Tag Archive: yak back

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:



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.

How Does Fishing Kayak Design Address Pain?

It’s a painful question for many kayak anglers!
Sit-in, SOT and hybrid fishing kayaks are sometimes designed with an intention to alleviate the pain felt by anglers who use them, especially back pain, or at least this is what their manufacturers proclaim.
In reality, there’s very little that can be done to take care of this critical problem, and nothing to solve it at its root, which is the way kayaks are in the first place, and the way we are: People who no longer sit on the floor with our legs stretched in front of us, as we used to sit long ago, before chairs, stools, and other elevated seats were introduced to our life.
We are members of modern societies, and as such, we sit on elevated seats, and we’ve lost the ability to sit comfortably with our legs stretched in front of us, which is what traditional kayaks as well as hybrid fishing kayaks force us to do.
More foam in the seat’s backrest doesn’t solve anything, really, and elevating the seat doesn’t solve any problem either, because those kayaks aren’t stable enough to sustain a decrease in their users’ stability as a result of their center of gravity going up. The result is that people who sit on higher seats attached to those mon-hull fishing kayaks (sit-in, SOT and hybrid) feel less stable, and increase the pressure of their legs on the footrests and backrest between which they are trapped. The result: more back pain.

Here’s a quote from an article about kayaking back pain:
“Pain is usually initiated by stimulation of the peripheral nervous system, that is the nerves in various parts of our body. These nerves are connected through the spinal nerve to our brain, where we become aware of the pain.

The Nerves Involved In Kayak Back Pain, Leg Pain, Etc.

The sciatic nerve is a large nerve fiber that begins in the lower back and runs through the buttock and down the lower limb. It is the longest and widest single nerve in the human body. The sciatic nerve supplies nearly the whole of the skin of the leg, the muscles of the back of the thigh, and those of the leg and foot. It is derived from spinal nerves L4 (in Lumbar vertebra # 4) through S3 (in Sacral vertebra #3) in the lower part of our spine.

Meaning of Back Pain When You’re Kayaking, or Kayak Fishing

Any unpleasant sensation you feel in your body while kayaking or fishing from your kayak, is a sign that something is wrong, so you need to pay attention to it, and do something about it:
Your legs getting numb means you should change positions, stretch, get up, and get things in order.
Pain in your legs, or your lower back means something is seriously wrong, and you’re either risking physical damage, or actually causing it just by being seated in the L position, whether you’re paddling, resting, or fishing…”

Interestingly, the pain created in your back gets exacerbated the more your legs push on the footrests. This unwanted process is increased when you’re seated in a pedal driven fishing kayak, and your legs constantly and energetically push the pedals, for a long time. Since your legs are required to perform this task from the center of the deck, and your feet lose the little stabilizing effect they have when the rest in the footrests located on the sides, the instability you feel increases even more, and so is the pressure…

Is The Common Fishing Kayak An Extreme Design?

Interestingly, most people, including most of those who fish, which count in the tens of millions in the United States alone, perceive kayak fishing to be an extreme form of fishing, and therefore the fishing kayak to be an extreme watercraft.
Of course, this is relative to fishing from shore, or from traditional, bigger boats such as canoes, dinghies and skiffs, and other motorized boats that are popular for fishing, although nearly all of them are more expensive than fishing kayaks, when both purchase price and cost of maintenance are concerned.
In fact, the ratio of kayak anglers to all anglers is about 1:1,000 in the U.S., a figure that tells a lot.

