Knees and Saddles

Can a foam saddle provide enough support so that it makes a difference in kneeling - take enough of the load off of aging knees to kneel and not cramp up?

If I’m only canoeing on relatively slow rivers and lakes, will kneeling make that much of a difference?

I’ve read the books and they tell you to kneel. I’ve tried and tried but can’t make it longer than about 20 min before my knees are KILLING me - no fun. No specific injuries, just 49 years of use.

good seated solo
A saddle makes it handy to get your knees in position and to run thigh straps in a whitewater canoe. They do limit your movement and are not the best to sit on in order to stretch your legs.

A good stable solo with a low mounted seat is another option. If you are not doing whitewater or lakes with big waves, you can eliminate the kneeling issue all together. The Wenonah Prism, Solitude, Vagabond, The new Grumman solo, the Mohawk solo 14, Old Town Pack and Discovery 113, and many other 13’ to 15’ solos will fit your needs.

Even mounting a low center seat such as Wenonahs solo pedestal mounted slider in the center of your present canoe may be the answer.


I don’t think that you necessarily have to kneel, and I don’t think a foam saddle is the answer. A saddle won’t provide any more support than a seat that you can rest your backside on when you are kneeling, and unless you customize one, it won’t be as comfortable when you are sitting. Like Bill said, there are a number of other options.

As far as when to kneel is concerned, I’d suggest only doing it when you feel it is necessary or when you want to do it for a change of pace. Some comfortable kneeling pads will help, but I’ve never been able to comfortably kneel for very much longer than you describe.

Why kneel?
The last time I knelt was about eight years ago in a five mile down river canoe race, in a Blackhawk solo.

I have bone on bone in my left knee.

When I finished the race it must have taken me five minutes to get out of the boat. It was if someone had welded my knee joint in a fixed position.

I have not knelt since.


Jack L

I’m currently a sitter.
We chose a Mohawk Odyssey 14 in Royalex so I could sit and river trip. So far, I am very pleased with the boat. We have the seat about 6" off the bottom of the boat. I have adjustable foot braces and am working on a backband arrangement. I paddled a solid classI today and felt ok. My rotation and reach are limited, my solo technique is in the beginner stages, my physical stamina is poor, but the arrangement allows me to enjoy the sport. Leaning the boat for eddy turns and peel outs is dicey. I am conservative and weigh the conditions. It was cold water and moderate air temps today, so I played it safe. You can sit and paddle, but you should choose your conditions carefully. I don’t go out alone and I work with my current situation.

30 yrs ago, a motorcycle accident left me with part of a left knee. I’m ordering a new brace for the knee to see if I can stabalize and support it. Sitting is ok for quiet lakes and some rivers and some tandem paddling, but I would like to paddle class2 safely and competently, solo. A foam saddle would have to be too high to take the stress off the knees. This would be less stable than the low seat. So the grand experiment continues.

Hey Pam
what type of footbraces do you have in your boat?

I was looking and looking and finally went with Wenonahs cross brace adjustable bars. I don’t muchly car for the rivets through the hull though…


Glass them in Charlie
if you don’t want to drill thru that nice cedar, just glass in the side supports, you could make a set of wooden brackets and even use a wooden crosspiece, but since you already have an aluminum pedestal seat, why not glass in some wooden side brackets and drill them every inch for the telescoping crosspiece. You will need longer bolts for the attachment than going aluminum on aluminum, but a couple of hardwood side brackets will handle the stress, think of how many hung wooden sliders there are out there supporting 300# paddlers.

You might even be able to use some hitch pins to attach the crosspiece to the side brackets if you round off the inside edge of the brackets. Then you wouldn’t need to fuss with those small thumbscrews and wing nuts that come with the aluminum set-up when you move the footbrace.


My footbraces are the ones Mohawk sells (Yakima). The hubby drilled holes in the side of the Royalex hull and bolted them in. No leaks, no problem. They are light and extremely easy to adjust on the go. We have them set so that my heels are in the chines. If I get some hip and thigh padding installed and use a backband, I should have pretty good connection with my boat. I’m waiting for warmer water to pratice leaning into my eddy turns and peel outs. :slight_smile:

Old Knees
I switched out of ww kayaks about 8 years ago due to comfort…primarily back issues. I think most Dr’s will agree that keening is better for your lower back than sitting for long periods of time…at least it is for me. I DO use saddles, but then I’m also boating the same ww rivers I was in a kayak and not doing a lot of fishing. When you mount the saddle you usually move the rear thwart forward a bit. On a normal paddle day…say 10 miles or so of moving river, I rarely kneel in one position and prefer to shift back onto the thwart for a higher kneeling position. The real key to comfort is not the saddle, but good foam knee pads glued in place to cover all those positions.

Just to chime in
I wouldn’t kneel in a canoe unless I was doing whitewater. I can only think of one or two occasions where I’ve had to get down on my knees due to unexpected rough water in my OC-1. Just take a look at any of the guys on the marathon circuit, and even some of the OC-1 wildwater guys - they sit. You’ve got to have the right seat, you need a seat pad, and I sure do prefer to have a foot brace. Practice a little good posture and a proper stroke, you’ll be comfortable all day long.