Front Bulkhead vs. Footpegs

I’ve seen a couple of boats recently were the owners have opted to have the front bulkhead moved back to eliminate the footpegs. As I’m about to order a new boat (either an AA or Pintail, just can’t seen to decided which!), the thought of getting rid of the footpegs is rather intriguing. Any thoughts/experiences on the advantages/disadvantages of going this way? Also, how is the propper measurement determined? I’ve seen boats described as having a 34" or 33" bulkhead, were is this referenced from?

Bulkhead removal

I am the guy with the Kv Arctic Hawk for sale. I found that the foam bulkhead just makes my feet more comfortable and free to move around instead of being forced into one position. During re-entry and roll, it also made it easier as I just slide in until I hit the bulkhead, no more searching for foot pegs.

As to the measurement, mine was from the front edge of the seat to the bulkhead. I am sure others do it differently though. But, this way it approximates you inseam though the measurements start and end at different spots. I wear 33" inseam and have a 34" bulkhead that gives me a little extra wiggle room.

Experiment and play with it. I keep my bulkhead slightly oversized to keep it from moving, but do not glue it in just in case I want to remove it.


The obvious pros/cons
Pros: You can brace off of any spot rather than having to find pegs and orient your foot for good purchase. They’re more comfortable. Extra built-in floatation, less room for water intrusion.

Cons: Only you and those that share your leg dimensions can now use your boat. They don’t work with a rudder.

I bought a used boat that had a foot brace bulkhead fitted for the previous owner. I couldn’t use it because of the differences in our leg lengths and shoe sizes, but it was very well thought out. He had made it just deep enough to go barefoot, angled it for ergonomics, then covered it from floor to deck in a continuous sheet of 3/4" neo rubber. It was like sliding your feet into one big mukluk. I may do somthing like this on my boats, but will make it deeper than I need so others can fit too. I can then make “shims” out of thinner minicel sheets with a pull cord for easy removal.


foam bulkhead
My retailer did it for me. I’ve been very happy w/ it. Can change angle of your legs/feet for better circulation. I don’t loan out my good boat. Just get a big hunk of foam and shave it till your comfy.

foam out the bulkhead …
foot pegs are uncomfortable and offer only a limited surface upon which to rest your feet.

if the entire bulkhead is foamed out, you have an unlimited area on which to rest your feet. there’s nothing as comfortable as a foam bulkhead and foam ‘heel’ pads.

the measurement is generally taken from the front of the seat pan and adds 4 inches for the foam. thus, with a 30 inch inseam, you’d want your bulkhead placed at about 34 inches from the front of the seat. i use a 4 inch thick piece of closed cell foam and cut out the center so the foot pump can fit through.

Bulkhead pad – not actual bulkhead

– Last Updated: Oct-31-05 10:05 AM EST –

It's worth getting the terminology right. Many folks I know with custom bulkheads have them set longer than their legs need, and then pad them out with a fitted slab of outfitting foam, which I would call a bulkhead pad, not an actual bulkhead.

I haven't the direct experience, but I'm assuming that if you make that foam slab good and snug around the edges, you need not glue it in. Please jump in if you know, as I am doing this as we speak to a new boat. I've been told there is no practical limit on the thickness of a pad. Anyway, if it's easy to remove and insert, that solves...

> Cons: Only you and those that share your leg dimensions can now use your boat.

You can make a fitted foam insert to the right thickness for anyone who uses the boat. If you are worried about losing the pad in a wet exit, I wonder if a couple of strips of heavy-duty velcro would hold it in, and still allow easy removal.

Finally, setting the bulkhead up for a very leggy person and then padding for your own legs also solves the other drawback of a custom bulkhead, namely resale problems. But you don't get quite as much extra space in the front storage compartment. After some pondering, I set mine at 34" in a new Aquanaut, back from the standard 38". I believe that makes it accessible for awfully tall/leggy folks, and gives me 4" more storage space.


