Problem Overview and New Solutions
This article examines the ‘wet ride’ issue, which is sometime viewed as inseparable from all forms of kayaking, kayak fishing, and types of kayaks. It exposes possible dangers and inconveniences associated to direct exposure to water, humidity and cold in various circumstances, and describes solutions based on the new, patented technology applied in Wavewalk’s Kayaks.
What’s a ‘wet ride’?
A wet ride is a common expression describing a kayaker’s experience of paddling and/or fishing while being wet. The wet ride can be caused by many things, including stepping in water while launching, being splashed by spray and waves, water getting into the cockpit through the scupper holes in sit-on-top kayaks, condensation under the spray skirt in sit-in kayaks etc.
The most unpleasant sensation associated with the wet ride is sitting in a wet area (the ‘soggy bottom’), but a wet ride can also be hazardous: The combination of cold water with cold wind can cause hypothermia, even if the kayaker did not go overboard. Hypothermia is a condition that significantly reduces the paddler’s physical and mental ability to navigate and arrive safely to his/her destination.
In warm waters a wet ride could cause exposure to jellyfish larvae (‘sea lice’) in sea water, parasites and bacteria in both fresh and salt water etc., and result in unpleasant and sometime severe skin and allergic reactions. Snails infected with certain microscopic parasites found in some birds and mammals release those parasites into both fresh and salt water. Swimmer’s itch
(cercarial dermatitis), which appears as a skin rash is caused by an allergic reaction to those parasites burrowing in the person’s skin.
The presence of certain chemicals in the water is known to cause unwanted physical reactions as well. Contact with sea water can cause a highly pruritic eruption known as Seabather’s eruption (SE).
Contact with warm, stagnant waters such as found in swamps can in some extreme cases lead to serious bacterial infections. Vibrio bacteria are usually found in warm waters. Coming in contact with those flesh eating bacteria can cause severe infections leading to limb loss and even death. Vibriosis is a risk for swimmers, boaters and fishermen. Giardiasis- an infectious diarrhoeal disease usually transmitted through oralfaecal contact and by contaminated water was diagnosed in 14% of US paddlers, compared to a background level of 4%, according to one study.
Another infection called Leptospirosis and its more severe form, Weil’s disease, are considered to be typical paddling hazards. These infections are often transmitted by infected rats’ urine in the water. The diseases are characterized by jaundice, fever, headaches, muscle aches, rashes and enlargement of the liver and spleen. They can be treated with antibiotics in most cases but sometime they lead to septicemia, organ damage and even death.
Kayakers risk infections of enterovirus and coliform as well. And obviously, everybody knows that wearing wet clothes can cause skin rash, especially during and after a prolonged physical effort. This doesn’t necessarily mean that getting wet while kayaking is either unpleasant or hazardous, but it certainly points to the need to provide kayakers with means of protection in case they don’t want to get wet or come in contact with the water.
Recents research indicates that water in popular subtropical beaches contains staph and MRSA bacteria that may infect open wounds in your skin.
‘Kayaking and kayak fishing are water sports’
Some kayakers and kayak fishermen use the term ‘water sport’ to define kayaking, and by that they mean to say that getting wet is an inseparable part of any kayaking activity, as it is of water skiing, surfing etc. This approach also implies that the kayaker or kayak fisherman should not expect to be comfortable in his/her kayak, and that the ‘wet ride’ is inevitable.
This argument is fallacious for a number of reasons: 1. Originally, the native people of the arctic who invented and developed kayaking tried as much as possible to avoid getting wet, and for good reasons.
2. Like kayaking, canoeing is another group of traditional, popular paddle sports and activities, but unless practiced in whitewater it does not involve ‘wet rides’ since most canoes offer a better protection to their passengers than kayaks do.
3. Fishing from other small boats (e.g. dinghies, pirogues etc.) does not involve getting wet as much as kayak fishing does.
4. Considering the efforts different groups of kayakers from sea kayakers to kayak fishermen put into avoiding and minimizing the ‘wet ride’ it is obviously a real problem.
What’s causing the wet ride in kayaks?
The general cause is insufficient protection but specific causes vary depending on kayak type and application: Traditional, or sit-in kayaks (SIKs) have little freeboard, so that even paddling in eddies and small waves can result in some water getting inside the kayak through the open cockpit. As for sea kayaks, these are normally equipped with a spray skirt, which doesn’t necessarily make them watertight in surf and waves conditions.
Sit-on-top kayaks (SOTs) offer even less protection than SIKs do in terms of freeboard, and typically let water into the cockpit through the drainage holes called ‘scupper holes’. This is why SOTs have become popular only in warm waters.
The wet ride and the dry storage problem
Another aspect of the wet ride is the difficulty to keep gear dry in a kayak. Some seasoned sea kayakers say that before they go on a kayak expedition they simply take into consideration that eventually all their gear will get wet, even if it’s stored below deck. The solution to that is using watertight bags, which similarly to sea kayaks are not absolutely watertight…
New solutions to the wet ride problem
Since the wet ride is challenging many kayakers’ well being it must be addressed by kayak designers and manufacturers. The solution offered by the new, patented W Kayak concept is simple, and basically consists of more freeboard protecting the passengers inside the cockpit.
W kayakers can also sit change positions on their boat’s longitudinal saddle and sit, ride or stand in the back of the cockpit. By doing so they raise the bow and avoid much of the splashing and spraying that other kayakers are forced to put up with when launching in the surf.
Another good news for kayakers is the fact that even if some water gets into the W Kayak’s cockpit it just gets drained to the bottom of the hulls and away from the passengers’ sitting area on top of the saddle. This eliminates the unpleasant sensation of sitting in a puddle that many people who use ordinary kayaks (SOT and SIK) have to put up with.
Since it’s possible to enter the W Kayak’s from behind and exit it from the front it is no longer necessary for a W Kayakers to step in water when putting their boats in and taking them out.
And finally, since W Kayaks have a big, internal dry storage space it is no longer necessary for the equipment carried on board to get wet.