Pedal Kayaking: A better kayak alternative

Transport of canoes in Dubrovnic
Photo by Arvid Høidahl on Unsplash

Started by the Eskimos centuries ago, kayaking has grown to become a favorite sport among many anglers all over the world. This is due to their simplicity and affordability compared to boat fishing. Initially, kayaks were meant for hunting and fishing. Other communities used kayaks for transportation. Today, kayaking has now grown to a sport that's recognized in the Olympics and a leisure activity that's very common among tourists and anglers alike.

Due to their wide usage, numerous types of kayaks have been designed to serve different use cases. However, the model of propulsion through paddling has been there for as long as Kayaks have been around.

However, paddle kayaks have recently been found to pose health risks after using them for a long time. This deemed it necessary for people to come up with kayaking alternatives that are more efficient and less risky in terms of health.

Our favorite alternative is pedal kayaking, which uses your feet for propulsion instead of a paddle. Unlike the paddle kayaks that are propelled by paddles, pedal kayaks are propelled by cycling with your feet. This cycling is then converted to energy that powers the kayak to move in different directions.

Keep reading to learn about why the usual paddle kayaking may not be the best for you, and why pedal kayaking is the best alternative.

Paddle Kayaking

Paddle Kayaking is the more traditional method of kayaking, and it's still widely used today. It involves the use of a paddle to propel the kayak.

To make the paddles light and easy to handle for the kayaker, some are made of light materials like aluminum fiberglass or even carbon fiber. Paddles can also be either feathered or unfeathered. Feathered paddles have blades on different planes. Unfeathered paddles, on the other hand, have the blades on one plane. Each of these designs is effective as long as you know how to handle them.

Paddle kayaks have been favorites to many kayakers due to the following benefits;

  • They can allow you to sneak up on unsuspecting fish quite easily. This can be an advantage since fish are sensitive and will disappear on the slightest "foreign" movements within the water.
  • Paddle kayaks allow you to have a better view of the waters as you paddle since you can stand as you paddle. It's also believed that standing gives you an edge when it comes to fishing.
  • Paddle kayaks are also favored since they can be used in shallow waters. They have few objects attached underneath them, making them ideal, even in areas with water lilies.
  • They are also quite affordable compared to other types of kayaks.

However, there are many other reasons why you may want to stay away from paddle kayaking. These include;

  • Paddling is associated with shoulder pain – It's scientifically proven that the use of a paddle causes damage to shoulders, especially to endurance kayakers. This includes those who take kayaking as a sport or as a way to exercise their bodies. Paddling causes injuries to the upper body such as the back, shoulder, wrists, and fingers. Paddling requires a lot of hands activities; the rotator cuff muscles allow you to place your hand in different positions as you take control of the kayak. These muscles tear gradually. Some people also experience inflammation of these muscles. Paddling when your kayak is about to capsize poses even more dangers. You're forced to paddle in a dangerous position, and you could end up tearing some of your upper body muscles.
  • Limited Storage – With a paddle Kayak, you have to switch between your fishing gear and your paddle. This limits where you can store the gear and the fish. Also, in case of unstable currents, you may lose control of your kayak as you balance between these two items. (As an aside: I've personally had this happen to me!)
  • Paddle Kayaks are quite slow – Many people believe kayaks are fast, and they are, compared to canoes. But are they actually that fast? It won't be long before this starts to take a toll on you. If you're going for long distances, it will take too long, and it will be very tiring.
  • Paddle Kayaking requires significant skill – You can't just take a paddle kayak into the water and start kayaking long distances without hurting yourself. You need a lot of training on how to use the paddle, how to orient the blades, how to manage the paddle and the fishing gear. Also, the best ways to paddle without being injured takes time to master. Even if you know how to swim, controlling your kayak as it capsizes poses more danger to your upper body muscles.

These disadvantages of paddle kayaking tend to outweigh its advantages. If you want to take kayaking seriously, I'm pretty sure you don't want to risk your health while you're at it. The good news is that there's an alternative to this traditional kayaking. Pedal kayaking is faster, safer, and more beginner-friendly.

Pedal Kayaking

Pedal Kayaking uses a different mechanism where you propel your kayak by cycling like in a bicycle. Hobie's Mirage Drive is the reason why pedal kayaks have become very popular among kayak anglers. Pedal kayaks opened up the world of kayaking to more possibilities and to more users than the paddle kayaks did.

The Hobie's mirage fins technology had been a monopoly in the kayaking industry for about a decade. It was until the propellers' technology was introduced by Native watercraft, that anglers got diversity in pedal kayaking.

Many other companies have developed their types of pedal kayaks. These include Old Town's Predator PD, Feelfree Kayaks, Wilderness systems, among others. They have also inspired more companies to venture into manufacturing pedal drive kayaks.

Types of Pedal Kayaks

There are two main types of pedal kayaks based on the pedal drive mechanism.

Push Mechanism

This was the first pedal drive to be introduced. You push the pedals with feet in an alternating manner. This movement makes the fins beneath the kayak to move back and forth, propelling the kayak forward, or in any other direction, you'd like. Fins are more favorable to water lilies since they are light materials.

