describe paddling a SOF?

Seen lots and lots of pictures and descriptions of how to build etc. what I have not seen much of is how does a SOF feel? I realize that they are very individual but was wondering some of the things that happen with a SOF that are noticeably different, including getting in and out of the cockpit, padding for your butt, backrests or lack of, storage if any etc.

Really interested in reading your musings about SOFs.

Do the wood joints creak? do you really feel each individual wave?


My bone joints creak!
No matter what I paddle.

you’re just getting old

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me on the other hand, am getting younger every day. Be on the water in about an hour.

Another question. what kind of float bags are recommended for sof's?


The best feeling while paddling
is knowing you built it yourself. Second best thing is that because of the first thing you ignore all the bad things about your SOF. But I’ll try to be honest here.

I have 3 SOFs but I’ll give my feelings on my Greenland kayak.

I find mine very comfortable with just a thin pad. It’s a result of moving the ribs around after I finished the frame and found one hitting my tailbone. Mine creaks after it gets wet for a while and the skin loosens up a bit. At that point is where an SOF does feel quite different. It’s true you do feel the kayak flex and I can turn mine a little by pushing on my foot brace (which is a deck beam) and twisting the frame. Also at this point you can feel the speed performance drop but handling gets better and stability gets better too.

Another plus is weight. If you’ve ever paddled an 17.5’ kayak that weighs thirty something it’s a good feeling. Any other attributes good or bad would have more to do with the choice of design so I won’t mention it.

I’m able to compare an SOF to an S&G of the same design and find I like them both but always feel more connected in my SOF.

those are a couple of beautiful boats!

How much can you carry in the SOF? Do you use float bags? I notice that you put a backrest? How many ribs did you use for it? did you or do you find that they deform a bit over time?

Would you say it is a faster boat comparatively?

got tons more questions :slight_smile:


"How much can you carry in the SOF?"

Not much. I can’t even fit a coffee thermos into the back. But typically I carry lunch and a change of clothes. It’s just a day boat. The wood frame takes up space on an already low-V kayak.

“Do you use float bags?”

Not always. I made a set out of heat-sealable nylon.

“I notice that you put a backrest?”

Yeah I call it a padded deck beam. But my paddling posture works better without any real back support. When I designed the S&G I made it with the same padded deck beam:

“How many ribs did you use for it? did you or do you find that they deform a bit over time?”

I think about 24 ribs. They probably will deform some day but they haven’t yet. Dang, now you got me worried I’ll have to go to the basement and store it differently now ;>)

“Would you say it is a faster boat comparatively?”

My SOF at 17’6" and 20" wide is fairly fast but the S&G at 18’ x 19" is real fast. Here’s some design info:

“got tons more questions :)”

No problem :smiley:

SOF is a very flexible boat building method. The experience I got from building the Greenland SOF I took and built this canoe from scrap wood from old pallets, home remodeling and other boat projects it cost me less than $100 bucks to build (it’s not a Morris design).

The possibilities are nearly endless.


There are many different
styles and building methods for skin on frame kayaks that will give different paddling characteristics. I built a low volume sof and It’s a tight squeeze to get into. I used a nylon skin that shrunk after being used a couple times and it made the kayak very rigid and has not loosened up at all. I can feel waves through the skin as they pass under my legs. I paddle it with my legs laying flat on the hull and I found it to be a little uncomfortable until my hamstring muscles loosened up a bit. The foot room is very minimal and I have to wear socks when I paddle it. The kayak is 17’6"x19" and weighs 31 lbs. and is very fast and a joy to paddle. I enjoyed the low weight and low volume so much that I built a duplicate of it in cedar strip. I have paddled a sof kayak that was covered in canvas and it was very flexable. I use float bags in my sof and a sea sock.

more questions:
That straight legged position is painful? Does it help to put a rolled up towel under your knees? (assuming there is room under the masik)

Where can I find heat sealable nylon to make float bags?

there was mention of the boat skin becoming looser as it gets wet. does this depend on the paint/varnish/ and does one minimize this trait more than the other one?

the point about the ribs becoming deformed comes from another boat designer who indicated that especially with the Greenland champions that the boats while appearing perfect from the outside, actually are pretty beat up on the inside due to stresses put on them during some of the harder maneuvers. It was stated that this does happen over time. An easy fix is replacing a rib or two?

salt water: rinse out with fresh after each use I understand. Is there any kind of special trick to remove sand or very small stones/shells so that they don’t get between the frame and the skin? (Is there even that much leeway that would allow sand to get deposited and or allow you to flush it out?

