huge foam block between my legs??

I just got a new little crossover kayak. 10’ Jackson Allwater. Due to this crappy weather I havn’t been able to take it on the water yet but sat in it on the grass.

My question- what is that huge piece of foam doing bolted to the front of the kayak? I have to stradle it w/ my legs and that just seems like it would be too uncomfortable. I have a sea kayak (that unfortunately is way too long for the KY rivers)and don’t know about this type.

I called Jackson and was told it’s to keep the hull stable in case I smash into rocks or something.

He said most white water boats have this. really?? doesn’t it get in the way? or do you just get used to it there?

It be de “Gray Thing”!!!


foam pillars
Virtually all whitewater kayaks have vertical foam pillars in the bow and the stern. The forward pillar often comes as far aft as the front margin of the cockpit cutout.

The pillars not only provide flotation but are vital for bracing the hull and deck and preventing the deck from folding on the paddler’s legs in the event of a pin.

You might safely trim a bit of the rear edge without compromising the boat but you certainly shouldn’t take it out. It shouldn’t be in the way of your legs when paddling.

agree with others
As mentioned, this is the “gray thing” that is often talked about on these boards. Search for gray thing and you’d find a huge number of posts on it.

Does provide flotation and support. As such, it is needed. Some touring boats have them also (my 14’ Dagger Alchemy doe have a small ones).

I looked at a photo of the boat you got and it is not a large one as compared to some.

thinking this was going to be …
… an outlandish Halloween costume you were going to tell us about … think Tom Jones … glad it wasn’t .

I don’t kayak but did find the answers interesting , especially the one about support to aid in preventing entrapment in case if a pin and fold … can’t beat extra flotation either !!

W/o boat will collapse when pinned

The force of moving water can easily cause a kayak to collapse and be pinned with you inside it. See this video above.

If you don’t have experience on rivers, best to to take a class on whitewater paddling and river safety.

You get used to it being there
My WW kayak has it, and I’m glad.

There is a metal box inside the foam, or so I was told.

You say you have not even paddled it yet, so hold off prejudice against it until you see whether it gets in your way or not.

If you don’t like it, there are rec kayaks galore that have no such bulkheads, nor do they have much in the way of outfitting…

I never even notice
the one in my XP10.

(But the XP10 is huge, so there is plenty of room for my legs and getting in and out – I’ve been in “real” WW boats (rarely) and can’t recall noticing, especially once on the water.)

Get some WW lessons

– Last Updated: Oct-29-13 10:33 AM EST –

Before trying anything white. If you find the support pillar daunting, you haven't seen enough of the conditions for which it is designed to be going it alone.

foam block…
Thanks for all the helpful advise everyone! I don’t PLAN on getting into any serious whitewater but nature isn’t always predictable.

Will defenately get some lessons b4 taking this kayak on anything other than quiet water.

I love my sea kayak and feel comfortable in the ocean but this is like a whole different world.

The good thing about that foam block - it ~usually~ is bolted in. That is, if it bothers your, and you don’t intend to run white water, or collapse of your kayak doesn’t bother you, you may take it out. Just keep all the parts and reinstall if you decide to make a bit more structurally sound.

whitewater kayaks
The typical whitewater kayak is a tighter fit than many sea kayaks and nearly all recreational kayaks. They have to be to provide control for edging, bracing, and rolling.

The central foam pillar will make entering your boat more like pulling on a pair of pants and less like climbing waist-deep into a barrel. Make sure that your thigh braces are optimally positioned fore and aft (assuming there is a provision for adjustment) to optimize your fit in the boat.

When you are in position to paddle with your knees out laterally and your thighs up in the braces, your legs shouldn’t contact the front pillar at all. You might well have sufficient room to slide your feet inboard off the foot pegs and stretch your legs forward for a break when in calm water.

For some paddlers with larger feet, the central foam pillar will tend to impinge on their heels a bit. If that is the case for you it is permissible to mark the position of your heels and sculpt a bit off the lower part of the pillar, or even cut out a small semicircular window at the bottom of the pillar, to allow more heel clearance.

The ol’ Dagger Crossover

– Last Updated: Oct-31-13 5:01 PM EST –

Even some ""larger"" kayaks like my
12.5 foot Dagger Crossover have the
internal high density large foam block to
prevent me from clicking my heels together.
Crossover was sold as capable of Class III.

NRS Split Kayak Flotation (set of 4)
Run 2 air bladder bags (Left & Right of pillar)
Second set of 2 go in the rear hatch

It does mess with certain kayak re-entry moves
that involve corkscrewing legs into the cockpit.

