improving seat comfort

I have a BorealDesign Kasko which I love, but I’m wondering if anyone has purchased one of those seat backs that go over the existing seat to make the support a bit higher on the back. I’m having some new back issues and I think I need more support. I had one in my hand at a paddle show today and a sales person in a different booth talked me out of it. He suggested I post here to see what my options might be. Any ideas?

Describe the current seat…
you have in the boat.

These the correct measurements?
This is what was on BorealDesigns site - does it match your boat?

Length: 13’ (3,96 m)

Cockpit: 16’’ x 30’’ (41 x 76 cm)

Beam: 23 1/2" (59,6 cm)

Volume: 100 gal us (375 l)

Depth: 14’’ (35,6 cm)

It appears the boat has thigh braces optional. Did you get them?

The picture shows a seat back, not a back band, and in the side view it looks to me like a bit of the back is sticking above the cockpit. If I am seeing that right, the seat back is tall enough to extend at least 14 inches above the deck.

Looking at all of this, I suspect that your real problem is that the seat encourages you to be sitting back against it rather than sitting more erect and using your core muscles to support yourself. If that is the problem, making the seat back taller won’t change anything.

The reason that many here will argue against seat backs is that they encourage a barcalounger paddling position rather than a more erect one, with torso rotation for strokes, that tends to maintain a healthy back. If you are short enough that 23.5 inch beam could make rotation a bit tough, but if you are a taller person it shouldn’t be fatal to getting good rotation.

high backs
I paddle a lot, and have similar issues with factory seats. Perhaps my core muscles are just too weak, but I need to relax against a supportive back rest, especially since I’ll go for 8 hours at a time. I wound up making my own seat carving out the shape from glued up blocks of rubberized foam, fiberglassing over that, and then adding another 1/2" layer of foam to sit on. The seat back I made is about 13" high, and is hinged to the seat; also layered with 1/2" foam and fits me very well due to much trial and error. I also made rails so that the seat can slide forward and back by just shifting my weight. This allows for several different angles which dramatically changes the pressure on my back.

I looked into after-market factory seats, but without actually being able to try them for 4-5 hours at a time, it’s hard to know what will still feel good.

I agree
A tall seat back encourages bad posture and bad technique.

I can’t count the number of people I’ve seen on flatwater leaning way back against a seat back, and arm paddling in front and above their chests. That’s gotta hurt. It also kills an efficient stroke.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but a modest backband that only keeps your spine vertical will actually be more comfortable over time than a tall seatback. You’ll paddle faster and with less effort, too.

A good kayak paddle stroke should use your whole body, not just your arms. Try it for a month, and I bet you’ll only want to tweak the backband a little, not remove it. If you take a forward stoke lesson, you’ll see what I mean right away.

Also consider …
As mentioned above … getting a very high seat back just puts you in a worse position’habits for paddling posture … your core muscles need to help hold you up and not just your lower back muscles.

Back pain in a kayak can be caused when your butt is at the same level as your feet. You can experiment with raising the seat slightly (1 to 2 Inches ) with a foam block, adjusting your foot pegs and thigh braces.

IF your doctor OKs get a gym member ship and work out with weight machines and “Captains Chair” to strengthen your core … your back will feel better in other activities.

Seat back not the cause of poor posture
I don’t think there is an a priori relationship between having a seat back and incorrect body position. People may choose to lean far back, but that’s not the fault of the seat. There is no reason why an adjustable seat back can’t be used to support a proper position.

I find the most comfortable position for kayaking to be about the same as the right position for a computer desk chair, driving, etc. The ergonomics are about the same, I think. Lumbar support is probably the most important key, with thigh support second, plus tail bone relief and cushioning.

On a long trip I find that an adjustable seat back lets me change my position frequently to give relief to tired muscles or pain points. Every now and then I do release the seat back and lean back for a minute or two for relief.

One theory is that you can develop strong back muscles that can hold you up all day. A counter argument is that every muscle in the body needs to rest frequently, and back muscles in particular need support. A well-designed seat back accomplishes that nicely.

I think if you look at the history of kayaks you can trace how the current norm for sea kayak seats came about. Then you can ask whether those conditions are similar to your personal ergonomics and kayaking conditions.

For example, a sea kayak manufacturer told me that 85% of all kayakers will never need to roll a kayak. That makes the height of the seat for layback or reentry moot for many people.

The trend now is toward designing more comfortable seats. Progress toward that goal has been very slow, but there were some good new models in 2010. My advice to the OP is to consider installing a new seat if modifying your current seat doesn’t work.

