Whether you are paddling or even pedaling a kayak, any setup consisting of footrests with a backrest will cause you soreness of some sort in the end because you’re stuck sitting in the uncomfortable L position. Remaining confined in the L position can eventually result in a condition dubbed ‘yak back’, as well as a multitude of other ailments including leg pain, leg numbness, butt pain (a.k.a. ‘yakass’), and many others.
Irrespective of how you use your kayak, the constant pressure your legs apply on your lumbar spine is an unhealthy thing that should be refrained from. However, this problem cannot be circumvented 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 overlook the problem, obviously, since doing so could damage their sales. Instead, they fallaciously advertise their deficient products as being comfortable, ergonomic etc., and they suppose that even if you took one of those kayaks for a 15-20 minute test ride, it would be improbable that you would notice the problem, as it usually takes a longer duration than that for the passenger to start observing noticeable soreness.
They’ll advertise fake features such as ‘new ergonomic design’, ‘improved lumbar support’ and any other amalgamation of buzz words that could relay a false sense of comfort, and deceive people into believing that their problem is solved.
Some kayak manufacturers go even further, and try to convince potential customers that their kayak is as comfortable as a real fishing boat, i.e. a motor boat, hoping that perhaps a few people would be tricked by their smoke and mirrors.
But since kayaking and kayak fishing trips almost always take substantially longer than average test rides, sooner rather than later you will find that the faux-comfort purported by the manufacturers of traditional kayaks is not real comfort, and you will experience serious ergonomic problems resultingly. In this case its very likely that you will give up relinquishing your kayak fishing hobby entirely, as many have done before, or suffer in silence as your kayak works against your very body. The only legitimate way to bypass this plethora of bodily ailments associated with kayak fishing is to switch to a W fishing kayak, as a growing number of kayak anglers have begun to do.
The L posture that most sit-in and SOT kayakers are accustomed to being forced into when they paddle diverges from the original Inuit kayak posture, in that these antecedent kayaker designed their kayaks with neither a backrest (lumbar support) nor footrests.
Backrest and footrests were initially adjoined to these watercraft by modern kayak designers and manufacturers to restrain the paddlers and anglers who use kayaks from shifting forward. However, the cost of this augmentation is that kayakers and kayak fishermen experience discomfort that eventually results in back pain, leg pain, leg numbness and an array of other issues.
The combination of footrests and backrest creates a frame against which your legs can push forward in order to inhibit you from sliding forward. Your legs have the most robust set of muscles in your body, and as a result of their pushing on the backrest, the backrest exerts a force back on you – that’s just simple physics. This results in an ergonomic nightmare for you as the user, because the majority of this pressure is exerted on your spinal column, a very sensitive region, especially in advanced age.
Basically, this position is named the L posture, dubbed so because your legs are forced forward in a manner resembling the letter, is abnormal to your body, as well as possibly harmful in the long term:
Anatomically, your spine is construed of rigid bones, separated by discs of flexible cartilage. This structure is optimal for supporting vertical loads and efforts usual to running, walking and standing up, but not for contending with horizontal pressure like that created by the L posture.
The above image demonstrates how this works: your own legs work against your back to support you in this posture while you’re paddling and fishing.
The worst of this is that you can’t adjust yourself to a different position because this is the sole position that sit-in and SOT designs will accommodate.
Despite designers’ and manufacturers’ attempts to alleviate this problem by cushioning their kayak seats, it is impossible to fully solve the problems created by this defective design in this manner because your spine in your lower back is the sole hard object between your pelvis and your rib cage, and no matter how much cushioning is added that’s exactly where the pressure will be focused.
Another complication generated by the L kayak posture is the vertical pressure on your tailbone and butt, as illustrated by this image:
The joint weight of your upper body with a portion of the weight of your thighs presses your posterior downwards, precisely in the region wherein your sciatic nerve is situated.
Here your legs cannot support this effort, but rather they do the opposite, and exasperate the problem.
This incessant pressure causes disruptions in the regular circulation of blood to your legs,which manifests itself as leg numbness and leg pain.
Additionally, it can also harm your lower back, as your legs push harder in vain, trying to change their position and relive the the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
This swath of problems elucidates clearly why so many people who use kayaks for touring and for fishing generally feel awkward in their kayaks, and why an abundant number of them suffer from back pain and back stress.
The L posture catalyzes fatigue, leads to leg and back pain, and all in all makes kayaking and kayak fishing an uncomfortable and is a disaster from an ergonomic design standpoint. The only way to fix this design flaw is to create a new design for fishing kayaks. So far the only solution to this problem is the W fishing kayak, and its new design.
I. – “Received kayak and very impressed. I have also purchased Jim’s sail kit, and I love it also. Works well with wavewalk. I will be taking a friend out tomorrow…”
II. – “People are curious of my new boat. Hit some high winds today sailing (beginner) and the kayak performed beautifully…”
III. – “Today a friend of mine tipped the kayak while sailing. It was difficult to right with mast, stabilizers etc… Will need to talk with Jim. I am aware sailing is not the normal… I purchased the whole kit with outriggers etc. Might have been more the operator since I had no issues. I was surprised that it could tip. Glad I know this now than when I’m sailing by myself. Cheers”
Note: There is a video demonstrating this kayak sailing kit in action – Its sail is larger than normal, consequently allowing it to drive the kayak at high speed. This kit comes with outriggers that are rather small, necessitating both good sailing skills and heightened cautiousness.
Steve Phillis, from Bendingo, in Victoria, Australia, is an avid kayak paddler. Steve explained what got him interested in the W kayak:
I am passionate about health and just recently have succumbed to back pain as a result of kayaking.
Kayaking from a traditional kayak caused me considerable pain, and at the end of last year I was out of action for 2 months and spent a lot of money on extensive physiotherapy and even had to take time off from work, not to mention that I could not sit in a car or seat for more than 10 minutes without considerable pain. Determined to find an alternative, I came across wavewalk fishing kayaks, and purchased one.
Guess what? No back pain. I am wrapped and I have taken up learning to sail using it.