement associated with Personal Watercraft (PWC), sometimes referred to as jet-skis.
PWC stability at high speed
This video shows the Wavewalk S4 powered by a 9.8 HP Tohatsu outboard motor, driven at full throttle, offshore, in choppy water and waves.
It demonstrates a performance level that’s new in the world of small boats and watercraft, including both unrivaled speed and stability that enables stand-up driving and wave-hopping that one expects to find only in Personal Watercraft (PWC).
Perfect balancing and ergonomic saddle seat
The Wavewalk design and PWC have one feature in common, which is their similar saddle seats that deliver the best balancing capabilities to the driver and passengers. But the advantage of the saddle seat doesn’t end there – The saddle also allows the driver and passengers’ legs to act naturally as powerful and effective shock absorbers that protect their backs from the unwanted impact of the constant leaps and bounds, and high speed clashes with waves.
Being officially designated as a kayak, the S4 delivers these capabilities in a paddling mode too, although at much lower speeds…
A most seaworthy small boat
The performance seen in this video is not the kind of performance that flat-bottomed boats such as Jon boats or skiffs can deliver. The S4 is seaworthy, while these traditional small fishing boats aren’t.
What cannot be well perceived from watching this movie is the fact that the S4 is dry too – Frontal clashes with waves do not let water into its hulls, and the only time when spray gets in is when the boat is hits a wave with its broadside. Even then, very little water gets inside.
Shooting this video
The cameraman was Captain Larry Jarboe, standing on the deck of his fishing boat, the Line Dancer, that was anchored in the same choppy waters as the S4 is seen going in. The Line Dancer was constantly bouncing and tilting, which made it particularly difficult to shoot video of another, distant and fast moving small boat.
Larry used a Nikon Coolpix 900 digital camera with a powerful x83 optical zoom lens, in an auto-focus mode, but since placing this camera on a tripod would have been useless under these hectic conditions, Larry’s sea legs were the decisive factor that helped produce the video footage for this movie.
The White Knight – Larry’s workhorse S4
The boat in this movie is Larry’s personal S4, dubbed the White Knight. Larry offers fishing and diving tours in Key Largo, and it is this boat that he uses in these trips, and on a daily basis. The White Knight features a base for a diving ladder at the bow, and foam boards on its sides, since Larry sometimes uses it to side-tow two other S4s,each attached to a different side of the White Knight.
The White Knight is powered by a 9.8 HP 2-cycle Tohatsu outboard motor, and Larry recently clocked 17 mph with it, which is a world speed record for kayaks.
Driving the S4
The S4 operator in this movie is 56 years old, and not in great shape. An athletic driver half his age would have probably driven the S4 more aggressively and spectacularly, but that tired-looking, gray haired driver adds a feeling of reality to the video, or so we hope…
Another important trade-off that you should be aware of is related to propellers: High pitch propellers are designed to deliver more speed and less torque (thrust, push force), and they work best with lightweight boats such as the S4, while low pitch propellers are designed to move bigger and heavier boats at lower speeds, but they should not be used with lightweight boats such as the S4, since they might make the motor run at a too-high RPM.
Outboard motors manufacturers’ websites say that (quote) “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EVER USE A PROP WHICH WILL ALLOW YOUR OUTBOARD TO OPERATE ABOVE THE OUTBOARD’S RECOMMENDED MAXIMUM RPMs“. This means that you should avoid using propellers designed for use with very heavy boats, namely propellers in the low-pitch range.
Note that 20″ long (L) propeller shaft motors typically ship with propellers that are not necessarily optimal for very lightweight boats such as the S4. For example, the 6 HP 20” long (L) outboard from Tohatsu often comes with a medium range 8 pitch propeller, which is fine, but mounted on the S4, such a motor could drive the S4 12% faster if outfitted with a 9 pitch propeller.
Propeller pitch information is available on outboard manufacturers’ websites.
Since the S4 is a very lightweight boat, you should preferably outfit the outboard motor for it with the highest pitch propeller available for it.
Diameter – Don’t try to use a propeller from a small outboard with a bigger outboard, or vice versa.