So the question asked in this blog post’s title is not misplaced, and it should be asked more frequently, and discussed openly and thoroughly, as this “Kayak Fishing As An Extreme Sport” article does.
Excerpt from this article:
…”Kayak fishing promised a cheaper, hassle free, low maintenance, lightweight, car top form of fishing craft, and a direct, sporty experience. However, today, out of tens of millions of Americans who fish from boats, merely one in every thousand fishes from a kayak, and this is after a decade of promises that ‘kayak fishing is the fastest growing outdoors sport’, etc. The bulk of US anglers have followed neither the kayak fishing pioneers nor the fishing kayak manufacturers’ hype, and since growth in kayak fishing participation is no longer as fast as it had been several years ago, it is safe to say that the US kayak fishing market has matured. This is partly a result of decreasing enthusiasm from new participants, as well as a high dropout rate that has been typical to this sport since its early beginnings.
Yes, but…

But kayak fishing feels extremely uncomfortable only if you’re fishing from the old fashion, sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks and sit-in kayaks. In contrast, when you fish from a W kayak, you experience a level of comfort that’s equivalent to that of fishing from a regular size boat, and some W fans would argue that you feel even better…”

What Is The Meaning of Aesthetics In Fishing Kayak Design?

To some people, Aesthetics and Design are almost synonyms, and whether this notion is true is debatable, but when boats and outdoor products are concerned, aesthetics is key. But what does it mean, really, when we say that a fishing kayak “looks good”?
This article published on the Wavewalk fishing kayaks blog tries to decode the notion of aesthetics in fishing kayaks (excerpt):

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Aesthetics and Performance in Fishing Kayak Design

What is beautiful?

According to the dictionary, we perceive something as being beautiful if it is attractive to us (e.g. a beautiful woman) or pleasant (e.g. a beautiful day), or pleasant to look at (e.g. a beautiful dress), or if it’s done or made very well (e.g. a beautiful goal in the second half), or with a lot of skill (e.g. a beautiful roast).
Beauty can be associated directly with sensory pleasure, or with indirect, social value related to monetary value, or prestige (e.g. a beautiful diamond), or with both.
In case of a product such as a kayak, the beauty we see in it is a measure of how much we appreciate its performance in terms of what’s important to us, subjectively, whether as something we’ve already experienced with this kayak, or something we believe we would experience, if we used it.

In this sense, the saying ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ is perfectly true.

What’s important?

What’s important in a product varies according to what different people are interested in. For example, if you’re into kayak racing, you’d be interested in kayaks that are as fast as possible, and very fast kayaks would seem beautiful to you, but if you’re into kayak fishing, you’d be interested a number of things, including stability, comfort, storage, etc. offered to you by that kayak. In other words, for a kayak angler, the beauty of a kayaks depends first and foremost on its fishability,…. (read the full article about aesthetics in fishing kayaks >>)

Designing Better Fishing Kayaks

We see a lot in common between small boats and beach cats, canoes, kayaks and other personal water crafts and toys including jet skis, surf boards and sailing boards. It is not just their small size, but also the fact that their passengers’ physical attributes (E.G. size, athletic skills, disabilities, etc.) and behavior determine their performance.
We call this field of design ‘Micronautics’, which is part Naval Design but has much to do with Ergonomics, Bio Mechanics, and to some extent even with Behavioral Sciences.

To understand the difficulty that micronautical designers fac,e it’s enough to realize that while a supertanker can cross the Pacific Ocean on autopilot, there is no computerized system that can successfully control a kayak in the surf.

Traditional catamarans of all sizes are wider, stabler and faster than mono-hull boats of comparable size.  The W invention and concept is applicable to small, personal boats of various types and uses, and it offers to increase their stability without decreasing their speed or increasing their width.
In essence, the W invention offers increased stability by width, without paying a price in speed terms.

The W invention also offers to eliminate back pain, leg pain, leg numbness and all other unwanted sensations and injuries related to the L position that’s typical to all kayaks belonging to the sit-in, sit-on-top, and hybrid (hybrid canoe-kayak) types.

There are far more possibilities offered by the W boat concept than shown in this website. Some of these possibilities are presented on the W fishing kayaks website

The W technology is proprietary, and protected by U.S. utility patent number 6,871,608 ‘Twin Hull Personal Watercraft’, which the US Patent and Trademark Office website makes available online.