Bad back (SOT)

I am a novice in kayaking. I have been out a couple of times (Lake Tahoe & Spring Lake in Northern California) but those times were years ago. I went out a couple of weekends ago and did not get far before my back was screaming UNCLE.

I have a Malibu 2 SOT and am wondering if anyone else has a bad back and what you do to help stay comfortable. Thanks

“bad back”, in what way?
Kind of hard to address your question as stated. Do you actually have some injury or organic problem with your back? If so, of what nature? Or did you just find your back hurting on this particular outing? If the latter is the case it could just be the kayak design or your posture and paddling technique.

I don’t have any inherent back troubles but there are some boats that I can’t tolerate for more than an hour without gnawing back ache – actually it is the more “plush” looking high back seats (common on sit on tops) that encourage (or force) the paddler to semi-recline that give me the most discomfort. In my own sea kayaks with narrow back bands and leg positioning that allow me to sit upright and paddle with good torso rotation, I never have back pain even on very long days.

Try different models of kayaks before your give up on them. Also, good paddling instruction can help to mitigate position and overexertion stresses.

My Sympathies
I can not do kayak for over a few minutes before my legs and lower back start screaming. I physically can not do them, and I am unwilling to invest the time in physical therepy when I have few problems when I am in a canoe. I have found the higher seating and comfort of canoe works best for me.

willowleaf asks good questions.
If you do not normally have back issues,it is probably a matter of conditioning.I paddle canoes and SOT because they don’t cause problems for my absolute wreck of a back.

Many Variables
One of the problems is that back injuries vary quite a bit from one person to the next and they respond badly to different motions. For what it’s worth, though, I’m much more comfortable in my closed cockpit boat than the SOT, even when using a seat. The SOT is also considerably heavier (70 lbs. vs. 52 lbs.), so just moving it is an issue for me.

Good luck.


Kayaking could be the cure
As someone said all back injuries are different.

But when I used to kayak a whole lot my back never bothered me. Just being strong allowed my torso protect my weak back.

Conditioning can make the difference. Maybe some working out and some core strength can allow you to spend more time in/on a boat. Then kayaking can take over for your workout routine.

Paddle a canoe.

Then he can add sore knees to the list of ailments.

core fitness
It’s a paradox. But it works.

Many canoes have tractor seats
which are very comfortable.

Bad Back here
but comfort in seating is important with good support. I bought two Wilderness systems Tarpons. The seating is adjustable for thigh support, back support and very comfortable. I do not know what you have for seating but the need for individual adjust ability is crucial. What is comfortable for one person will not work for another.

I went with the SOT for ease of entry and exit. A molded hard seat that is not adjustable would not work for me. Next I got a trailer for the kayaks so I do not need to lift high. Easy to load and unload them.

Upgrade the seat
Malibu 2 is a very wide and heavy kayak that’s made for stability not speed. I believe they come without a seat back and there are many styles to choose from. Not so good for cruising around on large lakes unless you’re fishing out of it. An upgraded seat back may help.

re bad back
I also have a bad back major surgery, lumbar. I still paddle, i use a sit on top, invest in a good seat, i put a towel under and behind for support, it helps. There are a lot of good seats out there, but they are not cheap. They are worth the money if it helps ur back. good luck

bad back as well
Had a Pungo, supposedly with a good seat but it wouldn’t stay adjusted.

Ride 135 allowed me to adjust the seat to my needs, nice and straight with a higher support. I found this much better for me. I might want to add a towel below my rear for a longer trip but I’m at an age where a hard seat with a straight back is a good thing.

The Ride is heavy, so I ask for or tip kids for help with it. Once in the water I’m fine, it is easy to get in and out of.

If your legs cramp you can toss them over the sides for a minute and still be stable.

paddling fitness aids
Unless you have some underlying structural problem (like herniated disc or arthritis), I’ve found that core strength and flexibility training on Nautilus and Cybex type equipment really helps allow you to be comfortable paddling for long periods. Of particular help are the machines where you start crouched over and slowly straighten your back against gradual resistance, also the oblique machines where you sit, place your arms on a weighted segment and then rotate each way at the waist against resistance. Also using a “healthy back” backless office chair (like the “kneeling” chairs or the ones based on the large inflatable balls). Losing the mid-life spare tire has helped a great deal too, at least in my case. Any orthopod or chiropractor will tell you that having a big gut is a huge stressor on your lower back in all situations.

While some highback seats with proper lumbar support can be decent for back comfort, I’ve encountered just as many that only encourage slouching and restrict free movement in paddling, which may lead to more back discomfort and even shoulder, elbow and hip joint pain.

I’ve been fortunate that most of the kayaks I’ve accumulated came with comfortable seating arrangements, but I’ve had two that required quite a bit of tweaking and multiple modifications before they were tolerable. As I said before to the OP: don’t give up, it could just have been that particular seat in that partcular boat.

Willowleaf touched on one of the
problems that some may have for their backs hurting, even if there have never been any injuries.

So many, many times I’ve seen paddlers in a horrible slouched position, as if they’re in a recliner, and complain that their back is hurting. Or they’re leaning with the shoulders very far forward, way past their hips.

My sympathies to all who’ve had to endure back injuries and accompanying pain, but love to paddle. Listen to their advice. I’ve had mild problems due to falling in an algae filled boat landing, previously read these types of advice and followed it.

Thans all.

bad back and kayaks
Some great and helpful responses on this one from other posters. I’d like to add that as a long time instructor I find that most people still have the habit of pulling the paddle on the lower hand back towards the exit instead of PUSHING the top hand away from you which powers the paddle blade in the water. Pulling will lead to back problems, blisters, wrist issues etc etc. Even paddlers who swear by Zeus’s beard they are pushing and rotating and not pulling will be caught red handed on video pulling. So I think you should take a lesson with a skilled instructor and make sure you are indeed paddling properly before you rely too much on seat changes. Tight quads and hamstrings are what caused my back issues and if I don’t stretch them religiously I get in trouble so make sure you stretch em out. I’ve seen a number of people come into kayaking with bad backs only to find that correct paddling can help alleviate their pain. Lots of reasons for that like building up core strength and abs. Most legit back docs will tell us that quite often as our core gets weaker and the stomach muscles flabby- on comes the back pain.

I have some mild back issues
and when i use a sit on top - i prefer the Yellow Ocean kayak backrest which is more of a back band which snugs to my lower back below my pfd. Works very well, and i use a yak pad seat (gel)with it.