Bell Bucktail add foot brace?

Greetings, I just traded my purple Blackhawk Zephyr for the Bell Bucktail.

I’d like to add foot braces.

I prefer single blade paddling but am afraid my knees are finally finished with me. I’ve enjoyed them for almost 75 years and want to be realistic. Think the knees gotta go.

I want to be ready to paddle with a double blade for my next quarter century of life.

I’m nervous about drilling. Any experience with Northstar’s Carbon Footbrace?

I didn’t want to drill my Magic either, and I decided against the Northstar brace (bar), at least for now, because I wanted to experiment a bit with positioning. That’s not practical with the bar - once it’s epoxied in place, moving it would be a major headache. Instead, I bought an inexpensive pair of adjustable braces ( and secured them with a 3M VHB double sided acrylic foam tape. Amazing stuff, IMO. I can offer more detail if you’re interested.

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I attached a Northstar foot brace to a Bell Magic using 3M structural adhesive. A canoe dealer told me it’s the same stuff that comes with the Northstar carbon fiber brace. The bond is STRONG (and permanent).

One challenge with your Bucktail is that the hull has a lot of curvature where you want to mount the foot brace (the sides are not flat and there’s no flat front to rear place either. I suggest that you first figure out where the foot brace goes and then hold a piece of wood against the hull to see what you’re dealing with. Some folks make a wooden spacer that’s flat in one side and curved on the other so it fits tightly against the hull and gives a flat surface for mounting the foot brace. Alternatively you could just attach the foot brace brackets with adhesive at the ends where it touches the hull.

I’m not sure of the best footbrace option for you. The Northstar brace I used is nice in that the bracket is bent past 90 degrees where it attaches to the hull so it fits against the hull well, but in my experience the knobs used to adjust it suck since it’s hard to get it tight enough that it won’t move. I would have used a Wenonah brace but they weren’t available due to Covid. And I love the adjustable kayak footbraces in my Rapidfire (easy to adjust yet rock solid).

You could also call Hemlock Canoe and ask them what they recommend; their Nessmuk canoes are like the Bucktail with seat pad on floor and they must have customers that want footbraces.

If you’re near SW MI I’d be happy to help you with your installation.

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I got a new Magic a couple of years ago, and ordered it with the carbon footbrace already installed. I’m happy with them. My only complaint (And I really don’t care about it) is that the bar is not 100% tight, and wiggles a tiny bit. It has to be that way, because you have to adjust the length of the bar if you move it fore/aft, so it is 2 piece - one slides into the other to make it adjustable.

Same story here - can’t kneel anymore. Being a kayaker as well makes using footbraces and a double bladed paddle no issue. In fact, the Magic is noticeably faster that way.

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This thread might get me kickstarted into adding a foot brace. There is something that I’m curious about. RenaC and Wayne_Smith both seem to make a connection between adding a footbrace and using a double bladed paddle. I guess the other part of the connection is that they’re moving away from kneeling. I’ve spent most all of my paddling days always looking to better connect my legs to my forward stroke to make it more powerful. So I understand that if you’re moving to a seated paddling position from kneeling, a foot brace makes sense. My legs are pretty much completely left out of the equation seated on a canoe bench seat without a foot brace, and it’s a pretty substantial omission to me. I’m not seeing any connection between a single or double blade and the advantage of a foot brace.
I’ve just started going to some dragon boat training. It’s a group of single blade paddlers side-by-side in a long stable paddleboat. There’s no directional control involved for the paddlers. It’s just working on your best, synchronized, powerful forward stroke. There is a coach in back operating a rudder for steering. There’s definitely a strong focus on leg drive and rotation right through the hips with feet against a solid foot brace. After doing this a few weeks, paddling my canoe on Sunday without a foot brace just wasn’t feeling sensible for me at all. My butt being the boat side connection, with legs eliminated from the equation, was feeling lackadaisical to me. Now there’s nothing wrong with paddling a canoe without an overabundance of determination. Sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered. But if I’m feeling determined, my enthusiasm is getting curbed by my idle legs and understanding that untapped potential.
Is there any reason why a foot brace wouldn’t be just as advantageous with a single blade as it is with a double blade in a canoe?
The dragon boat paddlers definitely fully utilize bending reaching forward like a forward crunch, and then coming back to upright with the paddle planted, along with leg drive and rotation, without using the arms for power, and of course working off of a foot brace as the base of the stroke. Is this style stroke productive in a single canoe? Or should it be more like a kayak where the power all comes from rotation versus crunching forward and leaning back?