Rotational Mechanism

This is the Native Watercraft's design. It involves cycling, like on a bicycle. As you cycle, you rotate the propeller underneath the kayak propelling the kayak in various directions. It offers a very simple, yet effective way to control your kayak as you participate in other activities. It doesn't require much strength to cycle, making it ideal even for those with weak shoulder muscles, the aged, and he disabled.

Cons: Pedal kayak

Before we go into more detail on why you need to get the pedal kayak and not the paddle kayak, but I should also mention some of the factors you need to consider when making this decision. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned angler, there's that need that you need your kayak to fulfill. Here are some of the aspects you should consider.

  • Weight - Pedal Kayaks are heavier than the paddle kayaks due to the fins and propellers. You might incur an extra cost for a trailer as you travel with it, but they are totally worth it. This weight also enables them to withstand harsh waters, unlike lighter kayaks. However, it is possible to haul a pedal kayak
  • Cost - Pedal kayaks are also more expensive. The convenience, flexibility and enjoyment pedal kayaks offer must come at a cost, right? Also, pedal kayaks have to endure the strength of the kayaker as they pedal. The usual materials used to manufacture paddle kayaks can't withstand this. Even if they cost hundreds of dollars more than their paddling counterparts, the costs are justified to ensure they offer the best experience.
  • Water Clearance - Now this is one of the biggest deal-breakers for beginners who would love to start kayaking. The fact that pedal kayaks are limited to deep waters, with excellent water clearance makes them shy away from it. It doesn't have to be like that. If you're going into shallow waters, you can still opt for the Hobbie's Mirage drive that has fins. The fins are favorable to water lilies, and they can be folded to low you to maneuver shallow waters. However, there are situations where even fins get accumulate weeds, making pedaling quite difficult. There are two ways to solve this problem. First, you can do your best to avoid the weeds. Pedal kayaks are swift enough to avoid the weeds even at close range. If you can't avoid them, you can drive through them at high speed. You can also follow the current. Weeds tend to bend towards the direction of the current making it easier for you to go over them. You risk getting the weeds stuck in your fins or propeller. You can still remove the weeds while in the water and continue fishing. Or, you can remove the stuck weeds while off the water.
  • Noise - The propeller and the fins could be noisier than the paddles, but the noise is bearable. When compared to other noisier kayaks, I think this factor shouldn't discourage you from getting a pedal kayak.
  • Space – We did mention earlier that paddle kayaks have limited space due to the paddle. For the pedal kayak, this space is occupied by the pedal drive system. However, you don't have to keep juggling between fishing and balancing the kayak. This makes them an ideal kayak alternative since you can even wrestle with the fish as you control the kayak.

Pros: Pedal Kayak

Whether you're into kayaking for leisure, or for serious fishing, here are the reasons why a pedal kayak is the best for you;

  • Speed – The advanced propulsion system makes pedal kayaks faster. Now, this is for those who still want to fish and not be tired when they cross the lake/river/cove. A pedal kayak can allow you to get to the fishing location faster, saving you time and gas money for your Alumacraft. This could also help when you're faced by an emergency. Imagine the agony and shoulder pain you would experience for paddling faster to the shore. As mentioned earlier, speed can enable you to go through weeds without them getting stuck in the drive system. If they do get stuck, there are ways to get them out and continue kayaking like a pro.
  • Health and safety – Pedal kayaks are safe for your muscles since they use your legs Paddle kayaks require you to engage your upper body. Some of these parts aren't used to such activity and end up getting damaged, leaving you in serious tissue injuries. For pedal kayaks, your shoulders are safe since you'll be using your legs to power the kayak. Legs are stronger, efficient, and allow more stability. Pedaling is also more comfortable, and allows you to last longer as compared to paddling. If you can ride a bike, you can pedal kayak.
  • Stability - Pedal kayaks, due to their added weight, are substantially more stable. This can help a beginner, but it can also help a serious angler who needs the stability to fight a larger fish on the line
  • Easier to fish – When pedaling a kayak, your hands are free. You can wrestle with the fish and even control the kayak while in troubled waters. Paddle kayaks don't allow you to do this since you risk dropping your paddle and losing control of your kayak. Increased stability avoids too much splashing of water as you adjust to the kayak.
  • Easy for beginners – Pedal kayaks are beginner-friendly. Paddling is a skill that takes time to master. Pedaling, on the other hand, is straightforward. You just push yourself into the water and start pedaling, and that's it. Pedal kayaks have also been made of strong materials that can hold your weight as you lean when finding balance.

Final Thoughts

Paddle Kayaking is the more traditional method of kayaking. However, it does pose some health risks, and it limits the users in many ways. These include;

  • Risk of shoulder injuries
  • More complicated for beginners
  • Unstable
  • Slow.
  • Requires upper body strength

The pedal kayaking is a new entry into the kayaking industry and a perfect kayaking alternative. It offers;

  • Flexibility
  • Variety of use cases
  • Less strength to operate
  • Fast
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Stablility

Despite being more expensive than the paddle kayaks, pedal kayaks are the best choice for anglers at all levels.

See you on the water!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.