First WaveWalk Paddle Trip, Kayak Review By Retired Gentleman From Texas

Took my WaveWalk out this morning for my first paddle and decided to take a trip thru some of our marshes down here. According to a google earth retracing of my steps I covered about 5.7 miles in 2 hours at a leisurely pace (as would be expected from a Retired Gentleman of Leisure).
The wind was blowing about 8 mph when I started and picked up to 15 to 20 towards the last half of the trip. We had a thunder storm moving in with the usual increase in winds, cloudiness and slight drop in temperature. Literally “no sweat.”
This gave me a chance to compare how the WaveWalk handled the wind as compared to my experiences with both sit in and sit on top kayaks. I think that I can sum it up as WOW! All I had to do was shift my position to raise the bow or stern enough to give me enough weather vane effect to keep me pretty much on a straight course. It took a little experimentation, but I picked up on it pretty quick. I also think that the wind being channeled between the 2 hulls helped me stay on line to a degree. The main point is that I did NOT have to paddle just on one side to keep my heading in a quartering or broadside wind, even when crossing open water. Just scoot towards bow or stern and keep on truckin’.
I had a tug pushing a load of barges up the Neches River throw a pretty good wake at me when I was fixin’ to cross on my way back to the launch. I was pretty nervous, but I shifted my weight all the way to the back of the cockpit and took the 1.5 to 2 foot wake head on. No problems once I got over the initial “oh crap” moment, and the boat took the waves just fine.
I got caught in the rain for the last 40 minutes or so, but I was having so much fun that I decided that if Indians didn’t have ponchos then I didn’t need one either. I wonder if Hyawatha got as nervous as I did when the lightening started popping…
I had a great paddle.
Snuck up on birds, fish, a boat full of fisherman and the one small gator who wasn’t paying much attention. (choot ‘em, Lizabet) Got a few blisters and my muscles are a little sore (hey, I’m 60) but no yak back and my shoulder with arthritis feels pretty good. I was kind of surprised when I stepped out onto land at the end of the trip and staggered around for a few minutes. It’s true – you do use the muscles in your thighs when you paddle a WaveWalk, you just don’t notice it.

Being able to change positions while paddling also helped my knees tremendously. Years ago I shattered one knee cap twice (full of screws now) and tore cartilage in the other, so that was a big plus for me.
I only have one question – how come nobody thought of a catamaran hull concept for paddling craft a long time ago? Ok, so the Polynesians may have figured it out first on a larger scale. It needs less energy to paddle than a sit in, is much more stable than a SOT, your back doesn’t hurt and your butt stays dry! What more could you ask for?
I want to thank both of you for the amount of time that you spent giving me and my friend a test drive and a few tips. The only thing that I would suggest so far is a couple of tie downs inside the hull to tie a small dry box or whatever to securely keep your ID, cell phone, fishing license and maybe a few bucks from going swimming if you get swamped or capsize. Just a thought…

Anyway, thanks guys! I’m having a blast! I’m gonna infect my son with WaveWalk fever the first chance I get, as he is still using a SOT. I think Village Creek would be a good place to start him out.

Lee,
Nederland, Texas

Addendum:

I did a lot of research on the W500 – read all of the blogs and watched most of the videos – before I started saving the funds to possibly purchase one. I had the “book knowledge” on the W500 but not the practical experience. The purchase was totally dependent on a test drive to see if it was as advertised. It didn’t take long to get the basics down.

Although I do plan on doing some fishing from the W, I realized that I need to get more practical experience learning the boat before I do some inshore fishing in it. Plus it’s really great to get back to cruising the marshes & bayous like I used to do years ago. If you’re going into unfamiliar territory, especially back in the marshes, take the time to use GoogleEarth to print a map of the area. A compass is great, but the bayous twist & turn quite a bit and you often can see where you want to be but can’t get there without a map on board. Man, do I love GoogleEarth!

So I’m looking forward to spending some more time just wandering around and getting better with the W and enjoying the sights before I actually go fishing. I’d rather be in a narrow twisting bayou than just about anywhere. Thanks to the wealth of info at the W web site, for making retirement even better than it already is.

More fishing kayak reviews >

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.

