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April 02, 2012

Kayak Power

A guide to the ever-expanding power options available to kayak anglers

It wasn’t long ago that powering a kayak meant one thing — using a traditional paddle. Those days are long gone.

No, the double-sided handheld paddle is not a thing of the past. Hardly. Truth is, most kayakers still zip around inshore, nearshore and offshore waterways with such a paddle, and for good reason, as a number of paddling strokes can make for efficient maneuverability and transportation with these tools.

But there are several other ways to propel your yak these days — and each one conceivably can make fishing easier from one of these slender boats.

Leg Power
Hobie (www.hobiecat.com) arguably made the greatest modern-day advancement in kayaking when, in the late 1990s, the company introduced its now-famous MirageDrive, a propulsion system that harnessed leg power for paddling instead of arm power.

Vice president of engineering Greg Ketterman had been kicking around the idea of such a propulsion system for some time. “I felt that a back-and-forth motion would be a lot easier than a pure rotary motion,” said Ketterman. “Thus the idea to use underwater flippers that could twist and flex and assume the shape of a propeller blade — or a penguin’s wing.”

As it turned out, a young student at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jim Czarnowski, was already hard at work on such a design, and he would go on to earn his masters degree in mechanical and ocean engineering while constructing several “Penguin Boats,” as he called them.

Ketterman learned about Czarnowski’s work and immediately hired him. Soon after, the Hobie MirageDrive was patented and a new way of kayaking was born. Today, 13 Hobie kayak models now use the MirageDrive. As for Czarnowski, he went on to become Hobie’s director of engineering and remains at the company to this day.