Hydrofoils (“Fins”) for the outboard
A hydrofoil is an add-on device attached to the outboard motor’s propeller shaft (a.k.a. “leg”). The hydrofoil generates lift at the boat’s stern – The higher the speed the more lift. Hydrofoils can help correct various problems that a powerboat may have, but the S4 has no problems that require correction. This said, hydrofoils help keep the bow down and the stern higher, and a boat that travels this way, namely in a more level position, planes better than if its bow was higher and stern lower. Therefore, outfitting your S4’s outboard motor with a hydrofoil device can result in higher speed on flat water when driving in a solo mode, that is without a passenger in the front. The downside of using a hydrofoil is that when driving with a lowered bow in the ocean, the boat might generate more spray as it bumps into big waves, especially if there’s a passenger in the front. Bottom line: If you like driving solo at high speed on flat water, consider adding a hydrofoil, and if you need to drive in big waves with the hydrofoil on, trim the motor less aggressively by using its trim angle adjustment rod, or knob, especially if you have a passenger on board whose presence also works to lower the bow.
SMALL PORTABLE OUTBOARD MOTORS
For the S4, small size means a highly portable but under-powered outboard motor.
2 HP outboards
Outboard motors in this class weigh around 30 lbs, which makes them fully portable even for a user who’s not very strong. A 2 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at speeds up 8 mph, even in choppy water. This speed would decrease as the boat is required to carry more passengers on board. S4 owners who tested such motors with their S4 skiff reported that the boat felt under powered, which means that they felt like going faster, but the motor lacked the power required for this. For this reason 2 HP motors are not popular with S4 users. Another reason for their lack of popularity is the fact that being air cooled makes these small motors noisier than bigger, water cooled motors.
Propeller pitch –
The Honda 2.3 HP comes with a 4.75 pitch propeller
MEDIUM SIZE PORTABLE OUTBOARD MOTORS
For the S4, a medium size outboard motor means powerful enough but still portable. Motors in this 3.5 HP to 6 HP range are the ones we recommend for most users.
3.5 HP outboards
Outboard motors in this range weigh around 40 lbs, which makes them still portable, but less so than 2 HP motors. A 3.5 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at speeds up to 11 mph, even in choppy water, and it can propel the boat at 8 mph with three passengers on board in moving water. This size motor is popular among S4 and W700 users, as it offers a good trade-off between power and weight for people who must lift the motor or carry it by hand over long distances.
These motors are also less expensive than bigger ones.
Propeller pitch –
For their 3.5 HP motor, Tohatsu recommends either the 7 pitch (Plastic) or 6 pitch (aluminum) propellers, for lightweight boats such as the S4 (under 500 lbs). We say get the 7 pitch propeller, unless you think that you need the more durable aluminum propeller.
6 HP outboards
Outboard motors in this range weigh around 60 lbs, which makes them portable only over short distances, and not for everyone.
A 6 HP motor can propel an S4 skiff with one person on board at 17 mph, and it can propel the boat at 12 mph with three passengers on board.
6 HP is the second most popular motor size among S4 users.
For their 6 HP outboard used with lightweight boats up to 500 lbs (such as the S4), Tohatsu recommends their 9 pitch propeller. The 8 pitch propeller would work too, especially if you intend to have the boat fully loaded, so that it would weigh over 500 lbs in total.
BIGGER OUTBOARD MOTORS
8 HP to 10 HP outboard motors are too heavy to be carried by hand, and they may be too powerful for inexperienced drivers to use safely. However, some of them come with electric start instead on manual start, which is a nice feature. They also come with an alternator that can serve to power small electric devices on board.
8 HP outboards
Outboard motors in this class weigh between 65 and 80 lbs. At such weight, these motors can no longer be considered as portable, and the main reason to use them is the fact that are offered with electric ignition, which eliminates the need to start them by pulling a cord. People who like driving at high speed may prefer these motors to less powerful ones. The S4 outfitted with an 8 HP motor performs well in choppy water, but it could feel over powered for an inexperienced driver, which should avoid using such motors with their S4. Heavy users may benefit from driving with a U-jointed tiller extension, in order to move some weight forward from the stern towards the middle of the boat.