Very common
Even my 10 to 15 year old ww kayaks have a foam support in the bow and yes, it’s there in case of a pin where the boat beging to fold and potentially crush your legs. This would be pretty rare for the type of water most people paddle in a crossover boat, but I’ve never found it intrusive or uncomfortable. In many boats, you have to remove the seat to release the center column

It is…

– Last Updated: Nov-01-13 10:20 PM EST –

In WW everything is faster than on open water, blink and you missed the moment. Hence the tighter fit - sloppiness in the fit can lose critical time. It is also literally dizzying, it can take a little time to figure out what to look at that won't leave your head spinning, and I think noisier except for surf.

As said below, WW boats also tend to fit tighter unless you are talking about the bigger volume boats like the creekers. But IMO they aren't as much fun as the ones you wear like jeans. It just ups the ante on rolling since nothing else is going to keep you and the boat in a recovery mode on the water.

Also, you may be able to make it work if you ditch your regular boots that you would use in the sea kayak. Socks, or boots with extremely thin soles, are often a better match for a WW boat.

Two reasons for vertical hull supports
Reason 1: To provide extra support for hull materials that are too flimsy by themselves to be structurally sound even in at-rest conditions. Such materials could be, for example, a very thin composite laminate in a racing hull or a very “floppy” plastic in a molded rec hull.

Reason 2: To provide an extra measure of “wrap resistance” for whitewater boats in pinning conditions.

If you have a hull made of solid, self-supporting laminate or plastic, and you are never going to use that hull in whitewater or other current conditions with pinning potential, I would consider removing the foam pillars to free up space and lighten weight.

For a Jackson Allwater
or another similar kayak with a bulkhead and watertight hatch, the boat would still be positively buoyant with the foam pillar removed, as long as the rear hatch stayed on. The boat could be difficult to recover, however, if completely swamped as it might well point nose down due to no positive bow buoyancy.

If you remove the foam pillars from a solid polyethylene boat without a watertight compartment without proving alternative flotation it could sink to the bottom if completely swamped, since everything on the boat has a specific gravity greater than 1.

It might not sink by virtue of air trapped in the inverted hull, but it would be very difficult to recover in any current whatsoever.

Good point on flotation
I’m not knowledgeable about modern short closed boats, but there used to be such things as short nose bags. Maybe these boats are too short for any end bags.

I see literally thousands of plastic rec kayaks all over the US with no bulkheads or flotation. Often paddled by technique-less geezers. Will they all sink if filled with water?

Cleopatra’s Needle

– Last Updated: Nov-04-13 6:44 AM EST –

A condition where a large part of the kayak is underwater
and the kayak acts as a bobber with only an end showing.
Pain the butt for rescues as all that water needs
to be dumped because you'll never lift it above the surface.
At 8lbs a gallon , water is heavy.
Flotation bags help immensely by displacing that water.


– Last Updated: Nov-04-13 10:12 AM EST –

Some of the plastic rec boats have a thin sheet of foam under the seat pan, and maybe a bit on the thigh braces, just enough to provide minimal positive buoyancy. But I have heard a couple of stories about folks who have unwittingly removed this seemingly unnecessary foam and had their boat sink to the bottom of the pond. One such story came from the owner/manufacturer of Clipper Canoe.

I have been chasing swamped kayaks on whitewater streams for some years. Most of the whitewater kayaks currently produced, or produced for the last 10 years, have no room in the bow for bags. Some manufacturers, like Wave Sport, provide a foam block to be stuffed up into the nose with a series of foam wafers that can be used to customize the size of the foam "bulkhead" that also serves as a foot brace. In a larger boat this might provide a fair bit of flotation. But for smaller boats, especially if the paddler has long legs, there is but little foam up front.

Some of the smaller play boats barely have enough room for the paddler's feet, let alone flotation. Furthermore, the scalloped-out, "duckbill" front ends that allow the hull to be sliced through the water also means less volume up front and less air trapped there if the boat is inverted. Hopefully, anybody paddling such a boat will at least have stern bags but today's boats often allow only small sized bags in the stern.

I find getting modern whitewater boats out of the current by bulldozing them to shore or using a rescue or tow tether, is much more difficult than it used to be. The older 10+ foot boats usually had enough air trapped in the bow to float it even when they were not equipped with small bow bags. But today's boats wallow nose down in the water and tend to hang up as they approach shore. I would advise anyone towing a flooded whitewater play boat to shore using a tether to clip on to the stern grab loop rather than the bow.