Kayaks, Back Problems, Lumbar Support – and the Simple Truth…

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

So, you have a problem with your back as a result of paddling your kayak, or fishing from it for long hours.
You ask your kayaking instructor, or your local kayak fishing outfitter for advice, and among several possible answers you’re likely to hear some recommendations to improve your seat’s lumbar support – either by adding foam somewhere (the DIY approach), or by getting a brand new kayak seat that according to its manufacturer is ‘ergonomically designed’ to offer ‘improved lumbar support’…
Your local outfitter might even offer you a deal on a new kayak with a re-designed seat with improved cushioning, and guess what – you’ll find a bunch of recommendations for that kayak (and seat) in online discussion forums that are sponsored directly (or covertly) by kayak manufacturers and other vendors of fishing kayaks and fishing gear…

What’s wrong with this situation is that basically no sit-in or SOT kayak seat can offer any real lumbar support. This might seem as an overstatement at first read, but consider this:
Your lumbar spine’s natural support comes from your hip bones and legs, which in a natural active posture (I.E. walking, running) are placed directly below. This means your lumbar spine’s natural support is vertical, and not horizontal. To understand why this matters, remember that your spine in made from bones (vertebrae) placed one on top of each other, and separated by thinner disks of softer cartilage.

In the L position, your kayak seat’s backrest prevents your upper body from falling backwards, but it can do it only because your legs are pushing your lumbar area against it. Without your legs active push backward, your body would be slipping forward (‘slouching’).
In their turn, your legs can achieve this feat because your feet are supported by your kayak’s footrests, which are placed directly in front of you – horizontally.

The bad news is that when your legs push your back against your kayak seat’s backrest, the backrest pushes back with the exact force, according to Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
The problem is (your problem, actually) that the backrest’s reaction affects your lumbar spine from the wrong angle, continuously and with a lot of power.

In reality, your seat’s backrest doesn’t support your lumber spine – it pressurizes it from an unnatural direction, in an angle that doesn’t offer your body a way to protect itself. This is why you feel discomfort, pain, numbness, tingling etc. – It’s your lumbar spine crying foul, and warning you about potential problems developing as a result of the improper pressure applied by the seat’s backrest.
So the truth is that the expression ‘lumbar support’ is a fallacy when it’s used in connection with your kayak’s backrest, since in fact such accessories don’t offer support to your back’s lumbar area – they just stop it from going backwards by brute force that your own legs are made to provide for this matter.
Those few lumbar vertebrae in your spine cannot support such abuse in the long run, and that’s why you feel problems in your back…

Lumbar Spine and Kayak Back Pain: Facts

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

The term ‘Lumbar Support’ appears frequently in discussions about kayak fishing and paddling related back pain. The underlying assumption in those discussions is that the lumbar area of your back (lumbar spine) requires adequate support, and if such support is provided your back pain will disappear, or at least become tolerable.

What is the Lumbar Spine?

Here is a short definition we found in a dictionary:

(lumbar)

▸ adjective: of or relating to or near the part of the back between the ribs and the hipbones (“Lumbar vertebrae”)

Read more about the Lumbar Spine

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 the L Posture Affect the Lumbar Spine?

Your legs have the most powerful set of muscles in your body, capable of making you run, jump and kick. When you’re locked in the L position, your legs are constantly pushing against the kayak’s footrests, as well as against your lumbar spine, which is ‘supported’ by the backrest behind it.
This strong, continuous pressure on your lumbar spine comes from an unnatural angle, that is from the backrest behind it. There is no way for you to stop it or relieve it as long as you’re in this position, which is the only one that sit-in and sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks are designed to offer.
Effectively, when you’re paddling such kayak or fishing from it, the only way for you to relieve the pressure is to get out of the kayak, stand up and stretch, walk, etc.

How Does it Lead to Pain, and to the ‘Yak Back’ Syndrome?

Getting out of the kayak in order to relieve the pressure on your lower back is not a realistic option in most cases, and this is why most kayak fishermen and paddlers keep sitting in their kayaks although they feel a growing discomfort, and eventually pain in their backs.
This pain is known as ‘Yak Back’, and most people who paddle sit-in and SOT kayaks for periods longer than an hour experience it sooner or later, to some extent.
The pain is the result of the abnormal pressure on the cartilage rings, and the contraction of the the muscles in this area as a result of the effort they have to make in order to prevent back (spine) injuries, or at least minimize them.
Try to imagine the fight between the extremely powerful legs pushing your lumbar spine against the backrest behind you, and the much less powerful muscles in your lower back that are trying to protect your spine, and prevent it from being damaged.
Luckily for you, your lower back would soon enough start to ‘scream’ that it’s being hurt, or in other words – you’re going to feel pain. This pain should tell you to stop this unhealthy struggle between your legs and your back, before your back gets seriously injured.
Ignoring the pain at any given moment would result in the aggravation of the problem, that is to more pain, and eventually to a more severe back injury that would take you a longer time to recover from.

