Tag Archives: Kayak Rigging

Evolution Of A Fishing Kayak Part Six

Part 6
Mobility: The New Dimension


Anybody can understand that a 4×4 off-road SUV is more mobile than a common, two-wheel drive car. Most people realize that a skin-on-frame Inuit kayak is less durable than a modern plastic kayak, and you couldn’t paddle it in some of the places that you’re used to paddle in. But what does mobility mean when it comes to modern fishing kayaks?
It basically has to do with whatever limits kayakers and kayak fishermen from going where they want to:
Such limits include spots that are too difficult to launch your kayak from, or too difficult to beach it in. Other limits can be water that’s too difficult to paddle in because of currents, waves, ice, vegetation or submerged obstacles such as wooden logs or rocks.

Weather conditions can limit you as well: Canoes are difficult to paddle on windy days and so are most kayaks, including touring kayaks.
So, if for whatever reason you’re prevented from using some beach or going somewhere with your kayak it means your kayak’s performance is limited in terms of Mobility.

Evolution Of The Fishing Kayak Part Four

Part 4
Increased Diversity: The Proliferation of New Kayak Designs


The fishing kayak concept didn’t stop broadening with the monohull sit-in and SOT designs: As soon as kayaks started gaining popularity people began experimenting and inventing new configurations and designs that included more than one hull (monohull).

The first multihull kayaks were ordinary monohull models equipped with a single outrigger (Proa style) or with two outriggers (trimaran style). Such outriggers were needed to compensate for the monohull’s basic stability deficiency. Lately, outrigger kayaks are regaining popularity among kayak fishermen.

Later, catamaran style kayaks appeared in both sit-in and SOT versions. Inflatable sit-in catamaran kayaks are used for whitewater and fishing, and rigid polyethylene SOT catamaran kayaks were introduced as recreational and fishing kayaks.
The inflatable sit-in designs are not true catamarans but rather wide versions of tunnel-hull kayaks (monohull), and therefore slower than comparable monohulls.
The SOT catamaran kayaks are very wide and therefore harder to paddle than similar size monohull kayaks. They also place the paddlers in the L position much higher than the regular SOT kayak does, which results in increased instability without compensating for it by improving ergonomics or biomechanics.

One can no longer claim today that kayaks are monohull boats – The kayak has evolved into a class of small, personal watercrafts that seem to have two things in common: Paddlers propel them using double blade paddles a.k.a. ‘kayak paddles’, and more importantly: most people perceive them as kayaks and call them by this name.
And just to be realistic, these days a kayak doesn’t necessarily have to be paddled since some kayaks are equipped with electric motors (mainly for trolling), and in some cases even with gas engines.

Evolution Of The Fishing Kayak Part Three

Part 3
Ergonomics: From a single, uncomfortable position to the freedom to choose from a variety of ergonomic positions


The native fishing kayak was a ‘man’s boat’ – that is a hunters’ boat. What it practically meant was that the native hunter in his kayak had to approach prey such as swimming caribou, beached seals or certain bird species from the shortest possible range in order to effectively shoot a harpoon or an arrow at them. To remain unnoticed from the shortest range the Inuit kayaker needed to stay low above water. In fact, for whaling and long sea trips the Inuit preferred to use their bigger and stabler canoe-like Umiaks.
Since stealth was important for native kayak hunters they paddled in the low, traditional L kayaking position with their legs stretched forward. People around the world used to sit on the floor in similar postures before nearly everybody adopted special sitting furniture such as stools, benches, chairs, sofas, armchairs and other seats.

The kayak is rather unique boat in this sense since native canoes around the world usually offered additional, more comfortable and powerful positions such as sitting higher, kneeling and standing.
Interestingly, the L is not the only position that monohull kayaks offer: Some whitewater canoeists take kayaks and ‘convert’ them into ‘canoes’ just by adding a very low saddle inside their cockpit. This arrangement enables them to kneel inside on both knees in one of the traditional canoe kneeling positions, and paddle with a single-blade paddle (I.E. canoe paddle). The reason why only few paddlers ‘convert’ kayaks into ‘canoes’ is because that particular kneeling position is even less comfortable than the traditional L kayaking position, and this may be the reason why some of these canoeists call themselves ‘pain boaters’…
This leaves modern monohull kayakers with just one position to choose from, and it’s not an ergonomic one. That’s not much in terms of freedom of choice, especially when one considers the fact that in their everyday life modern kayakers are used to a variety of seats and sitting positions that do not include the L position.


