Kayak Stability - Amputee

So, I have recently fully recovered from a trauma above knee amputation and I am trying to get back into kayaking but I am having difficulty accounting for the weight disparity between my port and starboard side.

What is strange, is the kayak is behaving in the opposite of what I was expecting it to.

I am a leg short on starboard and assumed that the yak would want to dip down on my port side (where my one big fat leg is).

The yak however is dipping on starboard.

I can keep the kayak balanced well enough when moving in a straight line and providing even power on both sides, but things get a little hairy when trying to turn.

I’m assuming that I can add outriggers to at least prevent the yak from capsizing but I am curious if anyone can shed some light on the kayaks behavior and if there is anything else I can add to try and offset the weight disparity.

Some further detail
How high up the thigh is the amputation and what model kayak are you paddling?

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY




Some Further Details.
Two inches above knee leaving me with a sizeable residual limb. It’s worth noting that between my excercise regiment, road cycling, hiking, weight lifting, etc etc. My one remaining leg has become huge.

The Kayak is an Aruba sun dolphin 10’ sit in. Not the best, but a decent and cheap starting point.

Can you install a cross brace ?
So that you can brace off the center of the kayak with your good leg when you want to turn ?

I would think bracing off the center would help when paddling straight also.

Jack L

I think jack might be on to something

– Last Updated: Jan-21-16 4:07 PM EST –

Are you able to engage your hips or upper thighs against the kayak (and is it outfitted for bracing)?

When you change course and this happens, do you feel yourself moving around in the boat a bit?

Cross-brace/bar is definitely do-able
I think that would help with stability while moving.

I should have also mentioned that when I’m just resting in the kayak, it tips about an inch or so down on my starboard side.

Foot brace
I have a foot brace installed on my good side (Port) and can keep myself firmly seated in the seat with no movement.

I only engage my hips on my good side as I don’t have anything for my residual limb to brace against.

I’m entertaining building a crude straight leg prosthesis (I have enough spare parts) and rigging up something for it to brace against, but the prosthesis are highly susceptible to water damage unless I bathe them in WD-40 after every outing.

Bridge 2 sports
See if there is anything like Bridge 2 sports in your area. I think a little help from people with the same experience may be useful.

Contact points

– Last Updated: Jan-21-16 10:12 PM EST –

After looking at some pics of your kayak and from what I've done with the Wounded Warrior project/ACA Adaptive Paddling, I would try to reestablish connection with the starboard foot peg by using a large dry bag as a booster seat for your foot peg with something softer in the end where your leg is going to contact it. Given that your kayak allows for 3 points of contact (2 foot pegs, 1 rear end) you're paddling down 1/3 of your leveage points which makes sense on turns where the paddle is sweeping on the starboard side as normally the foot pressure on your torso rotation is what is turning your pelvis. Now with only 1/2 the support on that side during a sweep (foot peg/seat) wobbliness is the result. Easy experiment. See how it goes.

See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY

you might have photos taken
straight on from the bow & stern when resting. There is a possibility that you are shifting or twisting to the side with the amputation. Pictures might help you identify what’s up.

Always good to recognize these things.
If you’re resting your body weight equally on your butt, the leg weight should cause a shift in the kayak. So you probably want to focus on why you’re planting more weight on one side of your butt while sitting, and if that’s something you should look to try to mitigate, or whether it’s normal and ok for long term health and comfort of your hips and back and such. I imagine muscle memory develops without even realizing it. But those tendencies can sometimes be trained as well. I have no idea about your situation and anything involved. But your kayak is probably giving you some valuable insight into your developing tendencies.

pool noodle?

– Last Updated: Jan-22-16 12:16 PM EST –

Might be hard to find this time of year, but they make very large diameter hard foam pool noodles and I wonder if one of those, cut to fit the distance from your remaining extremity to the foot peg, would give you a way to bridge that distance for bracing and balancing. Since the noodles are hollow and can be carved, you could secure some kind of non-skid pad on both ends by fishing cord through the channel, even lashing the bottom end to the foot peg. It would be an easy and cheap thing to try. You could ask at sporting goods or toy stores if they had any left over in the back room. You would essentially be constructing a sort of waterproof (albeit crude) prosthesis.

Marshall's suggestion of inflatable flotation bags is a good idea too.

Pool noodles are great raw material for a multitude of kayaking applications. I slice the thick ones lengthwise to make width fillers to improve body-boat contact in wider craft.

Foam Yoga Roller
Good idea Willowleaf. One up from a noodle would be a foam yoga roller (Woot.com or any number of other places) would work nicely.

The paddler end of the cylinder can be shaved to be more ergonomic with the angle and shape of your leg, Chief. Covering the contoured end with a softer foam and perhaps a fabric cover would make for a more comfortable interface. Attachment to the foot peg shouldn’t be a problem as you can probably zip tie it right to the foot rail, or by any other number of creative methods.

If you dial this in, you’re ready for customizing a whitewater kayak! You’re living room rug will never be the same again for all the foam shavings and drips of contact cement.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY



I wear a BK prosthesis

– Last Updated: Jan-22-16 3:17 PM EST –

And I wear it paddling, I don't swim too often. so it really doesn't get wet. I also have a "swim Prosthesis" it's all plastic and it is designed to get wet. I use it at the beach. I know the AK situation is more complicated, but talk with your prosthetist about your options.

and hang in there keep paddling and learn to ski for when the water gets all fluffy you can do it

It can be done
Probably 15 years ago, an undergrad with a very high amputation (probably halfway between knee and hip) used to regularly come to the local pool roll session. He was by far the best playboater there - could link flatwater cartwheels at will.

He used a padded cradle/strap setup to hold him in on the amputated side, since he didn’t have enough leg remaining to engage the thigh brace, and he used a size smaller boat to accommodate the missing weight.