Can you post a photo?
Would love to see your seat.

It’s not progress. It’s divergence.
The trend towards successively taller and more luxurious seats in recreational kayaks and transitional kayaks does not illustrate evolutionary steps towards a better-performing kayak seat. Rather it’s just marketing pressure. A kayak company representative once told me, seats sell kayaks. The fact is that most people buying a kayak know next to nothing about what they’re buying, so they put the most weight on the one thing that looks familiar to them - the seat.

At the same time as transitional and touring kayak seats have gotten more and more bells and whistles, the $4000 sea kayaks, even the ones with new designs from new companies, nearly all have simple seats with simple minimalist backbands.

It’s not that rec boats are the pinnacle of seat evolution, they’re just a divergence. People who need performance or speed still choose simple seats and backbands, and I suspect they always will.

Posture counts

– Last Updated: Apr-03-11 4:48 PM EST –

Let's stop with the evolutionary nonsense.
Kayaking to survive - procure food - is not current day.

I blow thousands of calories doing sprints for fun,
fisherman want a floating couch with poles attached,
and the rec boat paddler paddles maybe 4 hrs a week,
--all of it has nothing to do with Nanook of the North.

The mechanics of efficient paddling involve torso
rotation, which involves alternating butt checks,
and the small of the back rubbing on the seatback.
Racing kayaks will never have high seatbacks.

For those compromising efficiency for other
items such as comfort, the seat will change accordingly.

Fishing guys of 2011 will tell ya' to your face,
in no uncertain terms or language,
they fish first and foremost,
and actual kayaking is a distant second.

Some people are kayakers, some want to look like one


Floating Fishy finding thing-a-mo-bob device

“85% of all kayakers will never need to roll a kayak”

Not if they are home sitting on their barcaloungers watching TV.

Nobody needs to roll a kayak. But kayaks are designed to be rolled when being used for intended purpose. But turning a kayak into a pool toy is stupid and is just a trend to support obese, inactive population.

seat info
The current seat is actually a back band. It is adjustable, but there is no real lumbar support. I am tall 5"11 and do not have thigh braces on the boat. I do have about 11/2 in of foam under the seat already. The back problems are new this year and I’m anxious about being able to go as long with my paddling group. Just wondered if there was something I could purchase, but maybe I should just double up on gym time instead!

Seat back and posture
Strictly speaking, posture should be independent of what is behind your back. But that’s not what someone does after a while of paddling. I do it too - I’ll tend to slump back against anything that is there once I get tired.

An adjustable seat that can come up and provide solid support at the lumbar level then fade away would work fine. But I’ve been in boats with seat backs - and my first sea kayak had one - and over time the things tend to creak baaack even if they did start out sitting smartly upright. It’s the nature of plastic and the bungies and straps that are usually used in the assembly. It gets to a point where it is easier to just toss it and go to a backband or something like a Redfish foam insert.

I am not saying that it is impossible to get a seat back arrangement to encourage a good posture. It isn’t easy either, and for the most part the paddlers that want a high seat back aren’t asking for the same kind of support as those who go with a backband.

As to how many sea kayakers roll below, or need to… people are talking thru their hats. No one has an accurate number on that, or for that matter what they are calling a sea kayaker.

OK - things to consider
Thigh braces may be worth a look - it’ll give you a more solid position for your legs if you are “pedaling” as you paddle, one of the way to enhance rotation. You can get minicell foam and cut them roughly to shape, then glue them in and see how that works. Cheaper and a better way to make sure it’s right for you than to buy stuff from the kayak maker. It is possible that you are contorting to keep pressure on the foot pegs because you lack a secure anchor at midpoint in your legs

As to that seat - is it scooped so that your sitz bones are sitting deep into the rear portion of the seat? I am asking because I have one boat that went from a guaranteed backache at 2 hours to all day comfort by doing two things. One was that I cut out the foam so the seat overall tilted down a little, as mentioned above. The other thing was that I filled in the two lovely indents intended to cradle my tush so that the seat was actually pretty flat. I appreciate the manufacturer’s intention, but I need to be sitting on a rail to avoid a back problem.

Physical therapy
Before jumping into gym work that might actually cause injury, please consult with a good PT. He or she should be able to figure out what’s going on now and how to help you correct for imbalances in muscle strength.

Also, even if you improve the situation, it’s a good idea to stop now and then, maybe get out of the kayak and walk around. A change in position always feels nice after hours of any sports activity that requires sitting.