My suggestion
would be to order your boat with the bulkhead in the standard position. Try it with the pegs first to get a feel for it. Then remove the pegs from the rails and using foam against your bulkhead, build out a footrest. If you make it so the foam bulkhead/footrest so it doesn’t fit in too overly tight, you can remove it and go back to pegs if you change your mind. If you order with the bulkhead moved forward, its VERY hard to change.

I have paddled my kayak with both systems and I am currently back to the pegs. I like being able to vary my foot/leg position on longer paddles to lower fatigue.

A third alternative
WW boaters often use heel blocks for foot support. In a WW boat you are limited in where you can place them (usually as part of the center pillar) but for a touring boat boat you can put them anywhere that is comfortable. You can even install more than one set. If you don’t like your knees splayed then attach them to the inside of the hull near the center and put knee blocks under the deck. I think they are just as comfortable as a bulkhead, you still have all the space in front of your feet, you don’t have to remove the original bulkhead, and you can leave in the footpeg rails. When it comes time to sell you can easily restore the boat to its original condition.

Remove the footpets - and send one to me
First, lots of good reasons above to pad the bulkhead. I’ve done it to my Pintail. No need to glue the foam in. Stays in quite nicely on its own.

However, I have a friend considerably shorter than I am who would like to use my boat from time to time using the footpegs. I still have one, but lost the other. If you - or anyone else on the board has one, let me know. Thanks!

Storage space
If you want the extra storage space in the bow, get a custom placement. If storage is not a concern, I guess for resale reasons, get the standard placement. (although 34" will be long enough for most) Either way, you can add all the foam you need for fitting. Placing a line around behind the foam makes it easier to remove when you need to. Padded bulkheads are the ultimate.

Can be flexible
I have 4 to 5 inches of foam in front of my bulkhead on which I actually brace, even with the bulkhead moved back to 29 inches. So I easily fit someone who is up to 4 or so inches taller than myself by swapping out the bulkhead blocks as needed. In fact, I’d advise setting up to brace against foam rather than the hard bulkhead surface for comfort’s sake alone.

I get more forward storage, as mentioned above out of this. More important, my foot position is both more comfy and more secure. I can’t slip off the bulkhead block in a roll or whatver as can happen with footpegs.

There is only one downside that I can mention, which is that a wet re-entry will take more attnetion because you can’t just shoot your feet forward then come back and slap onto the footpegs in a single fast motion. You will have to actually place your feet and thighs, which takes a little more time. But practice solves that issue, and compared to the disconfort of footpegs it is more than worth the work.

As far as how well they fit - in normal paddling even poorly cut blocks will tend to stay put reasonably well. In more tubulent conditions things change. For example, if the boat goes over and the paddler is out of it in quite rough conditions or in the surf zone, it is quite likley that any thinner (two inches or less) foam bocks will escape unless they are separately anchored somehow.

if you don’t need less water in the cockpit then save the construction work for later, if it’s a more comfortable position you want then try heel stops first.

measuring the profile
Sorry if this is slightly off-topic…but how exactly are you folks transferring the shape of the inside of the boat to the foam, when carving the bulkhead foam pad?



Not difficult

– Last Updated: Nov-03-05 6:16 AM EST –

1. Cut two pieces of cardboard, one for the deck and one for the hull, so that they fit around the outside your kayak at the front bulkhead.
2. Tape these pieces together.
3. Trace the hole in the middle.
4. Draw a line 1/2-1 inch inside the shape you have traced.
5. Cut a piece of foam in the shape of the inside line in #4 above.
6. Try out this piece of foam against your front bulkhead.
7. Trim it as necessary to fit.
8. Repeat steps 6-7 as necessary.

This process will get you a very precise fit. In my experience, though, a very precise fit is not necessary. As long as the foam (i) covers most of the area where you want your feet and (ii) remains firmly wedged in when your kayak and you are in the water, that's precise enough.-

What if?
you have a foam bulkhead already and it appears to be glued in . Is there a chance by adding more foam for foot brace that by pressing against the bulkhead it will work itself loose?