Note that these bigger motors don’t come with an integrated fuel tank, but this isn’t necessarily a problem, since external fuel tanks can fit inside the S4’s hulls.
9.8 HP and 9.9 HP outboards
We tested the S4 with a 9.8 HP Tohatsu and a 9.9 HP Yamaha outboard, and it worked well. Practically, this class of heavier and more powerful motors offers no advantage over smaller motors unless you’re a speed fan, and you’re also capable of driving small boats safely at such speeds. To those who want to take the risk of overpowering their S4 with such big motors, we recommend reinforcing the mounting plate.
This video shows an S4 powered by a 9.8 HP Tohatsu motor filmed from the deck of an S4 powered by a 5 HP Tohatsu motor:
Currently, the S4 is the world’s fastest designated kayak. The 17 mph kayak speed record was achieved by Captain Larry Jarboe, of Key Largo, Florida, in his S4 outfitted with a 9.8 HP Tohatsu outboard motor.
15 HP and 18 HP outboards
Incredible as it may sound, Wavewalk S4 owners have been experiencing with such extremely powerful motors as well.
The 15 HP motor tested was a new, 4-Cycle Suzuki that weighed 135 lbs, and it was too heavy to be effective. In other words, the extra power did not add to the boat’s speed due to trim issues. The owner switched a 9.9 HP 4-Cycle that weighs 105 lbs, and they are satisfied now.
The 18 HP motor was an old 2-Stroke Mercury that weighs less than 100 lbs. It was outfitted with an 11″ pitch propeller. The S4 powered by this outboard motor did not break the 17 mph speed record achieved with a 9.8 HP Tohatsu (same manufacturer), apparently since the motor needed refurbishing. If this is done, and the motor is properly trimmed, we expect it to deliver a new top speed for the S4.
We recommend that inexperienced drivers avoid using high power motors with their S4. Instead, they should pick a motor within the 3.5 HP to 6 HP range.
OUTBOARD MOTOR BRANDS
After years of testing motors and getting input from our clients, we can recommend all Japanese brands, namely Honda, Suzuky, Tohatsu and Yamaha. Mercury is a Tohatsu brand, and the small, portable motors offered by Evinrude are made by Tohatsu. Motors from all these brands are good, and your decision about which motor to use with your S4 should be based on factors such as price, weight, features, availability, warranty, etc.
A kicker motor is a name given to any outboard gas motor used on a big boat for trolling, or as a spare motor, and for positioning and driving sailboats over short distances when sailing them is not possible. Being used on bigger boats, kickers often feature a 20″ long (L) shaft, which is the right size for the S4, but the propellers used with them are typically low-pitch models that are not optimal for lightweight boats such as the S4.
If you buy a kicker, check its propeller, and if it’s not a model with the highest pitch that the manufacturer recommends for lightweight boats, replace it with such a propeller.
MUD MOTORS – SURFACE DRIVES
Most motors feature a surface drive, and they offer a huge advantage to people who want to drive in very shallow water, mud, water with many underwater obstacles, and water with plenty of vegetation. Mud motors are bulkier and heavier than regular outboard motors of similar power.
3 HP motors
A 3 HP long tail mud motor weighs about 40 lbs, and as such it’s portable. It works well both in flat water and streams, although not very fast ones. The S4 can definitely use much more powerful motors.
6.5 HP motors
A 6.5 HP mud motor weighs around 80 lbs, and it’s not portable. The reasons you’d want to use such a motor instead of a regular outboard of similar power are if you need to go in very shallow water (skinny water) and mud, and if you fish or hunt in water with plenty of vegetation and underwater obstacles. The S4 performs very well with a such a mud motor. We do not recommend using less powerful mud motors because typically, these motors require more power than regular outboard motors do.
