Tag Archives: kayaking injuries

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…

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 >

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.

Thoughts About The Future Of Kayak Fishing

Conceptually, kayak fishing is a great idea, but in reality, this relatively new sport is facing serious hurdles that impede its growth. These are technical problems related to performance and user-experience, and they can be solved only by a major shift from traditional designs such as sit-in kayak, sit-on-top kayak, and hybrid kayak (a small, flat canoe), to W kayaks – a patented twin hulled design.

From a new article about kayak fishing:

“Kayak fishing ceased to be a novelty, and it’s safe to say there’s hardly anyone in America who fishes that hasn’t been exposed to the notion of fishing out of kayaks, one way or another.
Still, for the huge majority of American anglers, the notion of fishing from a kayak is by far more appalling than appealing, and those who fish from shore and from all other watercraft outnumber kayak anglers by a thousand to one ratio -“

The numbers presented in this article are interesting, especially in view of the fact that kayak fishing is at least a decade old, in its modern form, which is heavily promoted by the kayak industry.

The article presents the major, unsolved problems that have dogged kayak fishing as a recreational activity and sport since its inception. These problems both limit the number of people who join the sport, as well as cause many participants to drop out of it. The problems are, in order of importance: Unacceptably poor ergonomics, lack of adequate stability, poor tracking, limited range of travel, limited storage space, restricted mobility.

More interesting are the conclusions, which stem from comparing the effect these problems have on the sport to the performance of the W kayak class relatively to the other common kayaks used for fishing:

“Does kayak fishing have a long term future?
We think it does, but only as a sensible sport and outdoor activity that would attract many more anglers, and not as the kind of unrewarding experience it currently is, which repels new participants while expelling existing ones.
The only venue is through an increase in use of W fishing kayaks rather than SOT, sit-in and hybrid kayaks. This is because W kayaks offer the solutions to all the problems discussed in this article, and some others, and these are the problems that make kayak fishing that marginal activity it has been so far in the much broader world of fishing.
Simply, as soon as realize that they can fish out of a watercraft that’s as small, nimble and lightweight as a regular kayak (not even a huge ‘barge’ fishing kayak..), and yet is as stable, dry and comfortable as a regular motorboat, and even has a similar travel range as a motorboat – they would adopt kayak fishing in growing numbers, and stick with the sport. The watercraft that combines the advantages of kayaks and motorboats, while offering better mobility than both, is the W kayak.”

So basically, the article presents an optimistic view for the future, when many anglers who are displeased both with other kayaks and small motorboats would benefit from the advantages offered by W kayaks – both human powered and motorized.

Leg Propulsion For Fishing Kayaks

Using your legs for propelling any human powered vehicle offers the advantage of relying on a bigger, more powerful set of muscles than our arms. Our legs are also good in balancing, if given a chance to perform this job.

Currently, three manufacturers offer pedal drives for fishing kayaks.
Two of these devices feature rotary paddles and propellers, which makes more sense than the third one that features push pedals and wings flapping from side to side as a propeller.
In any case, pedal drives do not provide a suitable answer for touring and fishing kayaks, since operating involves a variety of problems starting from reduced stability and control over the kayak, reduced maneuverability and the loss of the ability to travel in shallow water, to more important, ergonomic problems that include increased discomfort and back pain.
More about pedal drives for fishing kayaks

So far, no one has ever seen a reason to outfit their W kayak with a pedal drive, for pretty obvious reasons. However, should anyone be interested to tinker with such project, the following pedal drive setup seems applicable to W kayaks,

rotary pedal drive for fishing kayak

jb_on_canoe

More ideas, information and opinions about this pedal drive setup can be found in the comments section of the article about pedal drives recommended in the previous paragraph.

Here is another direction that seems applicable to W kayaks:

It seems like there used to be such a commercial product on the market several years ago, but we were unable to trace it. More information about it would be appreciated.
This particular setup is based on a crank shaft being used for pedaling and activating both paddle wheels at the same time. Therefore, the operator has to steer by means of a hand activated rudder (or paddle), which is a problem similar to the one facing kayak anglers attempting to operate a commercial fishing kayak pedal drive of the above mentioned types.
The rotation of the paddle wheels on the boat’s sides somehow compensates the operator for the initial loss of stability resulting from raising their feet in the air. In this regard, this seemingly clumsy setup is not as bad as the pedal drives featuring in fishing kayaks.
As far as shallow water mobility is concerned , this setup seems to be less inadequate than the above mentioned kayak pedal drives, and it looks like removing entangled seaweed from its blades is not complicated as it is with those kayak pedal drives.
Obviously, the paddle wheels add unwanted weight to the boat, and the recumbent position is not ideal for pedaling, as explained in the article mentioned in the first section.
In Fishability terms, the paddle wheels are similar to outriggers, in the sense that they can easily snag your fishing lines.

Having said that, if the reader feels like trying to implement such concept in their canoe, kayak or W kayak, they may want to consider separating the rotation of the two paddle wheels, namely have each leg rotate the paddle wheel on its own side – independently from what the other leg is doing. Such version would solve the steering problem created by relying on one’s legs for propulsion rather than on a paddle, eliminate the need to operate a unwanted rudder, and add both to the tracking and steering capabilities of the boat.

The Lumbar Spine: The Backbone of a Good Fishing Kayak Design

Ergonomics has to do with comfort, and ergonomic kayak design implies that the person using the kayak should be comfortable being in it, and using it.
But Ergonomics is also about bio mechanics, or more specifically bio mechanical engineering, which has to do with how the user operates the kayak, their effective range of motion, and how effectively they can propel the kayak without getting injured or tired doing so.
When fishing kayaks are concerned, ergonomics and bio mechanics are related to questions such as how hard it is for an angler to cast from the kayak, is it possible for them to fish from it for more than a short time without feeling back pain, tingling and numbness in their legs.

Other questions may be how hard it is to enter the kayak when launching it, and hard it is to get out when beaching, how difficult is it to balance the kayak in case you’re standing on it and attempting to fish, and more.

The best reference related to the fundamental issue of back pain is an article called Lumbar Spine and Kayak Back Pain, from which we brought this excerpt:

 

Lumbar_Spine_Kayak_Sitting

As you can see, the lumbar spine consists of rigid vertebrae and more flexible cartilage between them. This part of the spine supports the combined weight of the upper part of the body, including the torso, head and arms, and it is normally supported by the massive structure of the hip bones below.
In other words, in its natural state, there is nothing that pushes, holds, or supports the lumbar spine from any direction except from its top and bottom, and what holds it in this normal position are the muscles around it.

How Did the Lumbar Spine Become a Problem for Kayak Fishermen and Paddlers?

The native people of the arctic, who originally created the first kayaks were used to sit down on the floor with their legs stretched forward, and therefore didn’t have any use for additional support for their lumbar spine. This is why native kayaks did not feature a backrest, or any other ‘lumbar support’.
When Westerners began paddling those aboriginal kayaks they noticed they had problems staying upright with their legs stretched forward, in the posture known as the L position. This is because they were not used to sitting in this position in everyday life, and the muscles in their body weren’t adjusted to it. Rather than adjusting the paddler to the kayak, designers and manufacturers decided it would be easier to try and adapt the kayak to the paddler, and introduced a combination of backrest and footrests designed to lock the kayakers in the L position, and prevent their upper body from ‘falling’ backward or sliding forward (‘slouching’).
The kayak paddler, or fisherman is effectively ‘supported’ by three rigid points anchored in the kayak: two footrests and one back rest. By continuously pushing against those three points, the kayak fisherman’s legs provide the power necessary to maintain his body in its place, and in the required posture.