On an otherwise normal Tuesday, I received an email from an irate reader. Another peaceful paddler pushed to the edge of patience by the onslaught of pedal and motorized kayaks. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an advertisement for a sweepstakes giveaway awarding a lucky reader with a Vibe Cubera SUP and Bixpy motor kit. What gives with kayak propulsion, that endlessly thorny topic?
Purists Revolt Over Motor, Pedal Propulsion
The irate email started from: “Please don’t send me communications for this motorized plastic crap!” The writer continues, “Or, change the name of Kayak Angler to ‘Fishing that happens to be out of a plastic barge that you can paddle magazine.’”
The reader goes on to suggest other possible titles with more colorful language. Then he ends, “You have lost your way.”
In a well-rehearsed email, I responded: “I’m editor of Kayak Angler and a paddling purist. However, we try to cover the whole sport and that includes motor and pedal power. Hope you understand.”
Hey, We Love to Paddle Too!
When I first started as editor, I addressed the conundrum in an editorial. Kayak Angler would cover all aspects of the sport including pedals to motors. Or as the reader points out, “any plastic barge that you can paddle.” Back then pedals were only available on a couple kayaks and motors were still in the experimental Frankenstein phase.
I am a purist. I love the freedom and challenge of paddling.
I often go for a paddle without my fishing rods.
Trust me, I understand the poor paddler’s pain. I am a purist. I love the freedom and challenge of paddling. I often go for a paddle without my fishing rods. I admit, bitching about pedalers and motorheads with my friends and then enthusiastically covering these topics in the magazine sometimes feels hypocritical. But the sport is more than just me.
I have to face reality. Everywhere I go I am confronted with pedals and motors. At this year’s 2021 ICAST tradeshow, I reviewed seven new kayaks. Only one was a paddle kayak: Eric Jackson’s $10,000 carbon fiber Apex, the most expensive fishing kayak yet.
The big news at the show was Bonafide’s new pedal kayak. The long-time paddle-only line went to the pedal side, and their fans loved it.
Kayak Propulsion is Always Pushing Forward
Believe it or not, pedals and motors only make up a small percentage of boats on the water. At the local launch, the opposite seems true. Big, heavy pedal and motor-powered kayaks dominate most fishing scenes.
Paddlers argue the meaning of the word kayak comes from the Inuit word qajaq. Ancient kayaks were propelled by a twin-blade paddle. In this issue’s Roots column, Tom Watson recounts how Indigenous people made paddles of driftwood and animal bones carefully carved to improve performance.
Technological advancement is part of the human experience. We went from Roman chariots to electric cars, an abacus to smartphone and kayaks made of animal parts and propelled with sticks to petrochemicals, lithium-ion and wireless, brushless motors.
Motors and Pedals Remain Fair Game
I checked other magazines. Motortrend covers electric vehicles. Bicycling includes e-bikes. And Kayak Angler will continue to cover paddle, pedal, motor, sail and whatever other kayak propulsion people cook up.
This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 46. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.
Paddles, pedals and motors, it’s all family when it comes to kayak propulsion. | Feature photo: Dustin Doskocil