Electric outboard motors
Typically, electric trolling motors are not powerful, and they are designed to propel heavier boats than the S4 (e.g. bass boat, skiff, Jon boat) at a very low speed, namely trolling speed. This type of application requires high thrust (small pitch) propellers, and it’s also the reason why trolling motors are rated in thrust units (lbs) and not in horsepower (HP or KW) – When you buy such a motor, your primary interest is how big (heavy) a boat it can move, and not at what speed.
Some electric trolling motors are described by their manufacturers as “outboard motors”, namely comparable in performance to small outboard gas engines. If you’re interested in such electric motors, we recommend comparing apples to apples namely power units to power units, and not power to thrust, which is meaningless. Remember the laws of physics, and apply the formulae for Kilowatts to Horsepower conversion, which are:
The S4 is the world’s fastest kayak when motorized, as well as the world’s most stable kayak. The latter is the keys factor in enabling driving the S4 at high speed both on flat water and in rough water.
This is Wavewalk’s 4th boat series since 2004, following the 300 (Mark I and II), 500, and 700 series.
Like all other Wavewalk® products, this boat is 100% Made in USA.
The S4 delivers the highest performance in the field of small boats and skiffs, even before you’ve reached the water, starting from the fact that at 98 lbs it doesn’t require a trailer for transportation, and it’s easily portable even on rough terrain.
Its patented twin-hull design delivers more stability than any small boat out there, including much wider and heavier ones. This allows for driving in fast currents and in choppy water.
In addition, being a true catamaran makes this boat track better than other boats.
The S4’s extra large cockpit (8′ long x 38″ wide) offers ample room for two anglers or hunters and their gear, or for up to three adult passengers – a total of up to 680 lbs.
The S4 features a long saddle seat similar to the saddle of other high performance vehicles, which offers maximal balancing capability as well as full comfort for going in choppy water and for long trips.
The S4 features a stand up casting platform at its bow, such as can be found in a typical skiff.
The cockpit’s slanted sides allow passengers to paddle with more ease and better control than what canoes and tandem fishing kayaks may offer them.
The S4 has an extremely shallow draft, and this fact in combination with its portability, load capacity and high performance as a paddle craft makes it the most practical solution for shallow water fishing.
Wavewalk S4 structural details – Click image to enlarge
Length: 13 ft (396 cm)
Beam (Total Width): 38″ (97 cm)
Cockpit Length: 95″ (241 cm)
Cockpit Height: 17″ (43 cm)
Saddle Height: 15″ (38 cm)
Width of a single hull: 13″ (33 cm)
Total Weight: 98 lbs (44.5 kg)
Structure Overview and Features
Patented twin-hull Wavewalk® catamaran hulls
Personal watercraft (a.k.a. ‘jet-ski’) style 7’6″ long Saddle seat featuring a series of seven molded-in brackets, and six vertical molded-in reinforcement columns
Integrated Skiff Style Stand-Up Casting Platform at the bow, with anti-skid surface. Read more »
The Cockpit’s Slanted Sides allow passengers to paddle with more ease and comfort than paddling a canoe or a common kayak of such width.
Preparation for a vertical mounting plate for outboard motor or rod rack at the stern
Two Medium Density Overlay (MDO) 0.75″ thick Saddle Brackets – One bracket at each end of the saddle.
The bracket in the front provides additional support for the stand up casting platform, and the rear bracket serves as extra support for a motor mount.
Each bracket is attached to the vertical wall that’s adjacent to it by means of two rivets. The rivets are sealed with waterproof adhesive. Click thumbnail to enlarge
Built-In Flotation – The S4 Saddle is a watertight compartment that offers 180 lbs of positive buoyancy.Two pairs of integrated, molded-in heavy duty Carry Handles – A pair at the bow, and a pair at the stern.
