Tag Archive: fishing kayak ergonomics

The Microskiff redefined

What is a microskiff?

Typically, a microskiff is a small, lightweight, flat bottomed motorboat used for flats fishing as well as in protected bays, estuaries, lakes and slow moving rivers, by a crew of one or two anglers. Some would trace the microskiff lineage to dinghies.
Small and lightweight in this case means a boat transported by trailer, and therefore requiring to be launched and beached at a boat ramp.

Microskiff’s propulsion problem

Microskiff are made to be propelled primarily by outboard motors, and the typical microskiff is too wide and heavy to allow for paddling. This is problematic for a number of reasons –
To begin with, an outboard motor can run out of gas, or stall due to a technical problem, and the electric trolling motor that many microskiff have on board isn’t enough for effective traveling over longer distances.
But more importantly, both outboard gas motors and electric trolling motors use propellers that must be immersed in water at a certain height, so the effective draft of a microskiff under motor is quite high, and often too high for really shallow water, a.k.a “skinny water”.
This problem also limits the typical microskiff as far as launching and beaching locations are concerned, and this means that you must launch and beach it from a boat ramp, which is a major source of frustration over a lot of wasted fishing time.
To add insult to injury, propellers don’t do well in the presence of aquatic vegetation, be it seaweed, grass, etc. This is particularly frustrating to anglers who realize that such waters are among the best fisheries.

Human powered propulsion – Poling, anyone?

Microskiff manufacturers often show pictures of people who use a long push-pole to propel their microskiff through shallow water. This human powered mode of propulsion is indeed possible, but it’s not that practical –
To begin with, poling involves long intervals between each pole push, so the big effort invested in each push that accelerates the boat goes to waste when the boat decelerates while you are busy lifting the pole and sticking it back into the water.  Acceleration is particularly demanding in energy terms, and in other words, the fact that microskiff are wide and heavy makes them lose speed quickly, and thereby drain your energy.
Few people can push a typical microskiff over a distance of more than several hundred yards, and that’s not enough in terms of real-world fishing.
On top of this, the hull of a typical microskiff is not designed for effective tracking – It’s neither very long nor narrow, and it lacks elements such as fins, skegs or tunnels that could improve its directional stability. The result is that poling in a straight line becomes harder, which means you waste an additional and considerable amount of energy because your microskiff zigzags instead of going straight forward.
Poling is far from being on par with more effective means of human powered propulsion such paddling and rowing.

Conclusion – A better microskiff should allow its crew to go in shallow water and vegetation-rich water in a human powered propulsion mode other than poling, and preferably paddling, since effective rowing requires good technique that can be acquired only through much practice.

An ideal microskiff for real-world fishing

Ideally, a microskiff should allow for either a crew of two fishermen or a solo fisherman to launch, beach, motorize, fish and paddle in any type of water, whether standing up or seated. This means that such a boat should be highly stable yet narrow enough for effective paddling, and only the patented, catamaran-style Wavewalk™ from the new 700 series offers to work as a both a full tandem and solo skiff in the sense that it works perfectly well for one person too, when the second crew member is missing. The fact that the W700 features two long and narrow catamaran-style hulls helps it track better than other craft of similar size, and that helps poling as well as paddling it, with either dual-blade (kayak) paddles or single-blade paddles – canoeing style.

The ideal microskiff should also be lightweight enough to allow for trailer-free transportation, and car-topping by one person, in case no fishing buddy is present. Again, the only two-person microskiff that offers such advantage is the new Wavewalk™ 700, which weighs just 80 lbs without a motor and accessories.  In fact, this weight is lower than that of most high-end fishing kayaks out there, including sit-on-top (SOT) and sit-in models, especially tandem fishing kayaks, which are heavier than regular ones.

Trailer-free with triple propulsion capability

The redefined microskiff is trailer-free I.E. easy to car top even for one person, suitable for choppy water, skinny water and vegetation-rich water, and accommodates two full size fishermen fishing standing in comfort. It can be easily and comfortably driven with a powerful outboard motor of up to 5 HP, as well as with electric motors.
One or two people can easily paddle it kayak-style or in the traditional canoeing style, and it lends itself to poling more easily and effectively than any other microskiff does, including solo skiffs, I.E. microskiff for just one person.
Such is the new Wavewalk™ 700 series.

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

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.

Fishing kayak design – the best and the rest

People looking for a kayak to fish from could get confused and think they face a broad and perplexing variety of kayak types, brands and models to choose from, while reality is much simpler and easier to address.
This article suggests a number of ‘go or no go’ criteria that anyone can apply in the process of eliminating fishing kayaks that are not worth consideration.
To make a long story short and save the reader’s time, there is currently just one kayak that normal people can use to fish from without sooner or later regretting their purchasing decision, and this is the W kayak.
The reason why there is only one such kayak and not a plethora of designs is because its design is based on a a utility patent (proprietary invention) which prohibits manufacturing or selling it without the patent owners’ permission.

What makes a kayak angler’s life miserable?

