Down River Kayak Advice

Need some advice regarding learning to handle my recently purchased Seda Spirit Downriver kayak. But first some background…

I’ve been paddling mostly sea kayaks for about 12 years. Currently I have a WS Tempest 165 and I love this kayak. Very stable, easy to maneuver, tracks well with or without skeg, holds an edge with ease, has the most comfortable seating that fits me like a glove and it is very very forgiving of paddling mistakes. It is this last point that got me looking for something a little more challenging to advance my paddling skills and fitness.

Well, I definitely found “challenging” with the Seda Spirit. It is all the things that the WS Tempest is not. It is very tippy, very little primary stability and almost zero secondary, it does not track well (if there is even a slight breeze it wants to go in circles), responds to a slight edge but with zero secondary stability, edging is a huge challenge as the boat will flip in a flash. Whereas I have only practiced bracing in my Tempest, never even coming close to actually needing to brace to avoid a capsize, the Spirit is teaching me how important bracing can be. Even forward strokes executed with less than perfect form can get this boat starting to flop from side to side. So, this boat will definitely do what I wanted it to do, spotlight my weaknesses and force me to improve.

My question, for anyone experienced with this type of kayak, is, should this boat fit snug like a sea kayak, where thighs are in constant contact with the thigh braces and hips are locked in with hip pads?. Currently, I have lots of room in the Spirit and the deck is fairly high. So, with my legs set with appropriate bend in the knee to allow powering with lower body, my thighs are no where near the thigh braces. There is probably a couple of inches between my hips and the sides of the seat on either side as well. Is this the way this type of kayak is supposed to fit? I don’t want to spend time trying to master this kayak if I am going to be struggling with poor fit. I know that a sea kayak should never fit this loosely but perhaps a loose fit is appropriate for this type of boat. Perhaps they are designed with less paddler contact so the boat won’t be as twitchy??

Any advice or suggestion from those experienced with this type of kayak would be greatly appreciated. The Spirit is 14’9" with a stated beam of 23 but an actual effective beam of 18", a rounded V hull with vertical bow and stern and almost zero rocker.

It’s a racing kayak. Tight cockpit would prevent hip rotation. And like a fast surf ski you may have to have a blade in the water at all times to balance.

You can always pad out the sides with layers of foam - Wally World exercise mats are a good source. But if you don’t anticipate having to roll you should be able to just plant yourself firmly with just your feet and knees.

I bought an Epic 18X Sport for flat river paddling. It’s not very tippy. Only issue is that it is hard to thread it thru snags; sharp turns are hard work.

As was said above: you should fit loose in the boat., . From my memory, in my downriver kayak, for stability I had a good fitting seat and foot braces., no back brace To help with edging I used the outside of my lower leg ( side of Fibula) braced against the inside edge of the cockpit combing. To help with stability you need seat time,. The more the better to gain confidence. To help at the beginning, start with either sitting in the bottom of your boat, no seat or lower the seat as much as possible.

Thanks so much for your reply. Very helpful. I think you answered my question. It should not fit like my sea kayak, which fits like I’m wearing it, rather than sitting in it. What you say makes perfect sense and is kind of what I was thinking. But having no experience with racing kayaks, I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t trying to improve my skills in a boat that does not fit properly.

thanks again.

Super great advice, thanks so much. The things you have suggested I’ve been doing, I guess just instinctively, but your advice helps me know I’m moving in the right direction.

As far as the seat, it is a hard formed fiberglass seat, kind of integrated into the coaming and can not be raised or lowered. As it is, it is probably only about 2 inches above the hull and if it were any lower It would probably begin to interfere with my paddle stroke which tends to be more vertical than horizontal. I do not use a back band, would be useless in a boat that you need to be leaning more forward in to begin with.

you’re probably right about seat time as well. I’ve just jumped into this boat, maybe have 2 hrs in it so far, so I need to be patient and not expect to master it overnight. Heck, if it was going to be easy I wouldn’t have bother to get it to begin with.

thanks again