Seats and foot rests (a.k.a. ‘foot braces’) have altered the L position without improving much: The backrest prevents the kayaker’s torso from ‘falling’ backwards but it makes it slide down and forward. In order to counter affect this problem modern kayaks offer support for the kayaker’s feet: By anchoring their feet in those small depressions or ‘braces’ kayakers can stop their bodies from sliding down and forward.
However, the combined backrest and footrest system created a new problem, which is constant pressure on the kayaker’s lower back. This pressure is generated by the kayaker’s own legs pushing against both footrests and backrest like a powerful spring. The negative physiological impact of this pressure is felt as fatigue, discomfort in the legs and back pain. The problem is amplified by the kayaker’s inability to switch to other positions. Some kayak seats offer a rigid support for the kayaker’s back and other kayak seats offer heavily cushioned support, but four decades of experimentation proved the L position to be an ergonomic dead end.


Our legs have the most powerful muscles in our body and they are naturally best fit to do the hard work involved in locomotion and balance. The L kayaking position prevents paddlers from using their legs effectively for balancing, controlling and propelling their kayaks. Therefore, the kayaker’s back, abdomen, shoulders and arms must do considerable extra work. This effort distribution is insensible from a biomechanical standpoint, which means you’re spending energy for nothing and get tired more quickly while your kayak delivers less performance than you need.


Manufactures of monohull kayaks who tried to depart from the L position by offering higher seats found that they needed to increase their kayaks’ width considerably in order to compensate for raising the paddlers’ center of gravity (CG). This was done only to rediscover the fact that excessively wide kayaks track very poorly and are harder to paddle.


The W departed completely from both the monohull design and the L kayaking position.
By offering much better lateral stability and a high saddle the W Kayak has enabled a new set of comfortable positions and a wide range of intermediary positions, as well as the possibility to alter your posture anytime you feel like it.
This is achieved without widening the kayak – In fact, the current W Kayak models are only 25″ wide, which is as wide as some sea kayaks are.
The key to improving comfort and performance in paddling and fishing is the new, full role played by your legs: Instead of pushing horizontally against your lower back as they do in the L kayaking position, your legs support your torso vertically – from below, in the W Kayak riding (mounted) position. This is our legs’ natural position for locomotion and other major physical efforts. For this reason the W Riding (mounted) position is not only ergonomically better (I.E. more comfortable) but it’s also better bio mechanically, that is more efficient in effort terms and more effective in performance terms of power output and control level.

The four basic W positions are: Standing, Riding (Mounted) with your legs on both sides of your body, Sitting with your legs forward (similar to sitting in a canoe), and Kneeling – a position preferred by some canoeists.

Evolution Of The Fishing Kayak Part Two

Part 2
Design and Manufacturing


In the old days, a native of the far North who wanted a kayak for himself would design it according to his personal liking and requirements while relying on his people’s oral tradition and advice. He would use materials available locally such as driftwood to make a rigid frame on which he stretched a sealskin cover.
It was the job of the women in this kayaker’s family to prepare the skins and sew the cover.
The native kayak featured neither hatches nor seat, and it didn’t offer support for the kayaker’s ankles or feet. No native kayaker ever used a rudder or floatation, and bungee cords as well as Nylon pad eyes were unknown as well.
That is to say that many basic features in traditional-style modern kayaks are the product of the late twentieth century design, and have little to do with the way native kayaks were originally designed, built and used.

Nowadays, kayak design has become a profession, and kayak designers use Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, often in combination with special kayak design software. There are practically no kayaks today that are designed without a computer being part of the process.

A modern fishing kayak is conceived as a commercial product, that is an object that should be reproduced many times and sold to various customers. As such it is not meant to fit a particular individual but rather a group of customers within a range of physical attributes, skills, requirements and purchasing power. Some manufacturers offer customization of certain features such as accessories and colors, but this service comes with a price.


