Faux Comfort in Fishing Kayaks

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

Whether you’re paddling or pedaling a kayak, any combination of footrests with a backrest would eventually cause you discomfort of some kind since you’re sitting in the infamous L position, and eventually that could lead to a condition called ‘yakback’ or yak-back, with different variations including leg pain, leg numbness, butt pain (a.k.a. ‘yakass’) and so on.
Whether you paddle or pedal your kayak, or fish from it, the constant pressure your legs exert on your lumbar spine is an unhealthy thing that should be avoided.
But it can’t be avoided in any kayak that’s either a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak, so what do manufacturers of such kayaks do? – They can’t ignore the problem, obviously, since doing could hurt their sales. So they advertise their faulty products as being comfortable, ergonomic etc., and they assume that even if you took one of those kayaks for a 15-20 minute test ride, you’d be unlikely to notice the problem, as it usually takes longer than that for the passenger to start perceiving it.

They’ll advertise faux-features such as ‘new ergonomic design’, ‘improved lumbar support’ and any other combination of words that could convey a false sense of comfort, and get people to believe their problem is solved.
Some kayak manufacturers would even go further, and tell the world that their kayak is as comfortable as a real fishing boat, hoping that maybe some people would fall for this illusion of comfort.
But since kayaking and kayak fishing trips take longer than average test rides, sooner or later you’re likely to find that faux-comfort is not real comfort, and you’re having ergonomic problems, as you feared you would. In such cases you’ll probably end giving up kayak fishing, as many have done before, and for similar reasons, or switch to a W kayak, as a growing number of kayak anglers do.

What Happens If You Suffer From Back Pain and You Keep Kayak Fishing?

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

If you’re suffering from back pain that’s not properly diagnosed, you should stop paddling your kayak and fishing from it, and consult a physician without delay.
Don’t start playing with foam in your kayak seat or under your knees, or hope that a new, fancier and more expensive kayak seat would solve your problem, because it won’t.

Different sports can cause different injuries, and kayaking and kayak fishing can cause injuries in the shoulders, elbows and wrists, but are they known to be especially hard on the back, and this is why you should be cautious and attentive to any signs of a potential developing back injury.

Paddling a traditional kayak, whether it’s a sit-in or a SOT won’t help you, and it may very well be the cause of your back problem, or at least a factor contributing to it. Therefore, don’t procrastinate, and seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Delaying treatment and keeping paddling and fishing from those kayaks could aggravate your condition, and make it more difficult to treat your problem.
Similarly, leg pain, leg numbness, tickle in your legs, butt pain and other unusual physical symptoms in your lower body shouldn’t be taken lightly, because they could be linked to a developing back problem, such as sciatica.

Kayak Back Pain – Why Is Everybody Silent About It?

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

Just a quick thought –
It took many decades before doctors began investigating the effect of smoking on their patients’ health, and it took even longer before a causal link was firmly established between smoking and certain lung and heart diseases.
This is although anyone could see that people who smoked had more breathing and lung problems then those who didn’t, and suffered from more heart problems as well as deteriorated health.
In the beginning, cigarette manufacturers promoted their products as being healthy, and later as ‘cool’, ‘in’ and socially appealing. The data related to health problems was concealed, and when anyone brought it up, cigarette manufactures would ignore or dismiss it, but that didn’t prevent them from offering low-tar, low nicotine and other types of ‘healthier’ cigarettes that were far from being healthy, unfortunately.

This is reminding of the situation with kayak seats designed for the traditional L kayaking position: Everybody knows they are uncomfortable and cause back pain, and in some cases may even cause certain injuries, but nobody wants to admit it, or investigate it.
Everybody knows there’s a link between kayaking and fishing in the L position and leg numbness, discomfort, fatigue and pain. However, that doesn’t prevent kayak and kayak-seat manufacturers from offering kayak seats that are promoted as being ‘ergonomic’, although they don’t really solve any problem.
It’s possible to say that the equivalent of the ‘improved’ cigarette filter is the extra padding in the newer, more expensive kayak seats, and the equivalent of the low-tar and ‘healthier’ cigarette is the ‘ergonomic’ kayak seat.

Let’s say it again: Sitting for long hours in your sit-in or SOT kayak in the L position isn’t a good thing for your lumbar spine, your circulation and your well being.
Padded seats won’t help you, because the problem isn’t related to insufficient padding – It comes from the fact you’re locked in a single position and unable to switch to another position, while your legs keep pushing your lower back against the backrest of your kayak’s seat.

Don’t expect paddling or fishing magazines to expose this story. It won’t happen because those publications depend on kayak manufacturers’ advertising dollars.

More Foam in the Backrest of Your Kayak Seat – Is This the Solution For Your Back Pain?

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

Can more foam padding in your kayak seat backrest help protect your lumbar spine, and prevent back problems?

This article on Kayaks and Lumbar Spine Problems explains in detail how the basic sitting position in kayaks (the L position) combined with backrest and footrests is the very cause of the discomfort and pain you feel in lower back.
Padding your seat with additional foam can make you feel better for a while, but it doesn’t solve the problem, really. The reason is that what pushes your lumber spine against the back of your seat (backrest) is the most powerful set of muscles in your body, which are your own legs:
Your legs are powerful enough to propel you over long distances, even at running speed, and they can also lift your entire body up in the air, when you’re jumping.
When you’re seated in your kayak in the L position, your legs act as two two powerful pistons constantly pushing your unprotected lower back backwards, against your kayak seat’s backrest. This pressure is concentrated on a few vertebrae, since there are no other bones in this area of your body, and there are no big muscles to protect them.
In other words, although the forces in action are smaller than the force required to support your body (I.E. equivalent to your body weight), they are in the same range.
The more intense your paddling and the more tense your body is, the more power is required to keep your body in its position in, or on top of your kayak.
This means that if you’re tired or uncomfortable, you body becomes tense, and your legs need to work harder to keep you in place, which means they have to increase the pressure on the lower part of your back, that is your lumber spine.

That is to say that foam doesn’t present a good solution to your back pain problem to begin with, and since foam has a tendency to compress over time, even the initial, temporary relief you may feel will vanish after a while.

By the way, if you’re heavy, you’re likely to feel discomfort and pain in your butt too, after sitting in your kayak in the L position. Foam won’t help much in your case because it will get compressed, as will the nerves in this part of your body. Compressed nerves are at the source of phenomena well known to kayak paddlers and anglers, such as leg numbness, leg pain, and butt pain.
This discomfort and pain is not a trivial matter at all, once you start feeling it.

In sum, nearly all sit-in and sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks today are outfitted with foam padded seats, and still, most paddlers and anglers who use these kayaks feel one or more of the following symptoms: Premature fatigue, sore back, leg numbness, leg pain, sore butt etc., and therefore seek a break, in order to stretch, and ‘un-kink’.

In comparison, the basic paddling position in W kayaks is the Riding Position, and it’s similar to the position of being mounted on horseback. In this position, your legs comfortably help you support your body weight, and take part in your balancing, paddling, controlling and fishing efforts.
In addition, this new type of kayak offers you to switch anytime to a number of other positions, including Sitting (similar to being seated in a canoe) and Standing Up. This means you can stretch, relax and stay comfortable for considerably longer periods of time, without attaining a situation where any part of your body would ache.