Back-rest adjustement

-- Last Updated: Feb-19-12 4:19 AM EST --

This might sound like a silly question but I am asking in all sincerity.

1st Question:
How should the back-rest actually be positioned, what exactly should it support.

Should it be positioned at the bottom of the back, around and slightly above the hips.

Or should it be lower down, in a sense cradling the buttocks.

2nd question:
I have been sitting in my garage this morning trying to fathom out the best aft/stern adjustement. My back-rest is bolted on and can be moved forward or backwards by undoing the bolt on either side and then moving the bolt to one of the other notches/holes. This is an awkward task which can only be performed with a screwdriver and wrench.

I have basically 3 notches worth of positions, Forward, Middle or Rear. There are more they are just not unusable.

Forward doesn't make any sense, it pushes me too far forward in the cockpit.

Middle : This is what I currently use bit I feel that it is not optimal.

Rear : I am under the impression that it would offer almost no back support, but it also depends on just how the back should be supported, see question 1.

I do not like my current backrest as it does not retain its position if I put it into the lower back position, after some time it simply slips back down around the buttocks. Quite often I find myself wanting to re-adjust the back-rest back into the lower back position but this is almost impossible with the spray deck on.

Are there any major reasons for sitting further forward in relation to stability, paddling technique, etc.....?

I have noticed that it is much more difficult to rotate when the back rest is the higher postion.

Cheers Roy

No two people are alike
For me if I am going fast I am not even leaning against the back rest, but I have it just above my hips in the small of my back for touring.

Regardless of what any one else says, I would try the various positions and see which is most comfortable.

Each new kayak I get I have to readjust the back rest for my own personal comfort.

Jack L

What Jack Said
It’s mostly a personal preference thing. For me, a low backband is the way to go. For the most part I’m leaning forward and it’s supporting nothing but it’s not in the way. I have moved the seat back in most of my boats. It makes entering and exiting the boat easier. My most recent purchase, an Alchemy, didn’t let me wet exit very smoothly so back the seat went. Much better. Personally, being situated back is much, much better than forward.

Good morning, Jack!

Back rest…
should be an oxymoron in a kayak for an active paddling position. The less you have anything above the pelvic bones actually using a backrest the better you can rotate. The better you can rotate the better you can paddle, and it keeps your core and back protected better as well.

Your post doesn’t make it easy to tell where your thighs end up in each of the seat positions. They need to be parked under a thigh brace, or the deck, for boat control in edging. If you are so far back that it is only your knees hitting, you’ll be ineffective (and in pain unless your knees have a lot more padding than mine). If you could report back on that part of your position it’d be easier for folks to comment.

Thigh Position
In fact the middle position is really the only position in which my thighs sit correctly under the thigh pads.

I never thought about the idea of building up the corp strength to a point where the back rest won’t really have any impact/use. It’s obvious now that it has been mentioned.

At the end of my little “adjustement” session today I concluded the following

1 : The backrest has and will now remain in the middle position.

2 : I may add a little extra padding to the thigh braces. I wont have to splay my legs as much in order to bring them into contact with the sides of the boat.

3 : I moved the foot rests into a high position so that they are further up the ball of my foot rather than the nearer the middle. I have size 10/11 feet and the pegs were too centered.

What kayak do you have?
It would be good if we could see the shape of your backrest.

When you say “backrest” it sounds like you’re talking about a so-called high-back seat rather than a backband, is that correct?

The height of the backrest may depend on its shape (exactly where the curve occurs), your style of kayaking, your fitness level, any anatomical problems you have, and so on. My personal opinion is that your back, consisting as it does of joints and muscles, needs suppport and periodic rest like every other part of the muscles and skeleton, especially if you’re on the water for many hours at a time.

I’m most comfortable with a backrest that has a lumbar support (a convex bump, as opposed to a flat concave curve), which I set to fall in the lumbar area of my back. Not many seat backs have that shape.

It is very possible to set the seatback so that it doesn’t interfere at all with rotating your torso.

It sounds like you’ve answered your question about fore and aft adjusment.

pelvic support
I use a “backrest” on my expedition canoes (Loon, Monarch, Sea Wind). It does not touch my back at all. The only purpose is to keep my pelvis tilted forward…so yes I guess it does contact my buttocks not my back. It is UNREAL how much more comfortable the seat is when my pelvis is pushed forward.

30 miles is hell without it, 340 miles (the Missouri River 340 race) is pain free with it.