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Not for me. Although I generally use a double blade in my Magic, I also experimented with a single blade before adding the foot pegs. Whether one blade or two, I felt almost disconnected from the boat, both in terms of power and control. It was not a good feeling.

When you say you felt almost disconnected, are you talking about before adding the foot brace?

Yes, I would like to talk to you. If you have a chance, please give me a call 608–770–1595. I teach so I might not always be able to answer immediately so just leave a message and I’ll get right back to you. Thank you!

Yes, before adding the braces.
My seat hangs from the gunwales on 6" drops (I don’t kneel). That effectively lowers the center of gravity and enhances stability. However, it also means that I can’t sit comfortably with my feet flat on the hull floor. Without braces it felt like my legs were just along for the ride … no leverage, no power no connection to the boat. With foot braces, the leg muscles can do some of the work too. And three “anchor points” (both feet + butt) feels way better to me than butt only, both in terms of power and control. By no means do I have the skills that some other canoe enthusiasts on this forum have, so take my comments with many grains of :salt:

Just a side note for those that paddle solo canoes with medium to large size dogs (although TomL would perhaps be more qualified in this area, having done such with a much wider variety of solo boats).

For go’n on two decades now I’ve paddled a Wenonah Voyager, usually accompanied with a 55 to 70 pound canine associate. The associate has always positioned itself right before my seated frame, betwixt my legs in the most commodious area of the Voyager. Granted, the boat has some girth/area just behind the seat, and at one time I do remember the venerable String transporting his Rena of terror (a rather large standard poodle, pre-doodle, wasn’t it?) there. I also remember String’s posted accounts of high-centered gravitas (he’s a rather tall species, as was Rena), promoting an overly playful feel to his voyages de Voyager.

Anyway, undigressing here, having my canine right before me, between my footbar-braced legs, made it easier to impart corrective reminders, per thigh squeezes, that hefty doggy noggins and fore shoulders were not to be positioned with overt enthusiasm over gunnel bounds. I should also add that, the Voyager being 19’’ at her beam, the poor fur cur was, to steal from Joel and Ethan and George Clooney, “inna tight spot!” I had also added under the aluminum gunnels to each side closed-cell foam strip-pads, shaped with dragonskin sanding to commodious contours for my thighs/knees. This also, along with the footbar, gave better “boat contact,” but further penned in El Poochay rather snuggly. ANDDD, just imagine now, as long lake traverses on warm summer afternoons progressed, and canine boredom set in, the furry machinations of menace as my colleague attempted to prone himself to the bilges. Sliding those forelegs neath the bracebar could sometimes make for a sudden wobblefest, as dog knees knocked bar, and paws pushed peds asunder.
SOOO, after this past late Autumn’s windy tumults saw fit to poplar-pith my Voyager’s racked bottom-to-heaven midsection, and, with patching repairs being performed at my good friends up at Blue Mountain Outfitters (shameless pitch there), I had them remove the aluminum foot bar with its riveted track rails (I never knew Wenonah has the fine sense to add metal strips within the foam ribs going up the light Kevlar hull’s side - SMART!) and reinstall a kayak-style foot pad track system. While I think I am going to miss, a little, the ability to slide positions of my bracing legs/feet, as these ole bones oft get a bit tingly with long stints of fixed position, I think I’ll be able to compensate with occasional knee-knock dances against the furry spine of my now more comfortably reposed friend. We’ll see, hopefully this weekend, when I get the boat out for the first time post repairs.

I also have a Northstar Northwind Solo, wherein same said dog-placement along with footbar (Glued, you say, on those track rails? I had just assumed it was epoxy. How bout that.) does not make it as difficult for the pooch to layout. The shallower sheer, however, does make it a tad more tricky for the big dog with the paddle in hand to ingress/egress. I will soon be adding glued-in foam knee braces to take some of that aluminum gunnel knee creasing away.

Anything that can improve your “contact” with hull surfaces is always a plus in my book, when it comes to those rogue wave and/or sudden zephyr moments out there on the big wet. Dogs? They are to be added at your own peril, your friends’ amusements, and for any other injection of rogue raisons ta getyou, or getyou not. Personally, I am happy that I’ve gone to the dogs all these years. Gives ya somebody to blame when there’s those wet-exit events. (Don’t tell Doc Bob, though. Only canine that ever skewered me on social media. So far.)

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What I’ve found in the Magic is that for me, sitting as low as you do in the boat makes it more difficult to use a single bladed paddle, especially compared to kneeling where you are higher up. I still use a single blade sometimes, but have come to really like using a double. You mileage may vary.

