how deep or high do you need to sit ?

How can I tell if I have optimal fit in a kayak in respect to either sitting too high(remove seat) or too low (add padding to a seat)?

Since nobody’s answered yet,
I’ll offen my 2c worth . . .

When I built my Pygmy kayaks, I learned of the importance of keeping the seat as low in the boat as possible - which is why they use a low-placed

Thermarest pad: to keep center of gravity low.

The lower in the boat you sit, the lower your center of gravity - thus, the more stability. If you pad or raise the seat, the higher your center of gravity and, thus, the more “tippy” your boat will be.

My understanding: set your seat as low as possible, allowing for comfort. Then, add your bracing material, for optimum control of your boat.

I’m sure some of the pros can add to this . . . the bottom line: the lower in the boat you can sit, the greater will be the boat’s stability.

while I think that’s basically true…
Boat design might be a factor. Some kayaks (for average sized person) might prefer someone seated higher for better edging and general control. A larger volume boat may work better with the paddler raised a bit. Just a guess on my part.

It depends
Do you want to roll?

Is the boat tippy?

Is flat-water speed, rough-water handling, rolling, or comfort most important?

It is a balance between
being low enough for reasonable stability and high enough to paddle comfortably. Some of the racing boats actually raise the seat up so the paddler can have a longer paddle and therefore more leverage. A low seat and a wide boat also needs a long paddle and a lower angle stroke. In a skinny boat, a low seat position might need a shorter paddle with a high angle stroke.

It’s about getting the right combination of boat, paddler, and paddle.


too low and rolling is hard
if the back deck is too high on your back certain rolls are very hard. For rolling you might want your hips very close to the top of the combing.

As far as I am concerned:
If your comfy, you got it right.

Unless you are extremely tall or a midget, the designers build their boats for the average person.

The addition or removal of a half inch thick pad won’t make that much difference



no difference
"The addition or removal of a half inch thick pad won’t make that much difference"

It does in my SOF, add a 1/2" pad and its a different boat.

That is because the designer didn’t …
build it for the average person !



I bought a used kayak
with the seat removed and foam placed on the bottom in its place. There were a few things involved in this case.

  1. Removing the seat also removed some of the structural integrity of the fiberglass sea kayak. Quite a bit of flex had come to exist in that part of the hull. Attaching a fiberglass seat with uniform support across the bottom, and attaching that seat to the glass provided which hangs down from the coaming, did an excellent job of firming up the bottom of the hull.
  2. The kayak felt dead to me sitting right on the bottom. It took too much of a shift in weight to get it to lean. Don’t get me wrong. 8 out of 10 kayakers would probably take the seat out of their kayak if they knew it would give the kayak what I describe as a “dead” feeling. But this was simply more initial stability than any standard configured sea kayak that I’ve sat in, besides rec kayaks. Raising the seat an inch was doable, but felt overdone. Reducing that to a half inch felt completely natural and reasonable to me, and well within the range of my “expected feel” of a sea kayak. No right or wrong about any of this. Although it certainly made me wonder about removing the seat to provide enough leg room to cram into a lower volume kayak ever being acceptable for me.
  3. Foam seat cushy on the butt. Terrible if you’re used to being able to shift around. If your butt would be pretty much planted in place anyway, the foam is probably great. If you’re used to using the muscles in your lower half, and your lower muscles remain alive and active while your paddling, that lost ability to shift around on the seat might feel like a bad thing, like it did for me.

    I could roll the boat fine either way. Raising my entire center of gravity to allow for layback rolls seems like 6 of one, half dozen of the other, so I’m not sure I see overall positive in that, even though I greatly preferred the higher seating position for other reasons. 1/2 inch did make very appreciable differences.

    The bottom line for me. Lower was more initially stable and much less nimble. Shift from primary to secondary took too significant of a weight shift, and then felt very abrupt. I did one paddle through the surf like this, and knew I had to make a change.

    Fiberglass seat raised an inch off of the bottom was better than the original, but it felt wobbly. The only other way I can explain it is that it still had more stability than other kayaks I own, but it felt out of balance in a wobbly, topheavy sort of way. I just sort of could tell that I was sitting higher than was intended. This also took me only one trip through the surf to determine.

    Seat raised only a half inch, I almost immediately forgot about seat height adjustments, and everything just felt natural. I paddle a variety of kayaks with different feels, so it isn’t that it was tuned in to match a particular kayak. It was just good to go.

