Kayak with High seatback?

Springtime Greetings, fellow kayakers!

I’ve been paddling Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100 for past several months. It’s overall a great kayak but my back aches because of luck of backrest support. Its seatback is only 13 inches high vs 15” for my Emotion Temptation SOT. I see that Pungo 100 might be a perfect choice for me where I can extend seatback to 18 inches high! I hope, I’ll find it on craigslist for a good price. If not, what other options do I have? Has anyone found an easy way to put a good backrest? Any other ~10ft sit-in recreational kayaks (w. large cockpit) with high seatbacks out there?

Thank you for any suggestions you can provide!

Happy paddling!

Paddling posture

– Last Updated: Mar-17-12 7:50 PM EST –

Some might say it's a lack of core muscles affecting
the back and it has nothing to do with the seat.

Leaning back while sitting makes paddling difficult.

Most kayakers use extremely low seats

Now if you merely want a floating couch platform
-well, that ain't exactly kayaking, it's floating.

Prefer Low Back Support
My VOLKSKAYAKs use really simple seating - a folded ThermaRest 3/4 sleeping pad under me, and a carved or improvised backrest jammed under the aft cockpit rim. I can stay in the boat for hours without discomfort.


As Willie noted above, posture is key - my back seldom touches the backrest when I’m underway. I lean slightly forward, and use body rotation to get higher-arm (blade in air) ‘pushing’ power from the big back and shoulder muscles, rather than ‘pulling’ power from the far weaker lower-arm (blade in water) muscles. Paddling while ‘sitting back’ leads to the exact reverse - the arms ‘pull’ the boat thru the water, and it is really tiring, especially on the lower back.

Finally, a seat back that’s higher than the aft cockpit rim is a menace when re-entering - we removed the high seat back on my wife’s Cape Horn 15 and replaced it with a much lower carved backrest for just that reason. She found it improved her posture and technique, was far more comfortable and supportive when paddling, and greatly simplified re-entries.

Seat back support
As you may have gathered from the above posts the amount of seat back support that is appropriate depends on your boat, your paddling goals, and your physical condition. In my personal case I paddle an 18’ sea kayak and I have a low back support that I leave very loose. Essentially I have no back support. I work on my core strength and having no back support is not a big deal. On the other hand having no back support increases my ability to rotate my torso and makes my paddling more efficient and I am less tired after a long paddle. But if I was in a recreational kayak and just putzing around (nothing wrong with that) I would probably want a substantial back support. If that is your purpose, kind of paddling, and kind of boat then you only need to replace the back support in the boat you like. There is a ton of after-market stuff out there. And I assure you replacing the back support in a kayak you own is a lot cheaper than selling it and buying another with different back support.

There are as many different ways
to engage in the sport of Kayaking as there are people. I think it is important for the sport that we embrace it all. As new Kayaker I too find that a low back support is best for me. It is somewhat counterintuitive but I find that it is actually more comfortable and that it promotes a style of paddling that consumes much less energy, (torso rotation and use of large muscles not arms). But my wife, for example, likes to lean back into a large and high back support. She paddles differently than I do and she has different goals. Also, your level of fitness and your athletic ability can impact the choice of back support you prefer. But my feeling is that you need to do what is best for you and that way you will get out on the water more and have more fun.

i agree
With the above posts. Something also to thinlk about. Some rec boats have bad contact points with your back. In your mind you might be thinking that it would be better with more of a chair set up, but it probably won’t be, and if it is it could be that you are just removing the bad contact point with your back. Support for hips is really what helps. Your back can more than support itself from your hips to your neck.

Ryan L.

Don’t need much
I have about 5" of minicell foam. Sit up and work on your core and your back should be fine. I had back issues, but since starting kayaking I’ve gotten much better.

Minicell foam - No sponge action
For those new to the sport, many of us use the term

“minicell foam” to refer to foam that does not

absorb water, ie. closed cell foam .

Examples from NRS


Mini-cell is a term used for closed cell

chemically crosslinked polyethylene foams

with a smooth surface and extremely fine cell structure

Density is a key flexible polyurethane foam

specification. It serves as an indicator of

comfort , support, and durability.

Flexible polyurethane foam density is measured

in pounds per cubic foot (pcf)

or the metric equivalent (kg/m3).

A broad range of densities exist from as

low as 0.8 pcf to as high as 6 pcf.

Since density is actually a measurement

of mass per unit volume it is not to be

confused with weight.

The higher the polymer density of the foam,

the greater the cost of the foam.

Additives and fillers will modify the polymer

density changing various characteristics.

If your back aches now…
it is most likely due to poor posture and lack of core tone. Going to a higher seat back that will make it easier to continue this habit is not going to help.

I am not arguing against a rec boat and the traditional seat back per se, but against relying on that to determine your posture paddling. It should be upright, not leaning against the seat back to support your stroke, and using torso rotation. This should be so regardless of what you are paddling.

Thank You!
I appreciate all your feedback guys. You offered some good insights and solutions. I’ll see what I’ll come up with and leave an update.

Cheers from NJ :slight_smile: