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 >

Paddling vs. Pedaling in the L Position – Does it Matter to Your Back?

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

Pedaling small watercraft has been offered as alternative to recreational rowing and paddling since the 19th century. In recent years, with kayaks becoming more popular, some kayak manufacturers have started offering pedal powered kayaks. These water crafts are propelled by the passenger’s legs, who are either pushing pedals (push-pedals) or rotating pedals (rotational pedals) – depending on the type of propeller they are required to activate (flaps or rotor).
In either case, the kayak passengers are seated in the L kayaking position, with their legs stretched in front of them, and their lumbar spine pressed against the backrest.
Do these pedal kayakers and kayak fishermen gain anything from using their legs for propulsion, instead of using a paddle in the traditional kayaking style?
Apparently, using ones legs for propulsion makes a lot of sense, if the alternative is using the arms. This is because our legs are much more powerful, and better suited for sustaining such efforts. However, many pedal kayakers and fishermen soon discover that physical reality is far from the ideal picture that pedal kayak manufacturers portray: This is because of the L position – the same position that makes paddling a traditional sit-in or SOT kayak difficult and uncomfortable also makes it hard to pedal such a kayak.
Pedaling a normal bike is easy for most people, who can ride a bike for hours (on flat terrain) without getting tired, but pedaling while one’s legs are stretched forward and apply all their power to pressurize the lumbar spine against the backrest is far from being ergonomic or sensible. Pedaling in this posture is guaranteed to lead to premature fatigue, circulation problems in the legs, butt pain, numbness and lower back pain, whether the legs’ motion is forward-push or rotational.
And as for ‘hands-free kayak fishing’ – the idea that a fisherman could navigate by pedaling, while using his arms for fishing – a closer look would reveal a different reality:
First of all, if you observe pedal kayakers you’ll find they must operate a hand-activated rudder, which simply means that one hand can’t be free for fishing, and as far as single handed fishing goes, some people would say it is not the most practical idea…
Second, while your legs are stretched forward and pushing pedals, they don’t work to balance your kayak. This is why pedal kayakers are often seen holding their yak with both their hands, while their arms are stretched on their sides – This is an attempt to compensate for the lost stability. Practically, this means that your fishing kayak is even less stable while you’re pedaling it, and if you try try fishing from it while in motion you’ll be less steady and less comfortable than if you fished from it while it is stationary.
Bottom line: Marketing hype and facts don’t always coexist in the real world, and you’d better use your common sense as well as your sense of observation before you venture into kayak pedaling and pedal-kayak fishing.

If you’re seriously interested in this subject, you may want to continue reading this in-depth technical article comparing paddling and pedal drives >

Hamstring Theory, Yak Back, and Kayaking Ergonomics

This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.

This short article will attempt to examine the ‘hamstring theory’ about the source of back pain and leg pain in kayaking and kayak fishing, both as an explanation of the causes of these widespread ailments, and in practical terms related to what you can and should do to prevent them.

What are hamstrings?
Hamstring is the name given to any of the tendons at the rear hollow of the human knee.
A hamstring muscle is the name given to any of the three muscles constituting the back of the upper leg that serve to flex the knee joint, draw the leg inward, and extend the thigh.

What do hamstrings have to do with back pain and leg pain in kayaks?
Most people are short in their hamstring and calf, as a result of spending many hours every day seated in chairs, such as when doing office work, studying, dining, watching TV, commuting etc.
Therefore, when one sits in a kayak with legs straight, the hamstring tissue stretches, and that can be felt as pain.
This shortness of the posterior leg may cause stress in other parts of the body. It may compress nerves resulting in leg numbness or tingling. It can cause discomfort and pain in the lower back due to bad pelvis position, as the pelvis is attached to the hamstring muscles.
A short posterior leg prevents people form sitting fully upright in the L kayaking position: The hamstrings pull down on the back of the pelvis creating a ‘slouch’. This rounds the low back and causes back pain.
Kayaking in the L position can also cause a sciatic nerve to get pinched . The sciatic nerve is a large nerve bundle that innervates the legs, and it is sensitive to compression:
Short hamstring muscles can cause the pelvis to shift enough to increase the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Pressure on the back of the thighs can also compress nerves, and cause circulation problems in the legs.
Kayaking in the L position may also lead to Hamstring Tendonitis: a condition which involves pain in the area above one or both knees, the biceps, and sometimes on the back of the upper legs. Tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons that connect the muscles to the bone.

Conclusions, so far
The above diagnosis points to several problems caused by sitting in the L position, and involving hamstrings. Practically, it means that one way or another, most people who sit in kayak in the L position would feel some sort of physical discomfort, pain or injury – sooner or later.
That is simply because the L position is not fit for most people, or as most kayaking instructors and outfitters would put it – they are not fit for it.
This is where it’s important to stress that the hamstring theory talks about the L position itself, as if the fact that people sitting kayaks did not have a backrest and footrests to hold them in place, and help them maintain their back in an erect position.
In other words, sitting in the L position in your living room would lead to similar sensations and problems if done for long hours, although your feet and lower back would have nothing to rest on.
Why is this important? Because the existence of footrests and a backrest aggravates to situation for you, as it causes a number of additional problems, some of which can be even more severe.

The hamstring theory – prognosis
In a nutshell, the basic idea is that since your body doesn’t fit the L position, you can teach it to adapt to this position with exercise. When your body fits the L position, you’ll be able to paddle correctly, that is using proper kayaking technique, and by that reduce discomfort and injuries.

Discussion
This prognosis may be true for some people who possess both time, energy, motivation and initial fitness to work on their power, flexibility and skills.
It’s also a path that could lead some people to additional injuries, and more severe ones.
But most importantly, it’s an approach that defies the purpose of recreational paddling and fishing by confounding means and ends: Instead of viewing kayaking and kayak fishing as possible outdoor fun activities, and mild, beneficial physical exercise, it relates to proper kayaking technique and posture as a goal in itself. Alas, this goal is practically not attainable for most people, who would keep suffering from a variety of undesirable symptoms related to the L position in itself, as well as in combination with the backrest-footrests system that all sit-in and SOT kayaks feature – simply because nearly all people in the modern world have short hamstrings, as short hamstrings are a typical result of the way we live.
This argument would have been moot, or just theoretical if alternative forms of kayaking and kayak fishing didn’t exist, but luckily they do: The L kayaking position as well as the footrests and backrest that inevitably go with it are non-existent in the new, patented W kayaks that offer no-pain paddling and fishing.