Average Wall Thickness: 0.150″ (3.8 mm)
Available Color Combinations
Color Combination Name
Click images to enlarge
Max Total Payload: 650 lbs (295 kg)
Max Number of Passengers: 3 adults, or 2 adults and 2 children
Internal Space for Dry Storage : 34.7 cubic ft (0.98 cubic meter), namely 260 gallons
Empty: 0.75″ (1.7 cm)
With 200 lbs Payload (90.7 kg) : 2.5″ (64 mm)
With 400 lbs Payload (181.5 kg): 4.25″ (108 mm)
With 600 lbs Payload (272 kg): 6″ (152 mm)
Max Outboard Motor Power Recommended for Regular Use: 6 HP
Outboard Motor Compatibility: 20″ Long (L) Propeller Shaft
Hull: Rotationally Molded High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Saddle: Rotationally Molded High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Heavy Duty (HD) Saddle Bracket: Medium Density Overlay (MDO).
Our boats are made from 100% recyclable materials
Country of Origin
Our kayaks, paddles and accessories are 100% Made in USA
4. PRICE $2,760.
This price includes shipping in the US to land addresses in the contiguous 48 states, with insurance and call before delivery service.
This price does not include the S4 mounting plate, whose cost is $130.
S4 Heavy Duty (HD) Motor Mounting Plate: $130
1.5″ thick. Made from Medium Density Overlay (MDO) and coated with urethane.
Each mounting plate ships with a pair of 5/16″, 3″ long bolts, and self locking nuts.
It takes a couple of minutes to attach this mounting plate to the boat: Just insert it into the molded-in stand for transom motor mount, drill two 5/16″ holes, and secure in place with the two bolts provided.
Fits 20″ long (L) propeller shafts.
Click image to enlarge
Wavewalk® 9 ft long dual blade (‘Kayak’) paddle: $190
Common dual blade (‘kayak’) paddles are neither long nor sturdy or rigid enough for paddling this paddle craft, pole it in shallow water, and paddle standing.
Wavewalk® 9’8″ extra long dual blade (‘Kayak’) paddle: $230
For very tall people, or people who plan on paddling standing and poling most of the time.
Wavewalk® Detachable Spray Shield: $140
For high speed motorizing in choppy water.
Wavewalk® Joystick Steering System: $270
For easy and fun steering seated and standing.
Best Stability in Small Boats
Initial (Primary) Stability: The S4 is more stable than any kayak, canoe, Jon boat and small skiff, including Wavewalk’s W700. A 200 lbs person standing with both feet in one of the S4 hulls will make it draft barely 1″ lower than it would if that person stood with one foot in each hull – hardly a noticeable difference.
Secondary Stability and Balancing Capability: The unique combination of a saddle seat (such as ATVs, PWC and snowmobiles feature) with high-volume twin hulls enables the passengers to balance themselves easily, intuitively, and more effectively than in any other boat, including kayaks, canoes, Jon boats, dinghies, skiffs, and personal watercraft (PWC / ‘jet-ski’).
The 15″ high saddle featuring in the S4 is similar to the saddle featuring in other high performance land and water vehicles, such as All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), Personal Watercraft (PWC / ‘jet-ski’), and Snowmobiles, as well as certain Rigid-Inflatable Boats (RIB) designed for high speed motorizing offshore.
Passengers riding this saddle can travel for long hours, including in choppy water, without suffering from back pain or fatigue. This is due to the fact that while seated in the Riding position, with a leg on each side of the saddle, the passenger’s legs support them in the most effective way, and no horizontal pressure from a backrest is being applied on their lower back.
In addition, the S4 passengers can stand up any time they want, and keep driving and paddling while standing up. They can even lay down with their back on the saddle, and relax. Switching between positions assures that no extreme fatigue or tension would build up in any part of the passenger’s body.
Easy Transportation and Full Portability
The S4 weighs 98 lbs without a motor attached to it. This means that it does not require a trailer for transportation, since it can be car-topped. The S4 can be dragged or carried over rough terrain, and launched practically anywhere, whether it’s a rocky beach, shallow water, and other difficult spots that are not accessible to other boats.
Mobility and Range of Travel
The S4 can go anywhere, thanks to a number of special features –
No other boat offers such a combination of shallow draft and total multi-modal propulsion, namely the ability to keep going in an effective paddling and poling mode even if the water is too shallow and/or infested with weeds to allow for motorizing.
No other small boat works so well both on flat water and in the chop.
