How tight should the cockpit be and questions about padding

In my just-acquired older model Avocet RM the seat looked like this one, a foam seat with foam hip pads (not my actual seat but the same kind):

The previous owner was 5" shorter and 30 lbs lighter than I am, and it was too tight for me, pressing uncomfortably against my hips. So I just cut out the hip pads. It feels much more comfortable now, but I’m not sure how to tell if it’s the right degree tight or too loose. Is there any “standard” way it should fit, or is it all about personal comfort?

I’m just beginning to learn edging and bracing. Will I need it tighter as I advance to a more intermediate stage? If so, do I just add a thinner foam hip pad, or something like that?


Well, as often the case the answer is “It Depends”. If you are looking for speed or covering some distance in reasonable conditions then loose is good. Not only for comfort but more so to allow good hip rotation & driving through the hips to the foot pegs. On the other hand if your focus is on dynamic water somewhat tighter is good as that provides a more direct connection from body to boat. Whitewater paddlers tend to be pretty locked in. I’ll let the surfers here chime in on their preferences.

In my case I have about 2 fingers from my hips to the pads. No problem with edging. A bigger issue for me is the big cockpit (Pygmy Arctic Tern 17’) and the thigh braces that are about 2" too far forward. (my error long ago).

If you’re not with a buddy you can bow-brace off of, try a dock, get your hull at 90 degrees to the water using just your hands for support, and see how much butt-sliding is going on – you can simulate edging without necessarily having the skills yet. Consider tightening the backband, and/or the footpegs, to see how different postures affect how dialed-in you feel.

It should not be tight enough to make you uncomfortable. Sitting in it. You answered your own question. I don’t have two fingers space but I can sit in it for hours no problem. I can rotate and drive legs. I check next time in it.

Thanks for the help. I guess as I go forward I’ll get a better idea of what aspect is most important to me. I’ll give that a try to see how much my butt is sliding at 90 degrees. And yeah, too tight was no good! Gotta have circulation, after all.

You will find your desired fit as you do more edging etc. If you are slopping around in a way that makes it hard to hold an edge, add back some foam. Just leave enough for a bit of hip movement.

Thanks. I’m sure I’ll get a better sense of what I need with more boat time.

I have to admit I felt like a real kayaker when I cut out the hip pads. My first mod! Hahaha!

That is a “Happy bottom” seat. I have one.

I was having trouble with the seat. I was sitting too far forward.

How could you tell you were too far forward?

Yes, that is it. I wonder if they, or something like them, were ever standard in plastic Avocets since I’ve seen a number of them with that seat.

@Doggy Paddler said:
How could you tell you were too far forward?

My butt and left leg fell asleep. My wife washed out the kayak and removed the seat. When we put it back in the back rim was pressing on the …well, I could feel it. Paddled on. Two hours later and the usual numbness was missing. aka…trail and error.

I want mine loose enough so I can fall out if upside down in the water!
I had a close call one time in a WW kayak after two failed rolls


Over a longer paddle you need to be able to move your legs around. And seat angle is personal. A highly supportive ergonomic seat is a guaranteed pain for me, l like the flat and just mind of around. Just see if it hurts, literally.

How tightly you want to fit in your boat is a matter of personal preference based on your comfort level and the degree of control you require. Obviously, ease of exit is a concern. Most individuals find that it is much easier to wet exit a tightly fitting boat than it is to exit it sitting on the ground dry. Once you pop your spray skirt the water tends to lubricate the surfaces and once you are inverted, your body is pretty much weightless underwater. Still, after any changes that make your outfitting tighter, you will want to practice wet exits in a safe environment with an assistant near at hand.

In order to effectively brace and roll, you need to have the motions of your knees and hips translated to the boat without a lot of slop. This means that you must be able to brace your knees firmly up against the bottoms of the knee hooks, and the sides of the kayak must make firm enough contact with your hips so that you cannot lift your butt up off the seat more than an inch (at the most) without the boat coming along. Although you must be able to brace your knees firmly against the braces, your legs don’t have to be permanently jammed against them. Adjust your foot pegs so that by pushing with your forefoot you can push your knees firmly against the braces. Then when you relax your feet, you should have a little room between the thigh braces and your knees. Adjust your back band so that when you push with your feet you cannot force your bottom back on the seat pan.

I would ditch the happy bottom seat. The hip pads are really not effectively shaped for good control and are not easily modified. The padding on the seat bottom may also be raising your center of gravity too much and forcing you up too high against the thigh braces. I would suggest trying a set of pre-shaped minicell foam hip pads of the type that were widely used in old school whitewater kayaks. Here is a video showing how those look and how they are installed:

Note: instead of the H2 glue suggested in the video, I would use DAP Weldwood contact cement (flammable variety in a red and black can) which is cheaper, just as effective, and available just about anywhere including Walmart. Use at least two layers of cement on the foam, and I would lightly sand the back of the foam pads before applying the adhesive.

As you can see from the video, the pads are thicker at the top and provide contact at the top of your hip. Usually the pads are made too thick for most people and need to be trimmed down. Start sanding down the aft portion of the thick part of the pad first, and check the fit as you go. If you trim off too much, you can glue a thin sheet of 1/4" thick minicell to the pad and start over. If you find the plastic seat pan to be too hard after removing the happy bottom seat, you can also use 1/4" thick minicell to make a seat pad. Just make a template of the seat pan out of some packing paper, trace it onto the minicell foam, and cut it out with a scissors. Glue it in with Weldwood contact cement as for the hip pads.

Wow, thanks, that’s very informative. I did cut off the hip pad portion of the seat. I don’t think the rear end part is making me sit too high - I’ve got a low center of gravity! - but I’ll sit in it and check all those things you mentioned.

I’m still a beginner and I don’t think my older Avocet has much in the way of thigh braces. I guess I can build those too if necessary. I’m sure I need more time paddling it, as well as practice bracing, edging, and doing wet exits to be able to tell just what I need. So I’ll probably be back with more questions as I progress.