    Bottom line for you. It’s really whatever gets you on the water in your kayak. I don’t know if lowering or raising or replacing the seat would be better or worse for you. If you don’t know either, and the seat is comfortable, I would suggest not fussing over it and leave everything intact. If I had to bet, I would bet that the original configuration would feel within perfectly acceptable limits to me. I haven’t sat in an originally configured sea kayak yet that hasn’t, and I’ve sat in many. They all feel a bit different, but there has never been a feeling of “just plain wrong” like there was with this one with the pad replacing the seat. So I believe that it’s possible to make a pretty bad adjustment if you’re not really sure about it. That said, the person I bought it from probably thought it was great. He wasn’t an ocean paddler, so his take on it was likely quite different.

Oh, yes it does
1/2" higher than standard made my kayaks easier to edge and paddle. I do not need the stability of the low seat position at all. I’m not a “midget” but I am light.

Is it preventing you from doing somethin
With your current setup,

  • Are you comfortable?
  • Does the coaming hit your ribs or elbows? (Then it is too high and you might benefit from raising the seat–unless doing so makes you unstable.)
  • If you roll, does the coaming hit your back? (Too high.)
  • Do you feel like you can get decent leverage with your forward stroke? Try sitting on top of a pad(s) or even a folded towel, for comparison. You’ll be able to figure out what height feels best for you without making any messy or permanent changes.
  • How easy is it to put and hold the kayak on edge? (If you sit too low it makes this more difficult.)

    These are just a few of the things that go into answering your question for yourself.

    I like my kayaks set up so that the top of the coaming is even with the top of my hip bones and the back of the coaming does not touch my back when lying back completely onto the back deck. This necessitates a low deck plus a raised seat. Lots of freedom of movement for my flexible body, and I get the advantage of more leverage for edging and paddling. However, some people want to stay “dry” with a tall deck–this is part of the “comfort” question that you need to answer for YOU.

Person/kayak? QCC not for me.
It really depends on the kayak and your body type. Everyone here on P-net raves about QCC’s I had a 700 and I hated it! It felt like I was trying to balance on a hot dog! Turns out I have a long torso and short legs that make up my 5’ 10" frame. I am sorta top heavy, which places my center of gravity higher than some people, and for me the QCC was just not right. It was just too squirrely. QCC makes a fine boat & I sure do miss the speed of that thing, but it just didn’t fit me. I even took out the factory seat and carved a beautiful new mini cell seat that put my butt less than a 1/4" off the hull. Still squirrely.

Keep trying different boats, and don’t stop until you find the boat that puts a smile on your face, really!

My Experience
I think Pika and Jack are both right. Your top priority should be comfort; including being able to lay back when you brace and roll and not bang your hands on the deck as you paddle. A little addition or subtraction of padding shouldn’t do much to stability. If the boat was that sensitive to load they wouldn’t put bungies all across the top. When I add some load to the deck of my boat it doesn’t significantly affect stability.

Fit v. center of balance

– Last Updated: Oct-08-09 7:13 AM EST –

Your profile lists a couple of more challenging environments including surfing, where boat control matters quite a bit. So this question is a little confusing unless you mean mostly center of balance.

In my mind cockpit fit is more about whether you have decent contact with thigh braces, are not so loose side to side in the seat that you are sliding around when you try to roll... Seat height can affect this as it move one point of the tripod (butt, thighs and feet), but someone who does surfing would normally have settled their preferences on this.

Unless - have you been using a SOT? In that case the questions re a SINK would make sense.

Above have answered the center of balance question and height well. Is that all you are asking about, or does this include a question on things like reach to the thigh braces and set of the foot pegs?

lower the seat
Basically I’ve been told by an experienced kayak trainer that my seat is too high with respect to my body. He recommended I remove the seat and install a foam pad seat that would bring me about an inch down.

I started thinking about it. Naturally I forgot specifically what made the instructor think that I was sitting too high. I then wondered about the other 3 kayaks in my inventory but couldn’t assess seats due to the fact that I did not know what I should be looking for …

Suggest that you call the trainer

– Last Updated: Oct-08-09 2:56 PM EST –

The one thing that I can think of would be if you had such a high center of gravity that it was creating problems in your ability to stay upright. But I suspect you'd know if that was an issue. :-)

Since it doesn't seem to have bothered you or made you feel particularly insecure, you may want to get a fuller explanation from that person. Then mull it over for yourself before you go changing something that sounds like it's working for you.

Trainer’s own bias
Maybe that person doesn’t have a great sense of balance despite being a trainer. Something to think about, if you are comfortable with the existing level of stability.