Tag Archives: kayaking back pain

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

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…

Review of fishing kayak trends in 2012

It seems like anglers have learned to put in the right perspective the unsubstantiated promises of ‘hands free kayak fishing’ , ‘stand up kayak fishing’, ‘ergonomic seat’, and other hype that’s typical to this market.  After all, you can’t fool all the people all the time…

Since the US economy isn’t exactly booming in recent years, sales of motorboats keep showing weakness, which in its turn sustains the market for cheaper alternatives, I.E. canoes and kayaks. In this market too, the main drive seems to be price, and increasingly so.

In the past year (2012), the main trend that could be observed in high-end fishing kayaks is the quest for more speed, a broader range of travel, and increased safety. In other words – motorized kayaks. And since common fishing kayaks are barely suited for weak electric trolling motors, realistically speaking, the W kayak is the only option out there when outboard gas motors are concerned. This explains the success of the motorized W kayak this year, both in cold and warm regions, inshore and offshore -
In other words, this new concept introduced at the end of 2011 has already proven itself as the real deal for any angler looking for a personal fishing boat that offers all advantages that can be found both in bigger motorboats and in common kayaks, plus some more features and advantages that only a W offers, such as all-water mobility, no need for a special kayak rack, zero back pain, stand up paddling, fishing, and driving , and more…

So what has happened to the electric trolling motor? Nothing, really – It’s a concept that got introduced and energetically pushed into the kayak fishing market by big companies who make electric motors and fishing kayaks. It got people excited, and many of them outfitted their kayak with such a motor. As time passed, the problems associated with this setup became more apparent, and much of the initial enthusiasm has faded.
Electric trolling motors are here to stay in the kayak fishing market, but typically as accessories for kayaks used in small bodies of flat water, and for shorter trips. Relying on these systems for fast moving water, offshore, or longer trips isn’t practical, and that’s where the outboard gas motor shines.

As far as kayak design goes, no big new this year, as usual.
The ‘Hybrid’ kayak that was energetically pushed by one of the major companies in the market hasn’t replaced the sit-on-top (SOT) or the sit-in kayak. The hybrid kayak, which is essentially a shallow canoe, works on flat water but when the wind picks up and the water gets choppy, it’s time for its passengers to head back home, unless they’re in a mood for getting sprayed and bailing out water from the hull.
BTW, that company itself didn’t do too well, and had to change owners.

As before, kayak manufacturers keep relying mainly on their versions of the traditional SOT kayak, and occasionally, a new manufacturer tries to introduce their own version (or perversion) of this concept that has been around for over 40 years, and hasn’t evolved during this period in any significant way.

Fair-Weather Fishing Kayaks VS. Real-World Ones

Ads by a well known, nationwide, catalog and online distributor of outdoor apparel and gear, for high-end (labeled “deluxe”!…) sit-in angling kayaks, state the following versions of the same information:
“For outings of a few hours in calm to light winds on lakes, ponds and protected bays” and – “For outings of a few hours in calm to light winds”

Why are these fishing kayaks ads ridiculous?…

Simply, because what the advertisers really mean to say is:
“This kayak would make your back hurt within a short time, and sooner than later, you’d want to end your misery, and paddle back home. Besides, don’t even think to fish from it when the wind blows, or in moving water, because eddies would fill its low cockpit with water in no time, and you’d find your butt marinating in a floating pool… On top of this, you’d find it really hard to control this kayak and paddle it, because such kayaks don’t track well, and sooner or later you’d find yourself struggling to paddle back to your launching spot, pretty much at the mercy of the wind. In other words, our “deluxe” sit-in fishing yak is just a flat water craft, and essentially, a fair-weather friend – It’s not a reliable piece of gear.  And since we’re a respectable and cautious outdoor gear and apparel company, we said something about it, so don’t say we didn’t warn ya!”

From your own experience, you already know that paddling while being wet and your back is sore is no fun at all, and it should be avoided.
Most people know that there’s no such thing as guaranteed fair-weather and mirror flat water doesn’t stay that flat for long, and he knows the weather has a tendency to change without consulting with kayakers, or anglers, and the wind has a nasty tendency to blow from where it comes, and not necessarily where you’d want it to go…

So why does that particular outdoor gear and apparel vendor tell its clients something about the limitations of those sit-in angling kayaks? It has to do with the terms of purchase that company offers, which include an unconditional return policy, with no questions asked. In other words, the vendor expects to have issues with unsatisfied clients wanting to return the lemons they had purchased, which is why somehow limiting the buyers’ expectations before they buy would be a reasonable measure to take.

Our article’s intention is not to criticize that particular kayak vendor – It’s quite the opposite, because in a way, this vendor tries to warn their clients about potential issues. They don’t make blatantly false claims such as “this kayak is so stable that you can fish standing in it”, which is a common, misleading statement that both kayak manufacturers and vendors often use. This particular vendor doesn’t claim that the angling kayak they offer for sale is ‘ergonomic’, which is yet another ridiculous claim that practically all kayak manufacturers and vendors make, one way or another… Etc.