If the boat is painted, how many years can you expect a balistic nylon skin to last before replacing. (Not counting abrasions and cuts of course)

If you are able to put in float bags in the SOF, how come you can’t get a thermos back there?

yeah I got more…


My impressions…
It accelerates quickly, responds well to leaned turns and is fun to paddle for an hour or less. It’s uncomfortable (I stuck with the traditional look. A backband would have been far more comfortable) The stern is under water when practicing self rescues. I’m unable to do a paddlefloat rescue because of the small cockpit. That leaves only the reenter and roll which works well but even with float bags it takes on a lot of water and sinks pretty deep. Very unstable until the water is pumped out. Not sure how this would work in the ocean under heavy chop/swell/wind conditions. Very little room to carry cargo.

I only use it once in a while. I’d probably sell it except you can’t get any money for them. So it mostly justs takes up space in my yard.


I have padding

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under the masik to give me good contact and that keeps my legs flat against the hull. This is what others have recomended and I am giving it a try.

I got the heat sealable material for the float bags from Seattle Fabrics.

I have heard of some skin boats becoming loose and it must have something to do with the material used. I used 8 oz. nylon from George Dyson and coated it with a eurathane alkyd paint. The skin was a little slack for the first paddle and then it became as tight as a drum and has stayed that way. This link can give you information if you are interested.

I can't see that my ribs will loose their shape. After the ribs are steamed they become very dry and stiff. I dry my sof out with a small fan after every use and store it laying upside down on It's gunwales. I paddled a sof that constantly turned and I was very disapointed and put off building one for a couple years because I didn't want a kayak wasn't going to paddle straight. When I finally did start to build a sof I was very particular in getting the gunwales to have the same bend and the kayak goes as straight as an arrow. I do a lot of rolling in this kayak and it is very strong the way it is built.

Sand and pebbles are a problem with sof kayaks. They are hard to remove and they do get between the skin and frame and make wear points. Using a sea sock helps eliminate this problem a lot.

I have used my sof all summer a couple times a week and it is still in very good condition. The wear that one get's would depend on the usage it gets. I'm pretty careful with mine. I have a wood wear strip installed on the keeline at the bow and stern that takes all the wear when launching and landing.

You can put quite a bit of supplies in my sof just so it fits under the deck beams. Then the air in the float bag can be adjusted. If your interested you can take a look at the building process I used at this link.

>That straight legged position is painful?

No, but flexible hamstrings are necessary. Your legs have a slight bend and are not completely straight. I now find the “bent knee” position in most commercial kayaks to feel strange (it’s all about what you are used to).

there was mention of the boat skin becoming looser as it gets wet. does this depend on the paint/varnish/ and does one minimize this trait more than the other one?

This depends on the material that you use for the skin. Cotton, for example, while being heavier than synthetics, actually gets tighter when wet. Nylon will sag to some degree and polyester too (to a lesser degree). There are some articles on skin coverings in the MASIK ( ).

the point about the ribs becoming deformed comes from another boat designer who indicated that especially with the Greenland champions.

Often you will get a few broken ribs over time with rough use, and they are usually not a problem unless the break is sharp (the skin can be pierced) or you want to race and can’t tolerate bumps in the skin. Rib deformation should not be a problem. This probably happens from poor storage. Store the SOF upside-down on its deck. If you store it on its belly, the ribs will deform and collapse over time.

salt water: rinse out with fresh after each use I understand.

Actually many SOF owners do the opposite. Rot is the number one enemy of a SOF. Salt water preserves the wood and lashing. Rinse in saltwater if possible.

