Installed foot brace & seat in Wildfire

today (Sunday) and tried them out.

I purchased a used royalex Wildfire with vinyl gunwales last spring and early on decided that I didn’t like the stock cane seat and that it would greatly benefit from a foot brace when I paddle sitting - which I do 99% of the time.

Last March I had purchased a Wenonah black aluminum sliding foot brace ($30) at Canoecopia (planned to put it in my Mad River Slipper) and in August I bought the contoured Bell web seat ($35) at Carl & John’s that Bell uses in the their composite canoes, to replace the stock seat, which I found uncomfortable for very long.


Yesterday I installed the contour web seat. I had to disconnect one end of each of the thwarts so I could open the boat wide enough to remove the old seat and install the new seat. I’m not extremely skilled with boat mods, so it took me a while to get the new seat measured up properly and get it cut to width and drill the mounting holes in just the right places. I actually cut one leg of the seat frame about 1/2" shorter than planned, but was able to make it work.


Today I bought a pop rivet tool and installed the foot brace. I spent quite a bit of time measuring out and marking the mounting position, but the actual installation was very quick. I mounted it so that the top edge is 8" off of the floor of the boat throughout it’s entire sliding range, which is probably higher than optimum for my size 8.5 feet, 7" would probably be better. I can always lower it later if need be. I wasn’t sure how high to mount it, since none of my other canoes have a foot brace.

I duct taped the slide rails to the side of the boat and adjusted them until both rails were the same distance from the top edge of the gunwales and then drilled the holes for the large head rivets that were included with the brace for royalex boats and installed the rivets.


The seat is definately more comfortable than the stock cane seat and since it is contoured and dips in the middle, it is lower than the stock seat, which contributes a little to improved stability - I may still lower the seat another inch or so. I may even add some sort of back band or back edge to the seat to keep me from sliding too far back when pushing off of the foot braces. Pushing off of foot braces for power and control is a situation where I prefer the countoured tractor style seats which hold your butt in place better.

The foot brace definately improves boat control while sitting and facilitates more powerful strokes. The jury is still out on whether I’d be better off with lowered an inch or so.

Now I just need to get it out on a river to try it out.

So, for $65 in accessories and $18 for a good pop rivet tool that I’ll probably use many times again, I have a boat that I now feel more comfortable in and have more control over.

good mods
Lowering the seat and adding a footbrace are a couple of modifications that I frequently make to my “new” boats. I’ve always found them to be well worth the little bit of time that it takes to do them.

The wide body Bell contoured web
is indeed more comfy IMHO than the cane seat. I have one in my Swift Osprey and I like it a lot, enough so that I’m switching my other canoes over to a contoured seat this winter (good wintertime project inside by the woodstove).

also had the problem of butt scooting backwards during power strokes so I bought one of the SitBacker canoe seats that straps to the seat and has a cushioned bottom and an adjustable back. Especially handy for more stability when using zoom lens and binoculars, too. Crazy Creek makes a similar strap on chair, and I’ve seen sit on top kayak seats adapted to canoe, but not very comfy IMHO.


We rigged a removable backband
in my boat and it makes a huge difference. I like the sound of your new seat. I set closed cell foam on my Mowhawk web seat and it’s pretty good, but the front edge of the seat can make me sore after an all day paddle. I have my seat about 5-6" off the bottom of the boat. I also use the large size pool noodles as thigh braces for better contact with my boat.

Definitely worth the time and expense.

Did the same with the Merlin
however I used the 4" seat drops Bell sells to increase stability while at rest fishing. Also found the Skwoosh seat pad that was recently discontinued as they are coming out with an improved version. It really did help in terms of comfort.

With the Merlin I do use a cooler that fits between seat and back thwart. This provides a pretty good backrest especially since I velcroed a small piece of pad to the front of it. Helpful for lower back contact while powering off footbrace with stroke.

I have a Sitbacker canoe seat in my Poke
Boat and still have the problem of sliding too far back in the seat. I have another Sitbacker that I may try if I lower the seat a couple inches. I would be sitting way too high if I tried it with the seat at the current level, but I could test the concept to see if it kept my butt in place.

I like the idea of pool noodles on the
gunwales for improving contact for thigh bracing. I would experiment with that if I could find some pool noodles locally. I may try some of the thicker pipe insulation.

I think I paddled a boat with a Skwoosh
pad or something very similar this summer. It seemed pretty comfortable.

