kayak comfort

i’ve done a little paddling here and there for a while, but i just got my own boat and would like to get god at it. one problem though is that kayaks just aren’t comfortable. an hour, maybe 2, and i start to feel like i really want to get out of the boat. do i just need practice? is it because i am not in tip top shape? what are the kinds of things you do to keep your back from killing you sitting like that? thanks


What boat do you have?
I can sit in mine for hours with no discomfort.

the boats i’ve used
my dad has a necky eskia that i’ve spent a fair amount of time in and i have a feathercraft k1 i just bought

I’ll bet everyone is unique…
and what makes mine comfortable won’t necessarily work for you. But I’ll tell you anyway in case it gives you an idea you can use.

I went through three sea kayaks before I found one I could reasonably stay in for 4 hours. The primary difference in the one that fits, is I can get some bend in my knees when sitting with my knees up in the knee braces.

My other kayaks required too little bend (straight leg)when I was in paddling position, even though they were supposedly suitably sized for someone my height. Those boats work well for my shorter friends so they are still used.

Secondarily, being able to lift the front edge of the seat to support my thighs helped a lot, in that I could be ‘locked in’ without a lot of exertion, yet push my heels forward a bit and get out easily. Also, just as you ‘pump your hands’ as you paddle (open up the upper hand) to promote blood flow, I do the same thing with my feet on the side the paddle is wet. This helps prevent tingling in the feet, and helps me get rid of it if I wasn’t using good form and the tingling started.

The open upper hand and the pumping with the foot were things I learned about when trying to improve my forward stroke, and this, along with good torso rotation, also tends to improve my comfort level in the kayak.

some thoughts

– Last Updated: Oct-21-09 6:12 PM EST –

three areas to look at... the boat, your body and your mind. The part about your mind is if you are a beginner you may be nervous (even just a little) and tense which causes sore back and other areas. Spending lots of short time in the boat and taking lessons both can help with this.

For you body do what you can to strengthen your core (abs, and such) and become more limber (stretch). Warming up with a good walk/jog before paddling may help. Paddle as often as possible, but try to stop just about when you think you will get sore. Make sure you upper body is anywhere from straight up to slightly forward (you're not in a lounge chair). Getting your legs involved in paddling also helps with lower back pain.

For the boat you may want someone that knows paddling well to look it over. You may want to either adjust or replace your backband. Also it sometimes helps to but something under your legs in front of your seat like a partially inflated paddle float, towel, etc. It should lift your leg only slightly and not impede lifting/lowering a knee or getting out in an emergency. I needed this a bit until I adapted to longer trips.

try a different seat
or remove the seat and sit on some padding on the floor of the kayak. I have a QCC 700 and the seat was killer on my butt and back. I built a new seat that gives more thigh support, and better back support.

Have not had it on the water yet, but in the yard it felt pretty good. Padding can help a lot. I am going to give 1/2 inch Armaflex insulation sheet for padding a try.

I Like the Phase 3 Seat
and a backband. Set the seat for maximum thigh support and tuck a compressed foam block under your calves / ankles. Works for me. Might work for you. Wilderness Systems boats.

allow ALOT of variance in how the seat/seat back are set up. It was one the things that bugged me about my folder, how moving the seat forward/back a smidge would put my legs asleep.

if you put your boat together and it feels really good, mark the location of where the seat is on the tubes with some tape or something, so next time you can find the same positioning.

if you uncomfortable in all boats, I could suggest working on stretching you legs, posture and core strength.

wow you guys got back quick with quality advice, thanks so much. i really was worried that kayaking was going to be off limits to me, i’ll give these a try

Rome wasn’t built in a day
If you don’t ride a bike and then get on one, you can’t expect to do a 25 miler or a century ride with out training up to them.

If you are a walker and decide to start running, you can’t just go out and run a 10K

Etc, etc - get the message ?

enjoy paddling for a hour and then gradually increase your time over a longer period.

Your butt and your bod will thank you and eventually treat you the way that you would like them to.



Stretch every morning for 20 minutes. Do some yoga. Etc, etc.

I agree with what everyone said, but I’d
add skills development. As you become a more efficient and effective paddler, you will find your stamina increasing. So do what everyone said AND take a few classes from a good teacher. It will make a difference.

Stretch your hamstrings
The biggest thing most beginning paddlers can do to improve their comfort on most kayaks is to stretch their hamstrings. This always helps.

Another thing to try is to loosen or remove the back band. This helps about a third of the folks who try it. But if it helps you itis really worth trying it.

To be perfectly honest . . .
Although I love kayaking, I have never found a comfortable seat after owning a whole lot of kayaks and trying all kinds of seats and pads.

The first problem is hamstring pain. You can only elevate the thighs if there happens to be extra space above your legs. That’s not always the case in a close-fitting cockpit.

The second problem for me is the shape and placement of the backrest (not talking about backbands here). I wonder if manufacturers are looking closely enough at the human back. The back is CONCAVE above the belt. And yet almost all seats are CONVEX. Why??? You end up with a seat back that hits you on both sides, but not in the middle, where you need the support.

Looked at from the side, the human rear end is convex, with a concave area above the belt. Most seats will hit you in the rear end, but not provide support in the small of the back.

I think one cause of the problem is that in general the back rest is positioned too close to the seat pan, to make it easy to attach to the seat pan. I think someone should figure out how to attach an adjustable backrest a couple of inches behind the seat pan. I’m thinking of ripping out my backrest and gluing foam to the rear coaming/rear bulkhead.

Don’t know why Herman Miller can make great ergonomic chairs but kayak manufacturers can’t make a seat that resembles the human body. Big mystery to me. Why do they make a seat and then try to sell you a cushion to go with it? Why don’t they just make the seat comfortable in the first place, so you don’t need another cushion?

The only solution at present is to get yourself some foam and tape/glue it wherever you need it.

End of rant.

How tall/big are you?
If you are on the short side, the boats you mention are both quite wide and almost guaranteed to give you a back pain. I also suspect that they may be encouraging you to lean back too much. This’ll create all kinds of uncomfortable tension as you try to make the boat work.

I’d suggest that you go somewhere that can get you into a boat that fits you well, demo that, before you figure that this is a long term problem.

get out of the boat
unless you have a goal that requires sitting in the kayak untill you’re uncomfortable what’s the problem with stopping and getting out?

You may find that will start a process of discovery where you find solutions to getting comfortable sitting longer.

second that
proper posture will help design a better seat than have a seat accomodate to poor posture/technique.

Rotate your torso.
Don’t lean on the seat back.

Push off of the footpegs with your legs to generate the power for your stroke and rotate your entire upper body during the stroke. That should help keep your lower back moving and blood flowing and reduce aches. The potential downside is that your legs and abdominal muscles may get sore from the workout.

yep, torso movement…
I did a long nine hour paddle with a slower group and was getting a lower back ache. When going slow I tend not to use such good form (trying to improve that). Anyway when one member of the group got seasick and wanted a place to land I did some sprinting ahead to scout out a spot and went into full proper form mode. Well after I noticed I had no more lower back ache.

AND get out and stretch

– Last Updated: Oct-22-09 12:03 PM EST –

I'm a big advocate for hedonistic training so that recovery/endorphins can happen during the paddle and not when everything is done. It helps to ratchet one up to the next plateau of fitness and skill with less fatique or longer recovery if the learning is done inside your comfort zone and not pushing it to overused muscles all the time. Get the whole package working efficiently then push the whole body not just a few ligaments and muscles.