On Board Storage
The space available for dry storage on board the S4 is equivalent to the storage offered by a good size Jon-boat, or a regular skiff.
So far, the speed record for the S4 is 17 mph. This record was set with a 9.8 HP Tohatsu outboard motor by Captain Larry Jarboe, and documented in video. Based on the boat’s perfect performance at this speed, it could go faster with a more powerful motor. Please note that Wavewalk does not recommend using motors that are over 6 HP with the S4.
7. S4 vs. W700
W700 advantages over the S4: Solo kayaking, tandem kayaking, solo canoeing, portability.
S4 advantages over the W700: Motorizing, tandem motorizing, tandem fishing, stability, offshore trips, load capacity.
Shallow water – The S4 drafts less than the W700, and it features a skiff stand up casting platform, but the W700 paddles better, generally.
Offshore – Being more of a boat than the W700, the S4 offers a clear advantage in the chop.
This article is an attempt to answer some questions that Wavewalk skiff owners ask in the process of choosing an outboard motor for it –
Short shaft or long shaft?
We definitely recommend using outboards that feature a long (20″) propeller shaft, and for multiple reasons, which are discussed in this article entitled Outboard motor propeller shaft length for Wavewalk fishing kayaks and boats »
We recommend not to be tempted by the availability and lower price of 15″ short shaft outboard motors, because such motors don’t fit the W700, and using one would never produce optimal results, even for a highly skilled individual with a lot of experience in boat outfitting.
Here is a list of long (L) 20″ shaft outboard motors currently available in the 2 to 6 horsepower range, and their HP rating:
Water cooled motors are quieter but heavier than comparable air cooled motors.
The only motor featuring on the above list that’s not water cooled is the Honda 2.3 HP. It is very lightweight, and works very well, but being air cooled makes it considerably noisier.
Note: Outboard motor manufacturers recommend flushing the motor’s cooling system with fresh water after every trip in saltwater. It’s possible to flush an outboard with a garden hose outfitted with a special adapter.
4-Cycle or 2-Cycle engine?
Nearly all new small motors on the market are 4-Cycle (4-stroke) and not 2-Cycle (2-stroke).
The advantage of the 4-Cycle system is twofold –
The motor runs on regular fuel, and there is no need to mix it with oil.
A 4-Cycle motor is cleaner, namely it emits far less stinky fumes than 2-cycle motors do.
Some experts argue that for the same displacement of its combustion chamber (cc, volume, size), a 2-Cycle engine in more powerful than 4-Cycle one, but we think that convenience and fresh air are more important.
electric or gas?
Many Wavewalk owners outfit their W500 and W700 with electric motors in the 30 to 50 lbs thrust range, and some go as far as 70 lbs thrust. They use their electric kayaks and skiffs for assisted paddling, recreation, touring, trolling, fishing, snorkeling, etc., but we prefer not to include electric motors in our list of “real” outboard motors for two reasons, which are:
Power – Although some small electric motors are offered as “outboard motors”, just looking at their basic, objective power rating makes us think that they are too weak. Kilowatts to Horsepower conversion: 1 KW = 1.34 HP, and 1 HP = 0.745 KW. Consequently, an electric motor can work well on flat water and at a moderate speed, but not necessarily in adverse conditions, namely strong current, strong wind, etc.
Range of travel – A gallon (3.8 liter) of fuel costs a few dollars, and it’s enough for a typical small outboard motor to run for 4 hours at a high RPM, or an entire day at a lower RPM. You can refuel a small outboard’s built-in fuel tank when you’re on board your Wavewalk®. You can take several gallons of fuel with you on a long camping trip, and you can buy more fuel almost everywhere, while recharging an electric motor’s battery can take half a day. Therefore, gas outboard motors offer a reliable and convenient solution whose price / performance ratio is unbeatable by any electric motor available today.
All small outboard motors listed above are considered to be Portable. However, between the 29 lbs of the 2.3 HP Honda and the 59 lbs of the 6 HP motors there is a considerable difference, if you need to carry the motor by hand over a distance.