How much pressure do your legs exert on your lower back (lumbar spine) in the L position?

We’ve measured 40 to 60 lbs in adults.
You can try and measure the pressure yourself, using a bathroom scale positioned vertically between your lower back and your kayak backrest: Have someone stand behind you and read the dial for you.
It’s bad news for your lower back, considering the pressure is constant, and you can’t avoid it.
It’s even worse news considering the fact that effectively, this pressure is applied on a few lumbar vertebrae and cartilage discs that are badly positioned to resist it in such angle.
In terms of lbs per square inch, these pressure figures would be impressive, as well as most alarming.

Proper Paddling Technique, Cushioned Seats, and the Reality of Back Pain and Injury

Kayaking and kayak fishing instructors would tell you to sit straight in order to improve your kayaking technique and perform the required rotational movements of the torso in a more efficient manner. However, you need to remember that the people who initially invented and perfected this technique or paddling styles never used a backrest in their kayaks, because they didn’t need to. Consequently, they didn’t suffer from ‘Yak Back’ – unlike you.
This is to say that perfecting your kayaking technique would not improve your lower back’s situation in any way: You will keep feeling discomfort and pain, and you’ll keep being at risk of back injuries, and even chronic damage.
The obvious reason for this is the fact that your legs will keep pushing your lumbar spine against your kayak’s backrest.

Sit-in and SOT kayak vendors would offer you to ‘upgrade’ to the latest ‘ergonomic’ seat, that’s bound to more more expensive than the last one you bought. They would praise the extra cushioning offered to your hips and lower back, and claim that such seats would get rid of your fatigue, back pain and leg numbness – once and for all.
The reality is quite different: Special kayak seats have been around for decades, and none of them has produced the desired effect of ending the Yak Back, simply because all seats have a backrest by definition, and no amount of cushioning can reduce the total amount of force that your legs use when they push that backrest against your lumbar spine.
On the contrary: The extra soft cushioning may reduce the point pressure on softer tissues in your lower back (E.G. skin), and by that somehow delay the sensation of discomfort and eventually pain in your lumbar spine and in the muscles that support it. In other words, you’ll start feeling the problem when it’s already at a more advanced stage, which is not necessarily a good thing for you, if you think about it from your a health perspective.

What Your Lumbar Spine Requires When Kayak Fishing is Considered

Obviously, you need to avoid paddling and fishing in the L position, because it’s not merely uncomfortable, but in fact potentially harmful to your lower back, and sitting in it regularly for prolonged periods of time could lead to back injuries and chronic back pain.
Having said that, what would be the ideal fishing kayak for you? -One that would offer you comfort at all times, and the ability to take care of your sore back.
In fact, such kayak does exist. It’s the patented W kayak, and by patent we mean a patent for an invention (utility patent), and not just a design patent.
To begin with, Wavewalk fishing kayaks feature no backrest whatsoever – similarly to bikes, horse saddles, snowmobiles, off-road motorbikes, all-terrain vehicles, and other high-performance outdoor equipment. What all of those have in common is the fact that when you ride them it’s your own legs that support your upper body. This is good news for your lumbar spine, since it’s basically a posture equivalent to walking, or running – since no unnatural pressure points are being created.
Second, the saddle type seat that Wavewalk kayaks feature offers a variety of positions, including standing up, plus the ability to change between any two positions at any given moment. Thus, whatever discomfort felt in your back, or local pressure building up in any part of your body can be effectively relieved as soon as you feel it.
As a result, even paddlers and anglers suffering from chronic and acute back problems report spending long hours in their W kayaks without feeling discomfort or pain. You can find such testimonials in a number of fishing kayak reviews, where they say that without their W kayak paddling or fishing from kayaks would be impossible for them – because of their back condition.