Wednesday, August 19, 2009


So here you are, considering whether you should get yourself a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak, and you're wondering which type of kayak would better suit your paddling and fishing needs.

Sit-in and SOT kayaks are different from each other in many aspects, but they do have one thing in common, which is the paddling position they offer. It's called the L kayaking position, that is with both your legs stretched in front of you, your feet pushing against footrests, and your lower back pushing against a backrest in a continuous manner. What works to provide this constant and powerful pressure are your legs, in a rather unnatural role for them.

The L position is unique in more than one sense:
First of all, it's unique because it's the only position these kayaks can offer - no alternatives.
Second, it is unique because these kayaks are the only places where you'll see people sitting in this peculiar position, as no other land or water vehicle offers it - not even as an option.

This uniqueness is not a coincidence:
If kayaks could offer any other sitting position (such as W kayaks offer), people would prefer the other positions, and leave the L position to 'purists' and other weirdos. This is because the L position is very tough on your back and on your legs.
Similarly, although you could sit in the L position while riding a bike, a snowmobile, or a horse, or when driving a motor vehicle - no one has ever thought of trying to do it because it wouldn't make sense at all - that is neither practically nor from an ergonomic standpoint.

You may have already heard of the 'Yak-Back' - which is a popular name given to a range of pain problems experienced by people who paddle sit-in and SOT kayaks, or fish from them.
The yak-back and other problems caused by sitting in the L position are the main reason why people quit kayaking and kayak fishing:
The appeal of those small, inexpensive and easy to handle crafts is huge, but the price to pay in aching back, numb legs, leg pain and butt pain (a.k.a. 'yak ass') is too high, and certainly not worth paying - especially in the long run, where simple pain issues could develop into chronic problems, such as sciatica.

The yak back is a condition caused directly by the design of sit-in and SOT kayaks:
There is no way to avoid it except stopping to use your kayak. Vendors who offers special seats for sit-in and SOT kayaks would tell you that the extra foam they put in the backrest helps solving the problem, but this is a fallacy, since the problem originates in your lumbar spine, and not in soft tissues in your lower back.

Kayaking instructors and all sorts of paddling and kayak fishing outfitters would tell you that in order to paddle your sit-in or SOT kayak and fish from it, you need to be in good shape, perform special exercises as a matter of routine, and work on your kayaking technique.
In other words, what these people say is that when it comes to sit-in and SOT kayaks, you have to continuously struggle in order to be 'fit-to-sit'.

To begin with, whether such notion makes any sense is doubtful:
After all, shouldn't your kayak be the means for you to get a healthy exercise?
However, this line of advice doesn't work because it doesn't address the root of the problem, and that basically makes any debate unnecessary.

So, going back to your initial dilemma of choosing between a sit-in kayak and a SOT kayak, the sensible answer would be -"Stay away from either of them".
Such answer would not be complete without suggesting a proper alternative, and in this case it's easy to recommend checking the touring and fishing kayaks offered by Wavewalk.


caralha6617 said...

I do forty push-ups every morning and run half a mile so I'm fit to ride my bike to work ;)


llamalo said...

And these goofs tell you it's your hamstrings that are too long.. me think me is going to get surgery to have my hamstrings fit my yak -- DUH

Anonymous said...

These days you hardly see any car that doesn't feature power steering.
Why is that?
Wouldn't it be simpler to have drivers exercise their arms and torso to fit regular steering wheels??
Just one hour of exercise a day, and you'll be able to fit your 20th century car!

Anthony said...

Next thing they'll develop a Fit-To-Sit Test, and call it something like "F2S Score" ...

xlhamstringsCT said...

yeah, and one of the things they'll measure is the length of your hamstrings ---pffft!

Connie said...

is short hamstrings a hereditary condition?????

policefan said...

Gee, I wonder if the local kayak fishing club would reject my application to join in because of my low F2S score...