The shallow water position
Most of the small outboard motors listed here offer to lock their propeller shaft in an intermediary position between the vertical (down) and horizontal (up) positions. In this intermediary, slanted position, the propeller drafts less than in the vertical position, and this allows for driving the boat at a moderate speed in very shallow (‘skinny’) water. Therefore, if you’re looking to fish in skinny water, we recommend that you look for this feature.
gear shift lever
Most outboard motors on our list feature a gear shift level, and this is a good thing, because the alternative is a centrifugal clutch that lacks an absolute neutral position. The absence of a full neutral gear can make starting the motor a little tricky, if you’re a beginner.
Our preference goes to the outboard motors that feature the gear shift lever at the front, rather than on their side. The frontal position makes it easier for the driver to access the lever whether the motors points left or right, and even if the driver is facing forward.
built-in fuel tank
All the above listed outboard motors come with a built-in (integrated) fuel tank, and this is a convenient feature considering the alternative is to have a fuel line run from a separate tank to the engine. When you operate such a small craft as a Wavewalk, simplicity becomes increasingly important.
The propellers that come standard with these outboard motors fit Wavewalk’s kayaks and portable skiffs. Typically, these motors propel much heavier boats, which is why the propeller’s diameter and pitch which determine output in terms of speed and torque are of no real consequence to the owner of a Wavewalk under normal conditions.
price and brand
All the brands listed above are known to produce quality motors, and in fact some of them produce motors for others. For example, Mercury is a Tohatsu brand. This is to say that we see no reason to pay more for a particular name brand, and we recommend to consider only the motor’s technical attributes, and its price.
HP rating – can i overpower my skiff?
6 HP is the absolute maximum for which the W700 is rated, and this is only for its RIB model. Overpowering your Wavewalk can be hazardous, and if you use the wrong motor mount you’d be calling for trouble. This said, if you happen to own a 20″ shaft 5 HP motor and your W700 is rated for a 4.5 HP motor, you can keep your motor, and you won’t necessarily have to get a new one. Similarly, if your W700 is rated for up to 4.5 HP and you found a nice 4 HP that you like, you’d be fine with it.
If you choose to make a DIY mount for an electric trolling motor, chances are that you’ll succeed, since these motors are so weak that they’re not likely to cause trouble. But this is not the case with the gas outboard motors in the range that features on the above list.
There are several issues to overcome with motor mounts, and the motor’s weight is the least of them. The main problem is that operating at the end of a 20″ lever, the motor’s propeller generates a great amount of torque, especially at high speed, in rough water and when making sharp turns at high speed. This torque can twist and crack a 4×2 timber, and pull out nails and screws from their place. After having seen motor mounts get broken by outboard motors ranging from 6 to 3.5 HP that were mounted on them, we strongly recommend not to build a DIY motor mount for these motors, and to use only the motor mounts that Wavewalk recommends.
Some of the more powerful outboard motors listed here can be outfitted with an alternator and an AC to DC converter. Note that such accessories cost hundreds of dollars.
The electric current produced by this system can be used to power lights on board, or to charge a trolling motor’s battery. Such setups are common in bigger boats (e.g. bass boats) that feature much more powerful motors. Although some Wavewalk owners have outfitted their W700 with two motors (a powerful one for driving and a small one for trolling), we don’t know of anyone who’s outfitted their outboard motor with an electric current generation system.
Why an outboard motor?
Skiffs, Jon boats and other small boats sometime come with other motors, among which are air drives or air motors (large diameter propellers) for running marshes and flats, jet drives (similar to personal watercraft, a.k.a. jet-ski), long shaft mud motors for going in shallow water and over obstacles, and outboard motors that run on propane.
While each of these motors offers certain special advantages, and we’d love to see the W700 outfitted with any of them, as well as with other propulsion systems ranging from sails to oars, and even pedal drives… we think the common small outboards such as we listed here offer the optimal mix of price, performance, reliability, versatility, ease of use, and ease of maintenance – Just think how common are boat dealerships and repair shops that service these motors… And if you know how to use your outboard motor and you take care of it, it’s truly a wonderful thing that you’d enjoy for years, and possibly even decades.