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I had the coonhound in my Magic a few times after installing the footbar. I felt terrible about stealing her space and taking away many of the best lounging options. She gave me a very polite WTF look a few times and I went back to kneeling

So for you I’d recommend that you try all the kneeling tricks:

  • no shoes in boat

  • small kneeling pad that does not extend under the seat and take up foot room

  • good selection of good kneeling pads

  • wide selection of seat pads so you can dial in your seat height to minimize weight on your knees

  • maybe a couple of Ibuprofen or…?

  • high kneel occasionally to give one knee a break

  • if none of that works you may need to downsize

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Thanks, Tom. Is that a young Zoe staring plaintively up at me? For some reason, I thought she sported more grey and black tones, and a forehead star. Anyway, that’s what I call the, “Please Sir, more pudding, beagle-break-ya-down, Oliver-on-deck” look. Gets me everytime.

Unfortunately, near five decades of multiple-mistepping field surveys over farm fences and rowhome roof parapet walls, and my youthfully exuberant late teens into forties USVBA misplays, with those all too frequent sprained ankles and knee ligaments, 1 ACL reconstruction, my days of kneeling, even as an unrepentant failure in Methodism marrying into that more genuflective Catholic collective, is a sinner’s wail of, “O Lord, Ouch! No can do!” Sooo (Elmo forgive!), like those crazed double-dippers of the cock-pitted Inuit scene, I’m a butt-boater. Mind ya, I’ve tried, including the pblanc recommended pre-season, tv watching sessions on my knees, with a pillow wedged here-n-there. After one long hour-n-half downriver sojourn on a strainer-fest Gunpowder Falls trip, I remember needing two or three of my associates to extract me from a Nova Craft Supernova, which they almost performed like a team of non-careful archaeologists bringing up that fetal-positioned, desiccated pre-Inca mummy from off a high Andean ledge pit. So, now it’s, as they say, “Please remain seated until the hull has come to a complete bankside berthing.”

Downsize? The DOGGGG? You know, these choices in rescue pups are kinda like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, what with never knowin’ what’s got creme filling, what’s a cherry, and what’s chock full of nuts. Or maybe it’s a box of Pop Rocks???

Just add water (and kibble, and love, and…


That looks soooo nice to me. Your dog does indeed look reasonably comfortable even with the footbar. In your case the kayak footbraces could be a nice option to open up space that the dog could actually use. Zoey’s long legs had nowhere to go.

For some reason I thought you were paddling around with 2 bigger pups in a B16. Just FYI Northstar does offer a dog thwart that your pup might appreciate for chinrest comfort.

So Gracie is our new tri-color, adopted about a month ago. She’s a full grown 15 pound beaglish mutt. Zoey did have much more pure white which was probably from the terrier in her.


Thank you Tom. I actually might not be ridiculously far from you. I live in Madison, WI.

I have received my Northstar foot brace, but I haven’t opened the box yet mainly because it is so cold outside. I just don’t want to deal with it, but I will soon and would love to be able to contact you if I have more questions.

Sure. I’ll send you a PM with my phone number…or feel free to post any questions. I went to school in Madison and still like to visit your area at least once/year.

If you haven’t met Carl at Carl’s Paddlin in Lone Rock you might enjoy a visit. Carl is a character. Maybe he can install a footbrace for you.

I have thought of making foot braces that clamped to a thwart or perhaps the hull at the gunnel.

I don’t think you have to be an aggressive paddler to benefit from a foot brace when switching to a double blade with a center seat location in say a tandem canoe. I converted my OT Guide 147 to an old mans solo removing both seats and adding a center seat with a seat back and slightly lowering.

The problem is first the canoe width at that location and with a lower seat feet flat is no longer comfortable and with a wet floor your feet don’t know where to go and are searching for something to just brace against even slightly. I find myself stopping from time to time placing both hands on the gunwales and lifting myself back. As to a kayak paddle I found I wasn’t comfortable and not hitting the gunwales along with dripping water until I reached 260 cm in length. That sweet spot will vary depending on seat height and canoe width where you place the seat. I will say the best stability and the best trim is right at the widest point. I also feel that’s the point where control and turning worked best.

I haven’t done a brace yet but mocked up a few last season and don’t want all the adjustment. Just put it where it needs to be and have the cross bar ridged not telescoping. I don’t feel good about gluing to the poly hull and don’t want to poke holes below the water line.

Like @castoff mentioned above I think what I will do is hang it off a thwart bolt and then make a lightweight aluminum triangle back to the gunwale. Drilling holes in the gunwales doesn’t bother me like the hull.