Techno-fans are great for the industry because they focus on points that over time get built upon, and usually result in advancements for everyone else.
But in following these things I believe it’s common to ask the wrong question and give the wrong focus. I think simple logic will tell anyone that given the same amount of power used for propulsion, a kayak with less drag IS going to go farther and/or faster. The right question is “How much?”
When we know how much we can make a valid decision as to the value of the “improvement” in not just speed or glide, but in actual cost in dollars.
Having now bought and repaired 3 fiberglass kayaks and seen one Kevlar kayak that needed to be repaired, and then I look at my poly kayaks, for what I do I am not satisfied with the argument that the stiff boats are faster and therefore worth more. My fastest so far was an 18 foot P&H that I had to make repairs to, but I was and am not convinced it was fast because it was stiff near as much as to say it was fast because it was only 20" wide and over 18 feet long. It was too long for my shed, so I only had it for about 2 weeks, but it was a fun kayak and no doubt it was fast. If over the time to come I get a chance to paddle Kevlar kayaks and have a side by side comparison I may change my mind, but other then that skinny 18+ foot long P&H, the fastest kayak I have used so far is still a poly kayak.
So the question I would like to see answered is at a given amount of power and paddler weight (meaning the only true way to make a valid test with be some constant power source to be used on all boats tested) *how MUCH faster would a glass smooth hull that is identical in shape and dimensions be in comparison to a scratched up poly hull over a given mileage?
If I were to see a 1/2 MPH or a 1MPH increase the rabbit trail may be interesting enough for me to follow.
But if I were to find that the “better preforming” smooth hull was 3 seconds faster over a mile and over my longest paddling days that will equate to getting back to my home 75 seconds earlier at a cost of $2000 more dollars, and knowing the hull was delicate and would need repairs far more often, I think my interest in the question would end very soon. I’d smile and enjoy what I have, and never give it another thought.
This is about power applied VS resistance to overcome, (also called drag)
The amount of resistance given can only be valid if both kayaks are 100% identical in form, so smoothness and material can be compared to the glide given, for a given amount of power applied, judged over a given amount of time or distance. For winning the Olympics such things probably matter. Even if the gain was 2 seconds faster over a 1 mile course.
But for myself, I cannot see even a small amount of wisdom in spending a large sum of cash to gain a super small speed increase over a 14 hour paddling day.
This is the stuff of good magazine articles. It makes us think, and gives us a broader education. But for the real world it’s probably less then worthless when we consider that the difference in a 2 MPH breeze and a 2-1/2 MPH breeze probably makes as great or greater a difference and the wind is something we deal with but have NO control over at all.
As a gunsmith and shooting instructor I have seen this kind of thing for 1/2 a century. Teckies going to extreme lengths to develop something “new and improved” only to find that there are 2 things they can’t get around —no mater how much you write in manuals and no matter how much money you throw at a project.
Fact #1 is that the variable is usually the human operation------and there are tens of millions of them over which your theories have ZERO influence.
Fact #2 is that the basic laws of physics can be learned and used, understood and studied, but NOT BROKEN.
So this question is interesting to me.
Is there something that could be done to, or put on a kayak’s hull to make it slip through the water better? That’s question #1.
Questions #2 is how much better -------- and at what cost?
What true value is in that "improvement?