Recently, Ralph Wirsig, the owner of KayaArm, contacted me to introduce me to his new product. The new product is called KayaLeg. Both the KayaArm and KayaLeg offer kayakers a new and potentially easier way — at least for some kayakers — to get into a kayak. The KayaArm is a product that you permanently install on a dock. It stabilizes the kayak while you get in. I actually think that the KayaArm is a pretty cool product and if you’re lucky enough (or rich enough) to live on a lake with a dock, then the KayaArm is something to consider adding to your dock. Especially if you have any flexibility problems. The KayaLeg is an entirely different beast. It’s a metal clamp that you permanently install on your kayak’s front deck. Once in place, it clamps your paddle to the hull to help in a paddle outrigger entry.
Here’s what the KayaArm website says about KayaLeg:
KayaLeg is a product for “Kayak Trippers”—kayakers who load their kayak onto their vehicle for travel to a distant water body where they launch their kayak from a nearby shore to commence a paddling journey to various water vistas and stopover locations.
For many kayakers, the most challenging part of the journey is the difficulty of entering or (even worse) exiting their kayak without experiencing a “roll-over” into the water or at best getting their feet wet. If you can identify with these concerns, then KayaLeg is for you.
I can understand the struggle that beginning kayakers have getting into and out of a kayak. When I had my guiding business and when I guided day trips, landing or getting into the kayak was most often when someone would fall out of their kayak, especially at the end of the tour when they were racing to shore. The funny thing about this is that at breaks I would give a short lesson on how to get out of the kayak by pulling your feet out first and then standing up in the water still straddling the kayak. Most got out just fine. But in the race to shore, many would forget and then capsize. Add in any waves and it became more difficult. Sometimes, I would land and then pull them onto shore where they could easily get out. The thing is that after you paddle for a while, getting into and out of a kayak becomes routine. Even when you’re paddling in waves, you just learn how to land or how to jump out of your kayak in the water.
This product makes the paddle-outrigger entry easier by locking your paddle into place, so you can use your hands for other tasks, but there are so many better ways to get into and out of a kayak than by using this style of entry. And this style of entry is mainly for calm water. I can’t actually remember the last time I used this style of entry. I even stopped teaching it, because there are better ways.
Kayaking is a wet affair, and kayaking in general is a pretty wet sport and sea kayak is even wetter. I have a hard time understanding the need to keep feet dry, especially in the waters that I paddle on. It is almost always colder than 70°F. Paddlers should wear wet or dry suits when the water is below 70°F (Please, see http://www.coldwatersafety.org/). I always recommend that sea kayakers were neoprene footwear and dress for immersion. It’s kayaking, so your feet are going to get wet. The only time it becomes a problem is if you aren’t dressed for the conditions.
This is a screenshot of a video on the KayaArm website. In the narration, you learn that it’s December 24th and that in a few days it might get cold enough that they will soon be playing hockey. This is a dangerous paddling situation, because the water is extremely cold and deadly. Yet, the kayaker in the video is more concerned about getting his feet wet and falling in than planning for what would happen if he fell in. This is a situation where you really want thick neoprene wetsuit or a drysuit, but the kayaker is wearing tennis shoes, jeans and cotton clothing. He is seriously putting his life in danger by not dressing for immersion (see link above). If the paddler had either a wetsuit or drysuit and neoprene shoes, there wouldn’t be an issue about getting feet wet. They wouldn’t even get wet in a drysuit with socks.
For example, look at this photo. We weren’t concerned at all about getting our feet wet and we were playing around in ice! We had drysuits on and neoprene footwear.
Anyway, it’s kayaking. Feet get wet.
After an email conversation with the inventor, I came up with the following pros and cons.
- For people with flexibility issues, it allows for an easier way to do an paddle-outrigger entry.
- For warm water paddling, it helps keep your feet dry. (I don’t see this as an issue, because I think sea kayaking is a wet sport anyway).
- There are better ways to enter a kayak don’t involve a paddle-outrigger entry, such as the straddle entry.
- A paddle-outrigger entry puts extra stress onto a paddle. This system clamps the paddle shaft into the hull creating more stress on the paddle than a typical paddle-outrigger entry. I’ve seen paddles break during paddle-outrigger entries.
- Anything kept on the front deck creates spray when in rough water.
- A metal clamp and bar on the front deck has the potential to damage kayaks during rescues and reentries.
- The metal clamp will snag on clothing during balance exercises and when messing around in the boat.
- The metal is in a location that could present an entrapment issue when wet exiting the kayak.
- The metal is in a location that could cause an head injury in the surf.
- The metal edges could cause injuries when hitting the metal.
- The paddle-outrigger entry will put stress onto the deck where there isn’t reinforcement to handle the stress instead of on a bulkhead as it would if you were doing the entry the standard way.
Ralph thinks it would be an interesting product to mold directly into a kayak. I’ve seen cutouts on rear decks designed to help hold a paddle shaft during a paddle-float reentry, but never anything on the front deck to help enter and exit the kayak. Would it be a good idea for manufacturers to add this feature to recreational kayaks?
I think that this is an interesting niche product. I don’t believe it is appropriate for sea kayaking, but I can see how it could help people with flexibility issues and I can see how it might be nice for recreational kayaking. Would it help sell a recreational kayak if it was molded into the kayak? Maybe.
Am I being too harsh on this product? What do you think?