fishing kayak ergonomics

The kayak for tall and heavy (“big”) people

When kayaks are concerned, tall people are more challenged than short and average height people, and so are heavy people. Tall and heavy people, a.k.a. “big” are particularly challenged, especially if they are elderly too.

What’s the problem?

Tall people-

Being tall means that your center of gravity (CG) is higher than that of a shorter person. This is especially true for men, whose center of gravity is higher than that of women.  A high center of gravity can be a serious problem if you’re using a narrow and tippy kayak, and it can be a mere source of constant concern when you’re using a wider and stabler kayak. Being tall means that you won’t be able to paddle standing in most fishing kayaks out there, and you won’t be able to fish standing either. This is too bad, since paddling standing if fun, and it works better for sight fishing. As for fishing standing, it is a basic right of anyone who fishes from a boat, and a good fishing kayak should offer it to anyone – no ifs and buts.

Another problem that tall people experience when paddling common (sit-in and SOT) kayaks and fishing from them is discomfort, beacuse their legs are longer, and therefore their feet, which serve as forward points of contact with the kayak itself, have less leverage on the boat, due the longer distance from the person’s core and torso, where balancing takes place. In other words, a tall kayaker’s legs are required to work harder to maintain the seated posture, and to balance both the kayaker and their kayak. This continuous effort is unpleasant and often results in discomfort, back pain, and fatigue.

Heavy people –

Heavy people who sit in a regular kayak, be it a sit-in or a sit-on-top (SOT), experience discomfort from several factors: The first is the fact that when their legs are stretched forward, in front of them, their abdomen is compressed between their torso and their lap. This pressure is both unnatural and uncomfortable.

The second factor is their upper body that weighs on their buttocks and coccyx without their legs supporting any of this weight, as they otherwise would when the person is seated on a chair, or a bench. This problem occurs because the heavy kayaker’s legs are stretched in front of them, in the L posture that as become the hallmark of kayaking discomfort.

A compressed abdomen makes it harder to breath, and with a compressed behind and lower spine come an exacerbation of the typical kayaking back pain symptoms.

And let’s not forget that if a person is really heavy, they might be challenged when it comes to balancing their kayak.

Tall and heavy, i.e. “Big” people –

People who are big, that is both tall and heavy, aren’t that rare in the general U.S. population, but you’d hardly find them in kayaks, because kayaking and kayak fishing are too much of a challenge for them.  An additional hardship that such people experience with kayaks is getting into the kayak and out of it. This is especially true with traditional sit-in designs, but it’s also true for SOT kayaks.

The old age factor

The above said is particularly problematic for tall, heavy and big people who are elderly. Being older often means that one’s sense of balance could be impaired, and older people are usually less supple and agile than younger folks are. On top of this, many elderly people suffer from various conditions involving back pain, joint pain, arthritis, and various disabilities and sensitivities that further prevent them from using regular kayaks, especially for fishing, which typically requires staying in the kayak for longer periods of time.

The kayak for tall, heavy, big and elderly people

Wavewalk’s new 700 series solves all the above problems. Kayaks from this series can easily accommodate very tall people, who comfortably ride the kayak’s 15″ high saddle, without being forced into the L posture. These people can stretch their legs anytime they feel like, stand up easily, as well as paddle and fish standing up. Going back to the seated position is not a problem either – It’s done intuitively and effortlessly.

There is no kayak out there that’s more stable than the W700, not even the world’s most stable kayak until today, the W500.
The W700 is so stable that a 200 lbs, 6′ tall middle-aged guy can stand with both feet in one of its hulls, and paddle on both sides of the kayak, as shown in this video:

But this absolute stability isn’t the only advantage that big and tall users get from this kayak: Both getting into the cockpit and out of it is a breeze, even for this 300 lbs, 6’3″ tall, 65 year old fisherman, who simply walks into this kayak, and immediately starts paddling standing in it:

Read the review contributed by this big and tall kayak angler »

More information about the kayak for big, tall and elderly people »

When a fishing kayak becomes a boat, or an ultralight microskiff

Sometimes a technological or design breakthrough pushes the envelope of a product category or class so far that it creates a new type of product that did not exist before. Such thing has happened now with the advent of the new Wavewalk 700 series –

Before the W700 existed, there were several important differences between large size fishing kayaks and small boats.

The most noticeable difference was in width –
Since kayaks’ primary means of propulsion is paddling, they need to be narrow enough to allow their passengers to propel them with dual-blade paddles (‘kayak’ paddles). Boats are not supposed to be paddled but they need to be transported on trailers, which is why their width is determined mainly by the width of roads’ lanes.

