-- Last Updated: Mar-04-10 4:05 PM EST --

I received a call last nite from a friend who's going canoeing.

She's canoeing because she needs to keep her thighs-back at 90o, and her knees at 90o, to keep her posture straight and keep her tender back OK when paddling.

My first question is what would be a good seat for her to check out?

My second question is that someone she spoke with recommended a bent-shaft paddle to her. She's a newbie, she'll be going out with her husband who'll paddle from the stern, and who is also a newbie, and I imagine she'll be switch-hitting while paddling. Would a straight- or bent-shaft be better for her?

We tried getting our friends into kayaking a while back, and they loved our little SOT sojourn off Key Biscayne, but a bad back and the concerns it has raised now points to canoeing...

Any recs for these folks would be appreciated as they again start to


-Frank in Miami

Start at the feet
It is hard to canoe seated and with one’s knees at 90 degrees. At least it is hard to paddle with much energy.

If possible, legs should be forward, as they can brace against something to hold the body in position.

If kneeling is an option, that would do nicely. Pad the bottom of the canoe and possibly even angle the seat a bit forward.

If the 90 degree knee is really required, it might put them higher than is comfortable for stability and to comfortably reach the water. In this case, don’t go for a narrow/tender boat.

If sitting, a bent shaft works great. If kneeling, a straight would work better. In either case, it doesn’t matter too much, so personal preference would rule.

I’d say a footrest would be the thing…
I don’t have a bad back, but I got all restless and achy before I installed the footrest in my canoe. I bought the Voyager adjustable footrest, but I don’t think it is still available. Wenonah and other manufacturers offer them. Easy to install.

I don’t use a backrest but I think a good one might be helpful.

I have a bad…
back and cannot sit for any extended period on my butt with leggs straight out in front nor seated on a canoe seat without some back problems occurring. Fortunately I’ve been kneeling with butt partially on a seat since I started canoeing decades ago and have no problem with it.

IMHO, your friend needs to kneel and there can be no doubt that a seat angled down in front, at about 15 deg. is a huge help. A good kneeling pad is also a must. Make sure the seat is not so low as to constitute a foot entrapment hazard.

Kneeling is difficult if one is not accustomed to such. My knees, angles, hips, etc. are stretched and conditioned so that I can kneel for long periods but beginners at this style struggle. Sitting on a canoe seat with knees up can be very hard on the spine and result in lower back problems. I advise all my instructor candidates that if they are going to be hours in canoes on a regular basis over a period of years, get the body in shape for kneeling. If not expect back problems after a few years.

Truly beginning paddlers
would be more comfortable with a straight shaft paddle as it will be easier to learn draws, braces, etc. Best to learn the basics and progress when those skills are solid.

Agree start straight, sit AND kneel
I’d start with a straight paddle and a seat set up for kneeling and sitting. About a half inch lower in the front, a nice big pad for the knees and adjustable foot braces out front. I did that and rowing for the 2 years I couldn’t kayak because of back problems.

If they can have them try the super comfy Kruger Canoe if they are set on sitting all the time.

I’ll forward this page’s link to her for her consideration. Hopefully, she’ll find your advice -some of which backed up mine -kneeling, and using a straight-shaft, at least initially, to make switching easier -useful for her to make some purchase.

Again thanks. I’ll get back to you in about 3 weeks or so after they’ve made their foray into canoeing with a ranger-guided tour of the western part of Everglades National Park around Everglades City and environs. I’ll all see if there’s any feedback on recommendations we gave her to use to


-Frank in Miami

some ideas …

– Last Updated: Mar-04-10 11:00 PM EST –

...... get a good seat cushion for starters . You know , a good high quality one , gel or other .

Get her a straight shaft paddle that is "LIGHT" , and not too wide (6-1/2" Beavertail , narrower yet an Ottertail or Scout type) ... shaft should be a couple inches longer than you might think too (the slightly longer shaft will help her in the bow I think) ... in any case it's the shaft length that has to fit her , not the overall paddle length .

Install a simple 3/4" board (side to side) at the best angle for her feet , as a foot rest/brace (will help her up there in the bow with the confined and tilted foot area) , and an adustable cloth type back band ... sit , don't kneel (she paddling the bow in tandem , right ??)

Also consider getting her a pair of "orthopedic" (fingerless) wrist brace gloves that she can adjust (velcro) for wrist support (and help to "not get" blisters as new paddlers often do) .

Maybe put some simple padding on the gunnels where her knees may touch and rub occassionally .