There is a major difference between native kayaks and modern kayaks in their basic built: Native kayaks had a rigid, internal wooden frame covered with a ’skin’. Such design is no longer in use except for folding kayaks, and nearly all other modern kayaks have an external, rigid skeleton (’shell’) that serves a dual purpose and acts as the kayak’s ’skin’ as well. The introduction of this non-ribbed, simpler design was key in the proliferation of new, mass-produced, low cost and durable kayaks.

Customers’ preferred kayaking activity is of critical importance for the designer since modern monohull kayak models are designed for one activity, or a narrow range of activities. The main activity categories are: Whitewater, Touring, ‘Recreational’ and lately Fishing too.
The whitewater kayak is very short and designed to offer maximum maneuverability. Similar designs are used for kayak surfing.
The Touring kayak design is usually narrow and long, and within this family of designs the sea kayak is longer and narrower. Touring kayaks are faster than other kayak categories.
Recreational kayaks constitute the bulk of the market today, and they are characterized by their higher stability due to their wider beam. These kayaks are seldom outfitted with a spray skirt because it is assumed that most paddlers can’t roll their kayaks.
Fishing kayaks are basically stabler recreational kayak designs accessorized for fishing that are sold within a higher price bracket. The reason this article mentions the fishing kayak as a separate category is that in recent years kayak fishing is growing in popularity, which reflects people’s tendency to prefer stabler models.

All monohull kayak designs except whitewater kayaks can be outfitted with a rudder system, and they often are since regardless of their type they all have tracking problems.

Another factor that kayak designers bring into consideration is the customers’ personal liking in terms of fashion. This goes to colors, materials, forms and accessories.

And last but not least, designers and manufactures need to produce products that fit their customers’ spending intentions and capabilities. There is no point in offering a cheap and durable Polyethylene kayak to a customer who has already decided to spend more on an expensive yet less durable kayak made from another plastic material reinforced with carbon-fiber or fiberglass (FRP, also called composite plastics)


Technically speaking, sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks further depart from native designs, as they can no longer be considered as vessels because they don’t feature a hollow compartment for the passenger/s. These modern kayaks evolved from paddleboards in the past four decades, and their general form is that of a flat board equipped with a seat and small depressions for the passengers’ heels. SOTs have become widely accepted as kayaks since they feature the essential characteristics of modern monohull kayaks (I.E. seat, feet support and double-blade paddle), and they are used for similar recreational activities. There are only few eccentrics left who still think of SOTs as being anything other than kayaks.


The dictionary defines Recreation as “Refreshment of one’s mind or body through activity that amuses or stimulates; play”. The dictionary also defines Touring as “Travel, as on a bicycle or on skis, for pleasure rather than competition.”
In this sense, all Touring kayak models are recreational in a broad sense since kayak touring itself is a recreational activity.
That is to say that the distinction between ‘Recreational’ and ‘Touring’ kayaks may be related to certain design characteristics such as width and length, but it is also related to marketing considerations – a process known as ’segmentation’.


Your kayak’s mobility goes two things that matter to you:
Safety: You won’t drive a two-wheel drive car in a snowstorm or on ice because it’s unsafe to do so. Similarly, you wouldn’t paddle a kayak with limited mobility in water or weather conditions that are not suitable for it, and you won’t launch or beach it where you might capsize.
Freedom: You don’t think of a two-wheel drive as a great outdoors vehicle since its limited mobility would restrict your freedom of movement. This argument may be circular, but apparently too few kayakers pay attention to this issue, especially touring and sea kayakers.
What’s a fast kayak good for if it requires special places for launching and beaching? Why can’t you paddle a fast, expensive touring kayak in a fast stream or have fun with it in the surf?
And if you’re a fishermen the advantage of replacing your big, trailed motorboat by a cartop fishing kayak is considerably reduced if you can’t launch it, fish with it and beach it anywhere you want.


The W kayak offers a level of mobility that’s unprecedented, and may even be inconceivable for some.
Mobility is a feature that’s easy to demonstrate, and a picture tells more than words, especially if it’s moving. Therefore, it seems like the most appropriate thing to do at this point would be to have the reader watch the some online kayak mobility videos >>