Kayak Training Machine


This winter, I have kicked my athletic training into high gear. In February, I am traveling to Chile to captain a team in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, an ultra-endurance event through Tierra del Fuego. The multi-day race will include long treks, mountain bike segments, climbing, and sea kayaking in icy ocean waters at the tip of the South American continent. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. I want to be prepared.

Scene from Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race 2009

To get serious about the kayaking sections in the race, for the past three months I have been sitting on a machine in my basement “paddling” for an hour at a stretch. The Kayak Ergometer, an esoteric exercise machine made by Vasa Inc. of Essex Junction, Vt., has a paddle-like shaft to grip, a contoured seat, foot braces, and a flywheel drive that gives resistance with each pulled stroke.

The machine mimics the kayaking experience better than anything I have tried. My strengthened abs, shoulders and arms are testimony to the Ergometer’s efficiency in whipping a body into paddling shape.

Vasa Inc. Kayak Ergometer

The Kayak Ergometer, priced a hefty $1,999 at www.vasatrainer.com, debuted in 2007 with foot braces and a bench seat. New for this winter, Vasa adds a kayak seat option. Called the K1 Swivel Seat, the new feature better matches the feel of being in a boat. I tested an early prototype; the final product comes to market on February 1, a few days before I depart for Patagonia.

Using the Vasa unit now for a couple months, I have come to like the sound of the machine: Pull a stroke with the paddle shaft and you force air through the flywheel fan. The quiet noise and moving air conjure waves and natural movement on a lake.

The resistance is even throughout the whole stroke, making for an accurate substitute to pulling a paddle blade through water. There are varying levels of resistance to set, letting you simulate paddling down-river or upstream against a current.

Optional K1 Swivel Seat

A small digital monitor displays your time, distance, pace, and power output in watts. It can measure right and left arm force individually, letting you adjust technique if one side overpowers.

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Stephen Regenold is Founder and Editor-In-Chief of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for nearly two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of four small kids, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.