The second, and most important difference was in stability –
Being essentially narrow mono-hulls, fishing kayaks are unstable, which is why designers and manufacturers continuously attempt to push the envelope of kayak width by offering excessively wide kayaks (known as ‘barges’) that are quasi impossible and sometimes totally impossible to paddle.
Typically, a monohull fishing kayak’s instability allows an angler occupying its seat to lean slightly to one side, but as soon as they lean more, they lose balance and capsize. By the same token, an extremely large monohull fishing kayak may offer an athletic fishermen to try to stand along the kayak’s center line, but as soon as they move sideways, they lose balance. So basically, the passenger of such large mono-hull kayak is prevented from moving from one side to another, and by this fact such a fishing kayak differs from a boat, which typically offers its passengers to sit or stand on the side of their deck.

When a fishing kayak becomes an ultralight microskiff, or car-top boat

The Wavewalk 700 weighs 80 lbs without accessories, and it’s 31 inches wide, which is fairly slim compared to the average fishing kayak out there, and its very skinny compared to some fishing kayaks whose width exceeds 40 inches. This makes the W700 a lightweight fishing kayak by today’s standards, and a narrow one too, by the same standards.
The W700’s design is based on a patented technology that’s radically different, and this changes the rules of the game as far as stability is concerned.
As this video shows, a full size (6′ / 205 lbs) middle aged passenger can stand up and paddle the W700 in full confidence not just from the traditional position along its center line, but also while standing with both his feet in one of the kayak’s twin hulls:



This puts the W700 in the category of boats, as far as stability is concerned – a true game changer, and together with its extremely good tracking capabilities, turns it into a high performance boat, or microskiff, when motorized.
This movie demonstrates this breakthrough:



Taking a second passenger on board

The ability to take a second passenger on board is a third important difference between fishing kayaks and boats: The former are typically capable of supporting a single passenger, and realistically speaking, no one fishes out of a tandem fishing kayak because neither paddling such craft nor fishing out of them is acceptable in terms of ease or comfort. In other words, these kayaks are not remotely fishable in tandem. In contrast, the typical crew size of a fishing boat, even a small one such as a Jon boat or a microskiff, is two, and this difference is critical.

Here too, the W700 breaks the fishing kayak mold by offering full stability and comfort to a crew of two passengers, not just in a tandem paddling mode, but even when outfitted with a powerful outboard motor, as this video shows –


The typical fishing kayak is a cluttered barge

This short review of recent kayak design articles highlights some aspects of the common fishing kayak.

The first, and probably most striking thing about the typical SOT, sit-in or hybrid fishing kayak that’s offered in stores or online is its size – It is huge, and consequently heavy and hard for one person to carry and car top, as well as hard to paddle, especially in wind and current.
Those kayaks seem to have crossed the line between a kayak and a boat, or a skiff, since practically speaking they require transportation by trailer. And indeed, some manufacturers already refer to their larger fishing kayak models as boats, not because of their performance or some additional functionality, but due to their size.
Needless to say that this fact alone is evidence that such kayaks defy the purpose of kayak fishing.

The second most striking aspect of those large-size fishing kayaks is the dysfunctional clutter in their cockpit and deck that seem so crowded with fishing accessories and just ‘stuff’ that the angler sitting or attempting to stand in them literally has no room to do so. These objects range in size, from small cup holders to large size lean bars, and their presence in the kayak’s cockpit is not only unnecessary to the angler, it is clearly counterproductive.

The third interesting thing about these larger than life (I.E. too large for real people to fish from in real life) kayaks is the absence of hydrodynamic design in them: They are not even close to conform to basic boat design standards or even to common sense: Not only are they much too wide for their length, which slows them down and makes them track poorly and require a cumbersome rudder – their underside features a variety of design elements that are extremely counterproductive as fare as speed is concerned. Such elements can be multiple scupper holes and molded-in channels, fins, and even a skeg.

Ironically, none of these accessories, systems and design elements offers a real solution to the fundamental problems that the average angler experiences when using them –

These unsolved problems in these common fishing kayaks are:

1.  Poor ergonomics, meaning mainly lack of comfort, early fatigue and back pain, as well as bad bio-mechanical design, which the angler feels as a restricted range of motion in both paddling and fishing. The new beach seat style kayak seats are obviously a botched attempt to address this issue, as foam filled seats failed to do so in the past.

2.  Insufficient stability albeit the fact that these fishing kayaks are extremely wide.

3.  Wetness as a result of the kayak offering too little or no free board, and scupper holes that conduct water upward onto the deck and cockpit, a problem annoying to a point that  manufacturers have to offer scupper plugs…

4.  These kayaks are as wide as canoes and as as sluggish and unfit for paddling in strong wind, waves and other real world factors.