The best “trick” to prevent grit damage is prevention. The Greenlanders are careful to remove any debris from their feet prior to entering their kayaks. The common “seat” in Greenland is a foam pad that extends from the backrest to footrest. This provides comfort, prevents you heels from catching on the ribs as you slide-in, and also traps sand and dirt. Remove the pad after use to dispose of the sand, and to allow the frame to dry.

If you are able to put in float bags in the SOF, how come you can’t get a thermos back there?

It all depends on how much volume you choose to build into your kayak. Also, you CAN put fabric bulkheads and hatches into a SOF if you wish. Greenlander Pavia Lumholt has been doing this for several years.

Greg Stamer

re-enter and roll
Yes I do know that knowing how to roll is not an option but an absolute necessity. I suppose the volume would dictate just how low it would be for re-entry. A sea sock strikes me as being a great option to avoid not only water in the boat but also as protection.

for an hour or two…I guess it is what you are used to. I suspect that I will be sore for a while and will have to really work on getting the hamstrings flexible.

I would suppose though that if you were able to place a piece of foam or towel under your knees that this would alleviate some of the pain?

Didn’t know that about the salt water rinse! thanks.


Yes, good point
a sea sock would be a good idea. In my case I don’t want to spend anymore money on this particular kayak and it seems like they would be kind of A PITA anyway (have never tried one).



Float bags…
“If you are able to put in float bags in the SOF, how come you can’t get a thermos back there?”

I have a long hose for the air valve so the bags go in deflated and I inflate them from the cockpit. This way your bags will fit nice and tight in and around ribs and deck beams. There’s also a good chance they won’t come out of the kayak even if you do.


Just remember you can outfit an SOF
nearly as well as a commercial kayak. I think other than wanting a truly Greenland style skinboat, most folks don’t outfit their SOF with seats and such because it raises your center of gravity. If you were to make a higher volume kayak with a bit more room and stability you could put in a nice carved foam seat, longer cockpit, higher masik and what have ya. But at that point you may as well make an S&G or buy something. My SOF is kind of low-V but not as low as some, it’s probably a historical average of Greenland kayaks and my legs aren’t flat and straight out, rather they are resting at a very natural bend and still very near the masik for control (I thinks it’s about 9-9.5" deep at the masik and 6.5-7" at the rear combing). I think the reason commercial kayaks have the tilted seat are because your legs are bent too much, well at least for me. I find the higher your legs are the more weight goes to smaller area of your ass and back. Because of the tilt I believe is why commercial kayaks need such good back support. But why put weight on your lower back? It just doesn’t make sense to me. But that’s just me and I know the other $.98 might disagree but that’s my $.02.


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Well I am not building my own being neither a builder or an artist but I am having Peter Strand build mine. His website is
for anyone that might be interested. He does an incredible job and I can hardly wait. it will be here sometime after Christmas. 18.5 feet long and 19.5 inches wide.

Schizopak and Ms Perry both have one of his boats.

Black as the ace of spades. heheh


float bags
to make two float bags for the boat how much material and which one of the nylon materials would I need to get. Also, where would I find a tube to be able to fill up the bags and secure the air?


I forget which weight material I used

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but It's pretty thin. You can ask someone at Seattle fabrics which weight fabric will work best for your use.

You will need to measure the circumferance of the kayak and the length of the area to be filled. If you can get a copy of Chris Cunnunghams book Building the Greenland Kayak he has very good instructions for making float bags and many other accesories for greenland kayaking.

I used some clear flexable, 1/2" inside diameter hose that I got from the local hardware store and sealed it into the bag with aquaseal. To plug the hose I used a red electrical wire nut. It made a tight and secure plug. I found that using a smaller hose is very hard to blow up.

Home Dept/Lowes has tubing. You can get valves from NRS for $0.60.

I was going to be lazy and get some made - but this looks easy enough - and will let me get the best possible fit.


– Last Updated: Dec-17-05 2:56 AM EST –

Scoll down to:

"Heat Sealable Oxford" and "Heat Sealable Packcloth"

The 200 D maybe enough for floatation.