You might add some minicell foam pieces under the thighs if the seat pan is shorter than comfortable for you. It’s a cheap and easy modification.

After years of WW paddling
I finally wised up. You do not need to be tightly outfitted in your boat. Torso rotation that involves all of your torso (not just your shoulders) requires being able to straighten each leg, moving your butt, and leaning forward or back when required. In particular core strength and endurance is crucial. Now I simply loosen my back band in both my WW boats and sea kayaks. The back band is only there to keep me from the sharper edges of the coaming if I lean back. It only takes a short time to develop the core strength and endurance to not need the back band/seat back. The end result is less back trouble. I know because I used to have serious back pain problems. Paddling 8 hours is not a problem if you take sensible breaks. Forget about the higher seat back.

cheap option that might work
I have always generally preferred a Snapdragon back band or low similar seat-back but I have to admit that the inflatable low lumbar supporting back (and seat bottom) in my most recent Feathercraft (Wisper) is the most comfortable seating arrangement I’ve ever had. You can get a Feathercraft complete seat for around $175 and try to retrofit it to your boat. Pakboat also has a very comfortable inflatable seat (around $130). But we are planning to try to retrofit our other boats with bad seats (all flat and semi high cut) with a similar inflatable lumbar pillow that Sierra Trading post is currently selling for $15.,3249V_Crazy-Creek-Air-Seat-BackrestandCushion-II.html

This appears to be very similar to the Feathercraft backrest in dimensions and shape. And with the two detaching buckle straps we should be able to mount it over the existing seat backs support or use it to elevate our thighs to improve the hip and leg position.

In a day or two I can report back how these worked (they are due to be delivered by UPS tomorrow and if it stays as warm as it is today I plan to take one of the 'yaks out on the Mon River after work) – just wanted to suggest this to you while they were still in stock at STP. Seems like a cheap possible solution (and the pillow would be useful for other purposes if not.)

I also highly recommend the reverse back resistance machine (the one where you sit bent over and then stretch back slowly and straighten out against 100 lbs or so of weight). I have been using one regularly as part of my workouts and find it greatly extends the flexibility and endurance of my lower back muscles. Between that and using the effective rotational stroke that engages my abdominal obliques, I rarely have any trouble any more.

Actually, I;ve noticed when I paddle that I don’t rest against the seat OR back band much anyway – I notice the comfort of the Feathercraft seat on lazy, drift-downstream fastwater trips where I am more likely to lounge than paddle hard.

Vous exaggérez un peu
It’s not like seat backs are getting to be three feet tall, eh? Current improvements are tending toward better lumbar and thigh support—exactly what sea kayakers look for when they modify their seats. Most decent seats already offer adjustable forward lean.

“Luxurious” doesn’t mean “barcalounger.” It means “so well supported that a full day of kayaking doesn’t leave me crippled.”

Of course there’s marketing pressure. But don’t assume that every person who wants decent cushioning and support knows nothing about kayaking or ergonomics. Yes, those folks should be sending a strong message to manufacturers about what they want. If I spend $2000+ on a kayak, why should I have to rip out the seat and start over?

Seats do sell kayaks, I’m sure. Because what’s the use of a fabulous kayak that doesn’t provide comfort for your main point of contact?

You know, anyone who wants to move forward efficiently will figure out after 15 minutes that they need to be upright or leaning forward. They will adjust their seat accordingly. People who don’t care about speed and efficiency will lean back. To each his own. It’s all good—people out enjoying the outdoors in their own way.

“The small of the back rubbing
on the seat back”—where do you get this? I hear it all the time. It’s a myth. A properly designed and adjusted seat back doesn’t do that.

When I say “properly designed” I mean it has a bump that fits neatly into the curve of the small of the back. In other words, a lumbar support just like a good office chair. This one isn’t bad:

This one is good too:

Does it have to be either or with efficiency vs comfort? If so, designers aren’t doing their job. Anybody can make a backband, but it looks like it’s a challenge to make a seat that resembles the human body.

I assume that at your job you sit on a stool rather than a chair right? Don’t want to let those back muscles get too soft.

Tall seat backs inhibit proper technique
You can’t rotate your torso properly when it’s pinned against a tall seat back, unless you like being chafed. I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve seen someone with good paddling technique using a high seat back. Typically, what you see is people leaning back and arm paddling. Perhaps that’s all they need or want to do, but anyone who is actually interested in paddling efficiently is not going to be well-served by a tall seat back.