Kayak leg positioning

I just got my Old Town Vapor and was originally planning on moving the footbraces about 6 inches forward due to my height. I was sitting in it again last night and got to thinking if that is really necessary. What is the proper position my legs should be in? If I leave the braces where they are now my knees are sticking up a bit and I can press my thighs against the side of the cockpit. Should my legs be flat and straight out instead of popping up a bit? Thanks.

Three points of contact

– Last Updated: Mar-17-10 8:32 AM EST –

Following applies to kayaks in general. I couldn't get the connection to give me info on the Vapor just now, but if it is more of a recreational boat the thigh braces I mention may be hard to find or not there. So you are talking about knees under the edge of the coaming, or shifting your weight or staying out of situations where that kind of control may be needed.

Ideally you need to be set up for contact in three places - your butt, your feet against footpegs (or bulkhead) and the third is your thighs under thigh braces. The last is so that you can properly control the boat by putting it on edge, or be able to being the boat back up when bracing by lifting it with your leg. For that you need to be able to lock some part of your thigh under the thigh braces.

The last part of the equation is your posture - you should be sitting fairly erect so that you can rotate with your torso to paddle. Some people require their legs to be up a bit to do that well, others have enough flexibility to manage that with legs more flat.

So if you have the Vapor set so you hit all three points and you aren't leaning back to paddle, whatever the details of getting there, you've got it. It'll probably take some time to egt it set right.

Definitely bent. If you try to spend any time in the boat with straight legs you’ll develop leg cramps like nobody’s business. Also you need to be able to apply varying amounts of forward pressure with the bottoms of your feet against the foot pegs for efficient paddling; that means from full pressure to no pressure. And the more important reason is as the previous poster points out: you need that “under cockpit” contact with the thighs/knees to provide edge control and righting. While you are at it, build in some hip pads so that it “locks” your hips so you can tilt the boat back and forth (think of a workout on a Pilates ball).

The one thing you don’t want in a kayak is a sloppy fit… you “wear” the boat, you don’t “sit” in it.

He’s only doing…

– Last Updated: Mar-17-10 10:49 AM EST –

flat and slow water and it's only a rec boat...Don't have to be all pro like and serious there. If you want to stretch your legs out, then you go and stretch them out, I do when I'm just on my local pond. But when I really have to get moving, my legs are way bent with my knees right up under that cockpit lip, like more than one pro has shown me...Then I can have more force and get through whatever I got going on! And I tend to get leg cramps quicker with my knees bent rather than sraight out, but also factor in the old dislocated knee injury for that one...So often, my left leg will be all bent nice and pro like and the right one will be flat and comfy. You'll get the feel for it, I wouldn't have even needed a pro to show me the correct leg placement, you just know after a while, you can tell what works. And again, when you don't have to make sure it's all working, then just take it easy.

Threre are two schools of thought…
…when it comes to leg position, one old and one new.

Your boat is designed to be used with bent legs, as are most boats on the market. High foredecks and keyhole cockpits make bent legs a necessity, as there is no other way to brace in them.

However, low volume boats with small cockpits, like traditional Greenland kayaks, are designed to be paddled with the legs straight. The combination of a low foredeck, small cockpit and a beam called a “masik” provides support for the thighs when needed. Commercial boats with small cockpits - typically referred to as “ocean” cockpits" can be outfitted to create the same fit by installing foam padding under the foredeck. That’s what I do on my own glass boats. The advantage of this is that you can brace anywhere across the width of the boat. If you’d like to see examples, there are several in my Webshots albums at:


So it seems
From what you guys are saying I guess I’m not too far off. My only concern would be that getting my knees under the cockpit lip will stretch me out alot. Is it extremely poor technique to have my knees/thighs braced against the side of the cockpit? As someone else stated; I’ll be doing lakes and slow rivers.

Thanks for everyones help; you’re all very helpful.

I looked up your kayak…

– Last Updated: Mar-17-10 11:16 AM EST –

It's not much different than a Perception Prodigy...And it's even a bit like my Clearwater Nunu...It's just as wide...Except my cockpit is smaller. I'd feel even safer with the larger cockpit that you have...And I was so jealous of my friend in her Prodigy as she could get her feet out to dip them in the water as we kayaked along...That's a nice bonus! So yeah, you don't need to be all pro like...Sit what ever way makes you comfy...You're just taking a leisurely paddle in a rec boat...A boat like that is highly unlikely to tip, esp where you'll be using it...I've been in 4 foot waves with mine and it didn't even feel like it was even close to tipping...And if the river you're on happens to have a beaver dam that makes the water run a bit fast...Well then you'll know to sit up straight and bend your knees so you can get the power to get through it...You feel what works and you'll just know!

I guess…
I’ll take it out a couple of times first and see how it feels. My main concern is I will be taking it one a trip and dont want to make any changes there. Thinking about it though its not a big deal to bring a drill and silicone to move the brace rail further forward. Thanks for the help everyone. I can’t wait for the weather to get a little bit better.

Pro like?
You don’t have to be “all pro like and serious” to quickly realize that the ability to move the kayak through the water efficiently will greatly enhance the pleasure of actually using the boat. When and if a kayaker ever decides (or needs) to learn to roll they will greatly appreciate being able to “feel” the boat and apply leverage at different locations.

Some might say (probably most) that the ability to roll or self-right is essential to safe kayaking. Certainly the ability to steer the boat efficiently (ie, without having to resort to the rudder) will also make those day-long or even hour-long paddles all that more enjoyable.

Position does matter

– Last Updated: Mar-19-10 11:53 AM EST –

OPer seems to be talking about doing a longer trip, with some decent time spent simply paddling forward (rather than lounging around with feet hanging over the edge). In that situation, a position that puts unnecessary stress on the back can result in some really uncomfortable or even painful moments.
If the OPer finds that they want a narrower boat for more extensive distances, they'd not be the first. But for now they need to find a way to manage this boat over distances without unneeded strain.

In the Vapor…
You want bent legs pressed against the side of the cockpit.

That cockpit is not designed to have your legs fully-splayed out and under the cockpit edge (the plastic is quite uncomfortable).

Basically, being a rec. boat - you’re after a comfortable position that you can maintain for a while. The biggest thing you can do for yourself is get in position where you’re sitting straight up and not slouching/leaning back. Your feet should be on the pegs and you should be able to push, locking yourself into the seat a bit.

Personally, unless you’re legs are very bent (knees around your chest kind of thing), I wouldn’t worry about moving the foot pegs.

You can glue or cement in foam cell where the bony part of a body may be hitting the hard parts of the boat. It’s not a perfect solution, but it can help an awful lot.