5.  With all the stuff tucked on board a typical SOT, sit-in or hybrid fishing kayak, such craft still scores very low in terms of storage, as one or more hatches address neither the need for enough storage space nor for adequate accessibility to the gear stored inside.

In contrast, the Wavewalk 500 series of twin hull kayaks offers a high level of fishability in all these factors.

References –

More is less in your fishing kayak’s cockpit – Too much stuff and too little fishability

The secrets of the SOT kayak’s underside


What’s under your sit-on-top (SOT) kayak?

A kayak’s deck and cockpit are its most visible parts, and few people bother to look under a kayak, although there are some interesting things to discover there –

The kayak’s underside is its part that comes in contact with water, and as such its design affects the kayaks speed and directional stability. SOT kayaks used for fishing are notoriously sluggish, and they’re also known to track poorly.

This new article entitled The secrets of the SOT kayak’s underside talks about two characteristic features of SOT kayaks, which are scupper holes and longitudinal tunnels, it analyzes the effect these elements have on the kayak’s performance, and most interestingly, it explains the real reasons why these elements came into being and became standard in SOT kayaks.

view of the bottom of a SOT fishing kayak

Bottom view of the underside of a SOT kayak – scupper holes and channels

Review of 2013 fishing kayak design trends

A meager harvest when kayak anglers are concerned, and plenty of reasons for a good laugh 😀

2013 hasn’t been much different from previous years as far as fishing kayaks are concerned. The kayak obesity trend keeps being the main one, and it drives kayaks to reach titanic proportions. For example, kayaks that are 35 inches wide and weigh 80 lbs are almost typical, and a kayak that’s over 40 inches wide is no longer viewed as an aberration despite the fact that paddling such a kayak is quite a challenge, and almost impossible to do for medium and long distances. Leviathan barge kayaks weighing around 120 lbs are still considered as kayaks (at least by some) although even a seasoned weight lifter might find it hard to car top one, and people who buy them have to buy a trailer to go with them, which is yet another way to defy the purpose of kayak fishing.
The reason behind the persistence of this trend is the poor stability that fishing kayaks offer to their users, albeit the fact that kayak manufacturers insist that the kayaks they offer are very stable, enough to allow for kayak fishing standing… Go tell this to all those disappointed anglers who purchased such kayaks and found out that reality is different from bogus reviews and staged YouTube movies  🙁

Fishing kayak hulls keep featuring all sorts of weird longitudinal channels and vertical dimples that work perfectly to create more drag and by that further impede the kayaker and make it harder for them to paddle. The infamous scupper holes that were introduced as means to prevent the deck from collapsing but have since been hyped as drainage holes keep conducting water in both directions, which means they also drive water up and onto the deck, and into the paddler’s area.

In the twilight zone, kayaks with integrated outriggers are still being offered although the concept has proved to be rather useless in practical terms. It seems like the failure of the kayak industry to present kayaks that actually work for stand up kayak fishing drives more people to try outriggers.

New designs still appear on the scene, and they make one wonder if kayak designers have any ability to learn from others’ mistakes.

Pedal driven kayaks are still being promoted as the panacea, although reality has disproved most of their manufacturer’s claims as far as practical usefulness is concerned.

Kayak storage keeps relying on hatches, which are often inaccessible to the user while they’re out there in their kayak, trying to fish from it. Such hatches have an annoying tendency to fail to be waterproof, and that’s bad news for your sandwiches!

When ergonomic design is concerned, manufacturers seem to realize that the kayaks they offer are really uncomfortable, so they keep trying to come up with new ideas for seats, although it’s the seat itself together with the L sitting position that cause the back pain and leg numbness problems that so many anglers experience.

Motorizing… well, oddly enough, some kayak manufacturers tell their clients they can outfit their kayaks with powerful outboard gas motors. Naturally, not too many people buy into this nonsensical notion. The most ridiculous case in this regard is a kayak manufacturer who offers his clients to attach their outboard gas engine directly to the kayak’s transom, which like the rest of that kayak is made from a thin, rotationally molded plastic wall… It is only appropriate to apply Hanlon’s razor to this case, and say “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” 😀

And last but not least, fishing kayak manufacturers keep competing with each other by offering an increasing range of useless accessories, from cup holders to stand-up metal frames and stand-up ropes and straps… The latter being pure exercises in futility, at least from the user’s standpoint.

No wonder the Wavewalk 500 keeps being the most loved fishing kayak out there!