Pedal propulsion for small watercraft has been in use since the 19th century, and it’s still commonly found in small recreational boats, often in a combination of rotating pedals with paddle wheel type propellers. Other types of pedal driven propulsion systems for small craft include rotating propellers, hydraulic pumps, sideways moving flaps, add-on systems, and more. Interestingly, the world speed record for a human powered watercraft is held by a catamaran equipped with a rotational air propeller.
This article examines pedal drive propulsion for common (mono hull, sit-in and SOT) kayaks from several technical angles, which are: Ergonomics – How does it feel to operate a pedal driven kayak, and what are the potential physiological drawbacks in this type of propulsion. Mechanics -How efficient are pedal drives’ pedaling systems. Hydrodynamics -How efficient are pedal drives’ propellers, and how effective is pedaling kayaks compared to paddling them. Real World Performance – How effective are pedal driven kayaks in applications such as fishing trips, stand up fishing, fishing in moving water, fishing in shallow water, launching, beaching, etc.
Read all about Paddle VS. Pedal Drive in Fishing Kayaks >>
This article does not compare the performance of sit-in and SOT kayaks, whether paddled or pedaled, with the performance of W kayaks.