fishing kayak ergonomics

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

THE BARGE – A NEW CLASS OF FISHING KAYAKS

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!

When a fishing kayak turns into something else…

Sometimes a design offers more than the eye meets. In this case, a patented fishing kayak offering unrivaled stability and comfort as well as unmatched storage space and dryness can turn into a self-motorized water skiing device by virtue of its small size, light weight, ease of use, and tracking capabilities.

Watch this video:

Just drive around, standing up, with no motorboat to tow you… And you don’t need to be an athletic youth to perform this trick and enjoy it.

The middle aged guy demonstrating the kayak in this video is 6 ft tall and weighs 200 lbs.

The basic model of this rotationally molded Polyethylene W kayak weighs 59 lbs. The 2 hp Honda outboard motor weighs 29 lbs, and the transom motor mount adds five more pounds to the total.
The driver controls the motor and steers the craft through the tiller handle, which is outfitted with an articulated (jointed) tiller extension allowing for effective steering even when the driver is standing up.
This little wonder fits on top of any car rack, and inside some medium and large size vehicles.
It’s easy to carry just by dragging in on the ground by a strap attached to its bow, as demonstrated towards the end of the video clip.

Is this an effective solution for offshore trips? It is, and a simple and effective cockpit cover would provide additional protection from spray.

This watercraft can be outfitted with detachable flotation modules that would keep it afloat in case of a capsize accident leading to much water getting inside.

The more traditional ways to look at this small boat are either as a motorized fishing kayak or a personal microskiff. The difference between the two viewpoints is related to whether you’re used to fish out of a kayak or from a motorboat.