Are These “Deluxe” Fishing Kayaks Different?

No, they aren’t. Those are wide, sit-in kayaks, featuring rod holders. They are no different from any other sit-in fishing kayak, and they’re not different from sit-on-top fishing kayaks, or ‘hybrid’ fishing kayaks (low canoes), in the sense that SOTs and hybrid kayaks too force their users into the notorious L posture that hurts their back, they too get their users wet as soon as there’s some wind blowing, and they also become hard to control and paddle when the wind picks up. They’re all the same, as far as sensible anglers are concerned.

Fishing Kayaks As Fair-Weather Friends

Stay away from fair-weather friends, because they’re unreliable, and they won’t be there for you when you need them. Any boat, or kayak, must be dependable, and a kayak that’s not dependable cannot properly serve sensible anglers.
We would argue that fishing kayaks are not even friendly to begin with, as far as nearly all anglers in this country are concerned, and rightfully so. Here is an article that discusses how fishing kayaks are perceived by most anglers >

The Only Fishing Kayak That’s both Friendly and Dependable:

The W is the only kayak worthy of being called a fishing kayak. This is a broad and far reaching statement, and here is some in-depth information to back it:

  1. This article explains how you can easily and effectively paddle, steer, and control your W fishing kayak in strong wind, without using a rudder >
  2. There is no need to say much about how W kayaks offer more free board, and provide more protection to their users than any other kayak out there, but here’s some information about how you can stay dry in your W kayak in waves, rain, etc >
  3. As for how long anglers use their W kayaks in single fishing trips, you can find plenty of testimonies from actual clients, in our website’s fishing kayaks reviews section > You’d find we have elderly clients who suffer from a variety of back problems and other physical limitation that spend long hours in their W kayaks, even when the weather is less than perfect…
  4. ‘Ergonomics’ is a word that everyone uses, and rather loosely, but if you’re interested to know why kayaks are synonym to back pain (a.k.a. ‘yak back’), have a look at this article about fishing kayaks’ ergonomics > The article also explains why W kayaks are known as the ‘No-Back-Pain’ kayaks
  5. Stability is recognized as being a key factor when kayak fishing is concerned, and W kayaks are far more stable than other fishing kayaks, including ones that feature various stabilizers – Here’s an article discussing fishing kayaks’ stability >

Says John, W fishing kayaks dealer in Wisconsin, and a long time kayak angler: -”I now carry that fishing kayak ad in my wallet, to show clients and talk about being comfortable on long trips and windy, rough conditions.”
This pretty much summarizes the difference between all those fair-weather yaks, and yaks for fishing in the real world, known as W kayaks: The only kayaks worthy of being called fishing kayaks, because they actually solve problems that other kayaks merely address.

Kayak Design: The Difference Between Addressing a Problem, or Tackling It, and Solving It

Design isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s first and foremost about solving problems.
Yes, this is not a mistake – I wrote SOLVING problems, and not addressing problems, or ‘tackling’ problems, which are expressions that are commonly found in marketing hype for all kayak types, including fishing kayaks.

And that makes a fundamental difference, because when you tackle, or address a problem, it’s still there after you’re done – You may have created a design that emphasizes stability a little more, but its users will have to pay a price in reduced speed and worse tracking, and still not paddle a kayak that’s sufficiently stable…
But when you solve a problem, it’s gone: It’s no more a problem.
Similarly, you may ‘tackle’ the problem of kayak back pain (a.k.a. ‘Yak Back’), or ‘address’ this problem by various means ranging from stuffing more foam in the kayak’s seat, or gel, or replacing the stuffed seat by a beach seat, or stadium seat adapted to kayaks, and yet, the problem of poor ergonomics will still be there, and this is bound to make the kayaker’s life miserable.

These examples illustrate the issue called the ‘envelope’ of a boat concept. In this case, it’s the broad boat concept called ‘mono-hull kayak’, or ‘single hull kayak’, and the families of solutions found within its envelope are generally described as Sit-In Kayak (SIK), Sit-On-Top Kayak, and Hybrid Kayak.

Being an extreme concept by nature (small size, narrow beam for paddling, light weight for carrying, etc.) this concept is most restrictive, which is why the serious problems it presents can be addressed and tackled, but no solved.

Does it mean such major cannot be solved? Not necessarily, but in order to solve them, the designer has to work within another paradigm, or boat concept, and explore a range of solutions available within its envelope. In the case of kayaks, such alternative concept exists, and it is known as W Kayak.
If you’re interested to know more more about how the major problems of fishing kayaks got solved, and not just addressed, or tackled, learn about W Fishing Kayaks >>