Anyone can understand that being small, frail, unstable and uncomfortable craft, kayaks are not necessarily a fisherman’s first choice. This still doesn’t disqualify a kayak from serving as a fishing boat, but it does raise a few red flags –

Safety – this means mainly stability

Kayaks, including those designed for anglers and hyped as being very stable, must be stable indeed, since marketing hype may get you to buy a kayak, but it won’t prevent it from overturning when you’re inside. Furthermore, hype can make you feel good about your kayak’s stability, but it no longer works to this effect once you start fishing out of the kayak, unless you’re a young, small size, lightweight and athletic dude… In case you are, you may stop reading this article, and go get yourself any fishing kayak out there that fits your budget…  But if you’re an average guy, or middle aged etc. – you’d better get a kayak that’s stable enough for you, and that means in real-life conditions – or you’d suffer and put that thing for sale on Craigslist after some time.
And what is the definition of a stable fishing kayak? Simply, a kayak that makes you forget you’re fishing out of a kayak even when the wind is blowing and eddies are hitting you, even in moving water, even when you’re standing up, and even if you’re an average guy and not a young, small-size athlete. In other words, a kayak that’s really stable, in real world conditions, and for a real-life people.

Protection – this means mainly staying dry

One may argue that getting wet is part of any paddle sport, and it’s also part of fishing from kayaks. We think differently, and we think most fishermen would take our side in this debate. In other words, we maintain that any boat that’s used for fishing, including kayaks, should provide its passengers with sufficient protection from the elements, including wind, spray and waves. In other words, if you have to fish out of a kayak, it should be one that features enough free board to keep you dry. No sit-in, sit-on-top (SOT) or hybrid kayak out there offers this feature, and the passengers of such kayaks are over-exposed to wetness. The only difference between these kayak types is that a SOT won’t get filled with water if it’s washed by eddies and waves, while a sit-in or hybrid kayak would. The only kayak offering an angler to fish out of and stay dry is the W, since it’s the only one featuring enough free board to protect its passengers.

Ergonomics – this means mainly comfort

In case you haven’t heard, kayaks are notoriously uncomfortable, which is why fishing out of one is a challenge for most people and can turn into a torture for some – unless of course you’re young, fit, not too big (see suggestion in previous paragraph)… The comfort criterion rules out practically all kayaks except one. This is due to the fact that except the W kayak, all other kayaks force their passengers to paddle and fish with their legs sticking out in front of them, in a position nicknamed the L position. What this position does to you is get your legs to continuously push your back against your seat’s backrest, and sooner or later, this pressure starts generating growing discomfort, and later pain. This painful condition is nicknamed ‘yak back’, and in the long run it can become chronic if you don’t slip into something more comfortable, such as a W kayak. The latter is the only kayak offering its passengers to ride a high saddle, in a position similar to the one offered by All Terrain Vehicles, Jet-Skis, Snowmobiles, etc. In other words, a position that’s powerful, comfortable, and creates neither pressure nor stress on any part of your back.

Design considerations

Nearly all fishing kayaks out there belong to one of the following common basic designs:

1. Sit-in kayak (traditional)

A kayak design inspired by aboriginal kayaks. You sit in the L position, close to the water, with no protection from spray, eddies, waves, etc. Bottom line – You’re unstable, uncomfortable, and unless the weather is perfectly calm and sunny, you’d be wet and probably cold too.

2. Sit-on-top kayak (SOT)

A kayak design whose name is somehow misleading, since a SOT kayak is little more than a paddle board outfitted with a seat and footrests. Sitting higher than in a sit-in kayak makes you less stable, which is why SOT kayaks are usually very wide, and this also makes them hard to paddle as well as slow. In other words, most SOT fishing kayaks are ‘barges’. Some readers might be surprised to learn that contrary to the common belief (hype), SOT kayaks are not self bailing, and like any other watercraft, SOT kayaks can capsize.

3. Hybrid kayak (shallow canoe)

The hybrid kayak design is a crossover between a canoe and a kayak. Essentially, it’s a shallow canoe offering little free board. The hybrid kayak is smaller than common canoes are, which makes it possible for a passenger to paddle it from its middle part with a dual-blade paddle instead of a single-blade (canoe) paddle. Hybrid kayaks can be used only on flat water, and they become impractical on windy days. Regardless of its hull’s form, a hybrid kayak isn’t and cannot be noticeably stabler than a canoe of similar size, and no amount of hype could change this basic limitation on its stability, and therefore on its overall fishability – Anglers intuitively understand the meaning of this word.

4. Pedal driven kayaks

A pedal driven kayak can be a sit-in, SOT or hybrid kayak outfitted with a pedal activated propeller. The pedals can be either rotated or pushed, and the propeller can feature blades swinging left and right, or rotating. In any case, the operator of such kayak sits in the L position, and pushing or turning pedals with their legs exacerbates the discomfort and back pain because their legs push their back against the seat’s backrest more vigorously than they would in a paddling mode.

5. Outrigger kayaks

This category encompasses all kayaks featuring outriggers, whether added or incorporated into the hull. Without discussing every model in detail, the bottom line is that such kayaks offer far less real-world stability than the hype around them suggests. This is because in order to be effective for stabilization, outriggers are required to be big, located in the middle section of the kayak, and at a sufficient distance from its main hull.  None of the outrigger fishing kayaks meets any of these requirements, and practically speaking, each one of them is an exercise in futility, to some extent.  In addition, fishermen don’t like outriggers since these have a tendency to snag fishing lines and interfere with paddling (range of motion), as well as impede the kayak.

One fishing kayak belongs to neither of these categories and presents none of the problems listed above. It is called the W kayak, and it offers numerous additional advantages that are not discussed in this article, since it is already a bit too long…