I may try that trick of the padded hard cooler between the seat and rear thwart. That just may do the trick.

Did you install
Toe straps on the foot brace. I find toe straps along with the foam thigh braces greatly enhance boat control.

foam thigh braces?
What are these?

What toe straps? Tell me more.

I use a strap
With either 3 hose clamps or cable ties. One on each end of the foot brace and one in the middle. Just tight enough to slip my feet under. It can keep you from slipping back in the seat when you are pushing on the foot brace as well as making you feel part of the boat. I also like the secure feeling they seem to give you when you are leaning into a turn. I use them with my J200 and DY Special. I think J&J Canoe Supply in NY sells a foot strap kit for about $6.00.

Sounds good - I’ll check into it.
Toe straps seem like they’d be safer than thigh straps.

Long term effects from footbrace
I’ve long toyed with the idea of installing the Wenonah footbrace on royalex by drilling through the hull and using rivets. I’ve not done so because of the concern that the incessant pressure on/pressure off would eventually and inevitably work open the hole in the hull. Any experience out there with long term heavy use? I’d sure appreciate the benefit of your experience.

I’ve been paddling a Wildfire RX for about 4 years now. I’m very curious as to why you’d want to put a foot-brace in that particular canoe. The WF-RX is a kneeling canoe if ever there was one. It’s your boat of course; do as you want. No offense intended, I’m just curious.

I’d do it if I had one
I can’t kneel 100% of the time (though I try). I have to let the circulation come back about once an hour or so. When I have to sit, I appreciate still having three solid points of contact with the hull. To me, the only downside to a footbrace is a couple ounces of weight and a pretty small purchase price.

I paddle sitting most of the time and
a footbrace is helpfult while sitting.

I still feel awkward kneeling in my Wildfire - the strokes feel awkward. It certainly feels more stable while kneeling. I feel more comfortable kneeling an paddling in my MR Slipper and Lotus BJX than in the Wildfire.

I wouldn’t and I don’t kneel but
I don’t see any need for a foot brace with a bench seat. A tractor seat yes or at least with a backband. But that’s just me. I don’t think you will gain much in the way of speed or control with all that in the Wildfire, especially in Royalex. This boat will only build speed to a point before it begins to plow water. And yes I have had both Royalex and Composite, two different animals. Fantastic boats.

Tractor seat in Wildfire - great idea
N.T. Where can I get one to mount in the Wildfire? I like tractor seats.

In my only test paddle after installing the foot brace, I perceived that it greatly enhanced control of the boat, but my butt was sliding back on the seat and taking a little control away from what I could have if I wasn’t sliding. I will be looking into options to keep my butt from sliding back. Preferrably, it would be something short enough to still allow me to lay back to go under overhanging branches on the rivers.

I agree completely that the royalex Wildfire is relatively slow and hits a wall pretty early.

What prompted me to ask that question earlier is that some of the best attributes of the Wildfire RX hull design are that it has solid secondary stability and is fairly maneuverable when heeled. This boat can be edged to the rails with security and is capable of tight maneuvering when in that position. This is one of the reasons it’s such a fun creek/small river boat. The hull characteristics of this particular boat can not be fully exploited while sitting. Another characteristic of the Wildfire in Royalex is that it has a rather blunt entry and is full bodied. These design elements mean that it has a rather low top speed. Paddle it harder than its slow ultimate hull speed will allow it to go and it will respond by plowing water as Norb said. In previous conversations about this model some have said it “hits a wall” at speed – I agree completely with that. This is a boat that is rather easy to reach top speed with, there’s just no need for bracing & tractor seats, thigh pads, bent shafts, etc, etc. Using “sit ‘n switch” paddling techniques (which pour on power in “go fast/go straight” lake tripping & racing canoes) are pointless with a hull of this design. This boat can be nimble, but it can not go fast.

FWIW, being well into my fifth decade I sometimes sit cross-legged in mine during the flats to rest my legs. Sometimes I sit more straight-legged using a dry bag (strapped in) as a foot-brace of sorts during rest periods. But when I’m actively paddling for control I’m kneeling with this boat. IMHO all this boat needs is a kneeling pad and a seat adjusted to the right height to lean against with your butt.

As I said earlier; it’s your boat do as you want. Those are just my thoughts on a boat I’ve spent a lot of time with… Carry on, I’ll shut up now. ;^) - R