First timer, legs fell asleep

Well my friend took me out kayaking for the first time the other day. He was excited when he heard I had bought a boat and offered me one of his to try so he could have a partner to go with. After the initial tippyness (rookie) it was great. After a 1/2 hour my legs were asleep. After an hour I was looking a spot to get out ASAP. Of course we were in a marshy area with no exit point. At this point I no longer cared and picked the best looking spot and climbed out. Despite my friend just telling me he fell over the first time he got out with sleepy legs I was just so happy to be getting out that I just climbed out. And guess what, legs didn’t work so well and over I went in the mud. I’ve go to admit it was pretty funny and my buddy was sure laughing. After a wash off, stretch and a shoe retrieval from the mud we got back under way. The next half hour was amazing despite being soaked, saw 3 muskrats and a beaver. Then the legs again so I rushed back to the launch point to get out. The boat was an older Necky Tesla which is a big boat so I had a little room to wiggle my legs but it didn’t help. I am hoping the adjustable seat in the Tsunami 165 I ordered will help. Is there anything I can do to increase seat time comfort? It was great fun it would just be better to not have to stop every 25 minutes. Suggestions?

Foot braces
The simplest solution to your common rookie problem is to move the foot braces forward a bit. Many new kayakers set the braces so the fit is very tight. A slightly looser fit will not only make you more comfortable it will make controlling your boat a bit easier.

Thigh Support
Some of us need lots of thigh support. If that’s what’s making you miserable I bet your Tsunami will provide it. Also… try a pool noodle or some other chunk of foam and put it under your calves or ankles. That takes pressure off your heels.

Two Things Can Cause the Problem

– Last Updated: Sep-18-11 6:13 PM EST –

It can be pressure on a nerve, or pressure on a point the restricts blood supply. For me, the key is to keep something soft under my thighs - a hard seat edge or inadequate padding can give me sleepy legs within half an hour...

Since I build my own kayaks, here's the seating system that works beautifully for me - have used it in four VOLKSKAYAKs, and can stay in the boats for hours on end. I've never had any leg discomfort using this approach to seating. The one time I forgot my Thermarest pad, and used a thin foam camping pad instead, my legs went asleep within a half hour.

I've also had some problems in paddling a rotomoulded boat with a hard plastic seat - the front lip cut into the back of my thighs something fierce, and again, my legs just numbed out real quick...

Small movements might be all you need.
Try just doing some isometric flexing or pushing a little harder against the foot pegs. You can also try taking your feet down and stretch them out. Stretch the legs, too.

Hamstring stretches before you get
in the boat.

What they said and
There’s a good article in last winter’s editions of the California Kayaker about the ergonomics of your feet in a sit-inside. I found it very helpful.

First, adjust your footpegs.

Second, take breaks and move your feet around.

Third, find something to short up your thighs. I followed the CK article and used a blown up Seattle Sports paddle float (double chambered), which works perfectly and is also all ready in case of capsize.

All of the above plus…
Putting too much pressure on the foot pegs, needing thigh support further forward than the seat and generally sitting too locked in (like not moving around) are the usual culprit.

Other things that are aspects of the above but maybe not exactly the same -

Having the front edge of the seat tip up and cut into your thigh - I’ve had to cut away the foam under the front of my more shaped seat on my day boat to flatten out its profile. Instantly fixed the hurting back issue.

Having the footpegs set so that your legs are more straight out rather than being bent so that the thighs come up into the braces.

Not paddling with proper rotation which encourages “pedaling” with your feet, which has the effect of keeping the legs active as well as helping to rotate properly for each stroke.

Sitting back into the seat back or back band in a way that resembles barcalounger paddling rather than a strong core, upright posture with the torso.

Generally paddling too tense, so that there is lots of pressure at the contact points rather than a more relaxed, balanced feeling.

If your legs were that tight, I suspect that you are also using your upper body in a way that could place undue stress on your joints. It might be a plan to get some quick tips on a good forward stroke before you spend a lot of time building in your present habits.

I had the same issue where my left leg would fall asleep after 30 minutes. At first I thought I was sitting on a nerve, then I thought it was blood flow. Coincidentally, I started stretching a lot more and the problem started getting better.

what they said
stretch, and carry a thermarest sport seat.

links to the articles
Here is a link to the article in the Winter issue on outfitting the seats in kayaks:

And here is one from Spring on outfitting foot beds:

Those links take you right to the article in question.

All of the issues can be read online or downloaded for free from

WS phase 3 seat
Along with all the other tips, Yes the seat in the Tsunami will help also. Being able to raise and lower the front edge of the seat is a lot of help and changes the position of the support on the back of the thigh. Raising and lowering the seatback lets you shift around a little and get the blood flowing though the ol’ gluteus maximus. First time I paddled mine I was uncomfortable after a while and then remembered I could raise the seat back up, I almost felt like I had a recliner in my yak! From time to time I take a foot off the peg and stretch the leg out. I’m good for about two-three hours until I’m willing to crawl out onto a muddy pile of pelican poop.

Another article

Thank you
Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions and links. I’m very glad to read it is a fixable issue with a little ergonomic adjustment. As for the foot braces I didn’t use them on the way out because they were too far back. My friend adjusted them for me when I got out but since my shoes were muddy I put them under the deck bungees and then they were too far away to reach. Celia, I made sure to use the techniques shown in the Youtube tutorials for forward strokes rather than arm power, it sure made it drastically easier using the big muscles. After experiencing wind cocking I see the benefit of a rudder rather than a continuous sweep stroke on the one side. But probably better to learn how to paddle first before getting a rudder added on. The next time I go out with him I’ll set up the foot braces properly and bring my Thermarest rather than use that old foam pad.

That’s a great link, good info on the ergonomics but plenty of great reading as well.

Dump de ‘yak an’ git a canoo!


If it is weather cocking…
A skeg can also usually handle that. But yeah, I believe your boat relies on a rudder if a tracking device is added.

Rudder ready
Is how my WS 140 & 145 are. Holes and tubes for the cables are already there. I go out in the Gulf and just edge it, all I need to mostly prevent weather cocking.

Had a canoe thanks, an all-purpose (good at nothing) Coleman. I did wish I had bought the Pungo instead with that huge open top until I made this thread and got all these great responses.

Mine is rudder ready, I almost bought the rudder version but while searching the archives here read that it is better to learn to paddle properly and not to just depend on the rudder. Seemed like a good suggestion.

I had minor problem - gone now
I recently purchased a Tsunami 165. I am new to Kayaking as well. The seat in the Tsunami is terrific. After a few times out and some seat adjustments I am not getting any numbness at all. You will love it. Part of it may be just getting used to the seating position.