Tilted pelvis

Can you explain a little bit more about what you mean by a “tilted pelvis” ?

Not me but…
I expect that the above reply is talking about the same position to many of us aspire. I have to admit that towards the end of a long day on the water I find myself slouching some though… if I do it long enough I payn for it with an achy back.

Ideally you should be able to feel some rotation pretty much right to your sit bones when you are paddling properly. That is, that you are using the large muscles of your torso rather than beating the heck out of the smaller muscles of your joints and arms for each stroke. To have the best shot at this you are best off with the pelvis tilted slightly forward. For most people, as you slouch back it allows the lengthened muscles going under and down the back of the legs to restrict your motion.

Granted nothing is universal, but most people find a more erect position gives them more rotation. It isn’t bad for your overall conditioning either - I take an inch and more off my waist during the spring each year just from getting back on the water.

If you have ever ridden a horse, it is not dissimilar to the slight tilt forward of the pelvis that works to absorb shock from the saddle. There is term for it in riding having to do with inappropriate actions with a football - it’s crude but it does a good job of conveying the position.

Horse riding analogy
Celia , I went looking for the horse riding analogy and I suppose it pretty much sums it up, as follows… Don’t forget to replace the word Horse by kayak, lol


Imagine your pelvis is a big bucket filled with water. If you ride with an arched, tense back, the top of your pelvis tips forward, and the water spills out the front of the bucket. In this closed or tipped pelvis position, your seat bones are actually aimed toward the back of the horse.

If you ride with a rounded lower back, the top of your pelvis tips back and the water spills out the back of the bucket. In this position, your seat bones are aimed forward and down, and can sometimes drive the horse’s balance and back downward.

When your pelvis is in a neutral position, you can keep all the water in the bucket. When your pelvis is neutral, your seat bones point straight down toward the ground.

In this neutral position, your body is balanced over your horse’s center of gravity. When you’re in balance with your horse, all things are possible,

So, help your horse find his balance by riding with your pelvis in a neutral position so you can keep all the water in the bucket!


I have never ridden a horse so I would not be able to judge whether or not this is good practive but the analogy is easy to understand.

And, if I have understood even further this would indeed almost remove the need for a back rest… Correct me where I am wrong

Not no support for me…
there is an additional factor called pedaling for a good forward stroke, helps to increase rotation, which means that you have be be able to have your hips press back against something. Just your hips not your back. And there is the comfort factor of wanting to lounge around at breaks etc.

I have encountered folks who decry any back band. At 60 yrs old though, I am more than happy to admit I’d much rather have it than not.

Look up information on back bands (in kayaks). This is not the same as a seat back, but hits all the right areas.

Lower down
You butt cradle analogy is about right, possibly slightly higher but (for me) not above the pelvis.

The back band is neither lumbar pad nor seatback–not for leaning back against while paddling. If your seat is well shaped you may not need one at all. Ideally, the seat itself has enough of a lip in the rear to keep your butt from sliding backward under the pressure of paddling. If it doesn’t, then a low backband will help limit the backward sliding.

You already noted that higher placements of the backband limit torso rotation. That is exactly why you need to set it at a different position.

If you think the right fore-aft position is between the middle and rearmost notches, maybe you can pad the backband but set it in the rearmost position.

Example Pics

– Last Updated: Feb-21-12 3:04 PM EST –

I am not currently at home but I have managed to find some pics of another kayak that has the same seat + back strap.

Its not always easy to comprehend because the back strap and seat are both black and in some of the photos it looks as though they are one piece.

The article in itself is interesting, the guy actually replaces his seat and removes the back rest completely only to be replaced by a piece of foam..

And then I found this article: Woah, this is a work of art...

A question for Gnarly?
The Tahe you refer to in your blog, Who customized the fiberglass pieces? Just curious if it was the owner or sourced out? It looks fantastic.

I was thinking off your post today

– Last Updated: Feb-23-12 5:11 AM EST –

and thought I would add to my reply.
We did a sixteen mile "nature watching" paddle today.
In other words a slow paced one.
For about 95 percent of the trip I was using the seat back. but only the bottom of it, in the small of my back.
During the open water crossings, I mostly was not using it.
I am usually content with what I buy, and don't make many modifications to my kayaks, but if my seat wore out, I would replace it with a back band.

Jack L

only now
only now I have seen this question…

The seat modification was made by the owner and it is truly a work of art, considering it’s a one-off job without a mould.