Tag Archive: pedal driven kayak

Paddle, pedal drive, or motor for my kayak?

This article examines different modes of propulsion available for kayaks today, and discusses their relative advantages and shortcomings.

Different modes of propulsion

Kayaks can be propelled by various means, which include paddling, pedaling, and motorizing*
Most people paddle their kayaks with dual blade (kayak) paddles, and rarely with single-blade (canoe) paddles.
Most pedal drive manufacturers today offer kayaks equipped with rotational drives (rotational pedals and rotational propeller), and one kayak manufacturer offers a pedal drive with push pedals and flapping blades.
Motors for kayaks range from weak electric motors (trolling motors) to powerful outboard gas engines (outboard motors).

Assisted paddling

This is the name given to paddling while an electric motor is working to provide extra power and increase the kayak’s range of travel. Assisted paddling is becoming increasingly popular, especially among kayak anglers whose fishing kayaks are typically not easily to paddle, and are often loaded with heavy fishing gear.
Assisted paddling is particularly useful in moving water (rivers, tidal currents), as well as in big lakes and the ocean.
This hybrid mode of propulsion is particularly useful for paddlers who aren’t necessarily in top physical condition due to weight, age, and physical disabilities.

Pedal drives

For a couple of decades, the niche market for pedal driven kayaks had been dominated by push pedal drives, but it the last few years rotational pedal drives have become increasingly popular in this market, as numerous kayak manufacturers (especially fishing kayaks) started offering kayaks equipped with such drives. This transition is due to the fact that rotational pedal drives for kayaks are more efficient than push pedal ones.

It’s worth remembering that operating pedal driven kayaks is limited to water that’s neither shallow nor rich in vegetation, and a pedal dive won’t get you where a paddle could, which is why pedal kayak users always carry a paddle on board.

From an ergonomic standpoint, the effect of operating a pedal drive is even worse on a person’s back than the effect of paddling a SOT or sit-in kayak, because the continuous horizontal pressure that their legs exert on their lower back while pushing it against the seat’s backrest is bigger than the pressure exerted in a paddling mode in the L position.

Suggested reading –

 

Paddling

Paddling in the common L kayaking position works for younger people who happen to be physically fit. Such people rarely suffer from back problems, which are the number one cause of disability in America.
For all other people, namely middle aged and elderly, and/or people who are overweight and not in top shape, paddling in the L position is a source of  discomfort, pain, and even injuries, hence the expression “yak back”.

Since so many people in America suffer from a sensitive back or from more serious back problems, many anglers view kayaks as uncomfortable boats to fish from, and for a good reason, unless one considers Wavewalk’s patented kayaks, which are back pain free.

Motors

Electric motors

Electric motors are weak, which is why they’re often called trolling motors, namely motors for slow motion.
Having a motor on board is a good thing, as it adds safety in adverse conditions such as wind and current, or paddler fatigue, and it adds to the kayak’s range of travel. However, electric motors fail to deliver the performance that outboard gas engines offer when it comes to power, speed, and long trips.

There are two types of electric motors – Integrated (built-in) motors, and add-on motors that the user attaches to their kayak.
Ironically, the motors purchased separately from the kayak work better than the ones that come already installed in it. The reason for this absurd situation is that it’s easier to mount an electric motor on a kayak in a way that would effectively protect it in case it bumps against the bottom, while integrated motors have no effective protection for such cases. Since every body of water has a bottom, and the distance between the bottom and the surface is not always perceptible or predictable, such unfortunate events are most common. Rocks, fallen trees, oyster beds, coral reefs sand bars and just plain junk are a constant threat to the motor’s propeller and shaft.

Outboard motors

Even small outboard gas engines are too powerful for SOT and sit-in kayaks, including the widest models. Simply, there is no way to outfit a SOT or sit-in kayak with an outboard motor in a sensible manner. Any SOT or sit-in kayak outfitted with an outboard motor is neither comfortable nor safe to drive because of inadequate means to control and steer it.
Wavewalk kayaks are different from SOT and sit-in kayaks in the sense that they offer the user full control over the boat while they drive it, direct access to the motor, and much more stability than any other kayak does.
In fact, the Wavewalk S4 is more seaworthy than most small skiffs and Jon boats, as can be seen in these short videos:

 

 

 

Wavewalk kayaks offer unrivaled stability, and especially the new 13 ft long S4 that allows big and heavy people to drive it without any problem, facing either forward or sideways –

 

 


* This article discusses neither kayak sailing nor poling

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.

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.

Pedaling a Fishing Kayak – How Does It Feel?

Some anglers are asking themselves questions such as which fishing kayak to choose, and whether the much hyped pedal drives available on the market are any good for their purpose.
The subject is broad, and already discussed in depth and detail in the article about fishing kayaks’ pedal drives that we’ve already mentioned here, on Micronautical.
This time, we’d like to add a few words about what it feels like to pedal a fishing kayak –

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.
Currently, there are three kayak manufacturers offering pedal driven kayaks. Two of them offer kayaks featuring a combination of rotational pedals with a rotational propeller, and one manufacturer offers a drive featuring push pedals combined with flaps moving from side to side, in a back and forth motion. The latter will be simply called ‘flaps’ in this article.
All three kayak pedal drives are fixed, which means they provide propulsion without steering, and therefore, the kayak operator is required to track and turn using a hand activated rudder.
All three pedal drive systems feature pedals located in proximity to each other, along the kayak’s center line, and at a higher point than the kayak seat. In order to activate the pedals in all three, kayakers have to relocate their feet away from the low footrests situated on both sides of the hull.

Part 1. Pedaling Kayaks’ Ergonomics –

-How Does It Feel To Operate a Pedal Driven Kayak?

The first and main argument in favor of pedaling kayaks instead of paddling them, is that our legs are far more powerful than our arms are, and therefore it makes more sense to use our legs for difficult tasks such as propulsion, rather than using our arms.

While being generally true, this argument is not necessarily applicable to the propulsion of kayaks. This is because although our legs have the biggest and most powerful muscles in our body, and are best fit for hard, long lasting efforts, using them for propelling any vehicle must be done under certain conditions, which are dictated by our own built, and ability to endure certain types of effort –

Before everything, and after all – we’re talking about human powered propulsion, and viewing it through a narrow prism of horsepower (or lack thereof, actually) is reductive ad absurdum.
Which is why this article rightfully asks the question ‘how does it feel to pedal a fishing kayak’, and provides a good answer as well.
Speed is the most overrated attribute when fishing kayaks are concerned, and pedal driven kayaks aren’t even fast, being mostly wide and heavy sit-on-top and hybrid ‘barge’ kayaks.