leg numbness/paralysis

just took my new kayak (wilderness systems tempest 170) out for a shakedown cruise. i played around with the various seat/foot peg adjustments until i found what i thought was a good fit. about 30 minutes in i start getting numbness and pain in my legs. i finish up and bring the boat in 30 minutes later and roll up on the boat ramp to exit. i get out of the boat and my legs collapse from underneath me! people are now staring. i stumble to my feet and somehow manage to pull the boat up the ramp and get it on my car. my legs were buzzing for a good 3 hours afterwards and i didn’t feel 100% percent until the next morning. i guess i need specific advice on where the seat and foot pegs need to be before i subject myself to this again! help!

I like Wilderness Systems boats because they PREVENT that kind of problem for me. Only thing I can come up with is you might have had the thigh support set too high. Try lower.

I also put an old foam block under my calves / ankles to keep my heels off the boat. Feels good.

Possible warning signs . . .
I’ll leave it to the experts to advise you on having your legs flexed somewhat at the knees and having your knees and hips firmly against bracing pads for ideal fit . . .

My concern, reading your account, is in regard to the extreme importance of maintaining good circulation in your legs. I recently acquired deep vein thrombosis as a complication due to cardiac catherization and the doctors and nurses involved in my care have been adamant about my not paddling longer than three hours at a time without standing up, stretching, walking, etc., and being sure that there is no constriction of circulation. This condition can arise even in young persons (think of those airline accounts) and it can have serious or fatal consequences. I have come to believe not enough is said about the risk of DVT in the paddling community, especially since so many of us are now in the old fart cohort.

A common problem to many

– Last Updated: Aug-06-08 4:53 PM EST –

I have paddled most of the WS boats and personally haven't had a problem. On the other hand I have had that comment made by many others not necessarily to any particular mfg. Presonally I feel it depends on the person and how they sit in the kayak. Like chairs and automobiles some are more comfortable than others.

Moving around may help plus the fact that it is a new kayak for you it may be that you are locking your legs in a position that doesn't allow good circulation. Be patient but be aware of your sitting position and in what position you feel your legs going to sleep and in which position this feeling is relieved. Try different foot peg positions and pump your feet as you paddle.

I'm not underestimating your paddling experience... mererly offering suggestions that have worked for other paddlers.

Paddlin' on

this is more of a nerve thing
than a circulation thing. http://www.nswseakayaker.asn.au/magazine/48/skills.htm i need to find someone who’s been through this and and get some specific advice.

leg numbness
I have a Tsunami 125 and had the same problem initially. Love the system 3 seating, but you’ve got to play around with the seat back, thigh support and foot pedals til you find the combo that gives you the most comfort for the longest stretch. I find that if I straighten out my legs and lift my butt off the seat every half hour or so, it mitigates the numbness. I can go almost two hours now before it sets in. Let’s face it, the body doesn’t like to be that still for that long unless its sleeping. Keep at it and you’ll find the “sweet spot”.

I don’t reply to very many posts but I’ve had some major league nerve problems and this sounds as though it may be something more than just sitting in a kayack.

It could easily be nerve compression. If anything like this persists, I’d have a closer look by a neurologist. I did and it saved my life. Truly!

What usually works…
…is support under the thighs. It can be anything from a paddle float or other cushion to a rolled up towel. This spreads the support of your body weight and takes some of the pressure off blood vessels and nerves.

i’ve been in other kayaks
without this problem occuring. it’s only happening with this boat. i’ll take 'er out this weekend and play around with the adjustments.

Maybe try a wheelchair…
A folding one maybe?

play around with it
I would start with all of the adjustments set very ‘loose’ and then one by one adjust them. I would probably start with the foot pegs. Once you set the first adjustment paddle for a while and see if you get any numbness. If you don’t - move on to the next adjustment.

I have a similar problem with my left leg only. It would fall asleep after anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. I would pull my foot off of the foot peg and shake it around until I could feel my foot again. The problem for me was very tight hamstrings and hips. Once I started stretching the numbness decrease and now I don’t have any at all.

I’ve had this problem too…

– Last Updated: Aug-06-08 10:02 PM EST –

and I've fallen down when getting out of the boat too. It's kind of embarrassing. I tried about five different boats before I found one that worked for me. My conclusion was that the seats were molded plastic to "cradle" the butt. BUT, that lip that rises (into the bottom of my thigh) was pinching something and cutting off circulation. I was able to remedy it by adding several pieces of closed cell foam to the seat- thus leveling it so there was less pressure on my legs.

I'm also really not flexible- probably should stretch. Kneeling in a canoe? I can do that for HOURS and nothing goes numb. Go figure.

I had the same issue and did
everything suggested. none of it worked. I now paddle a canoe.

The issue in my case was not the boat, but my lower back.

Also have tempest with this problem
I had the same problem with my Tempest 170. You have to crank on the strap that raises up the front part of the seat to give your thighs support.

When I first got my boat the seat was set as low as it could go and I would get the numb legs fairly quickly.

In the Brent Reitz forward paddling video,he devotes a lot of time to stretching specifically to alleviate the numbness issue. A lot of it is caused by tight hamstrings.

Try leg action!

– Last Updated: Aug-07-08 9:31 AM EST –

What is yuor size/height/weight? If you can't move well in the 170, then look for another boat for long paddles.

When I first started paddling, I felt I needed good thigh/hip support - meaning raising the bottom front of the seat with the straps on the side. That worked well but it actually limits how much you can move and while it cures some fatigue creates numbness over longer times. It limits your ability to extend your lower leg while leaning on that side as well as restricts leg motion during forward paddling.

I recently switched to a wing paddle and that really forces you to rotate from the hips, not just the shoulders. To do that, I found that I want 0 support under my legs or I get rubbing that becomes unpleasant after even short times. Straps relaxed as much as they would for a flat front of the seat.

So now I usually paddle without the bottom hip support and move my legs a lot. I can tell you - no numbness, where before I did have some, simply because I did not engage my legs enough - I did push with them quite a bit, but that was it: they stayed in more or less one position and I paddled with my upper body and arms mostly. Now I rotate more from the bottom-up and that requires the legs to flex and move all the time so there is no way they are falling asleep.

Like driving a stick shift vs. automatic car - your left leg moves all the time as does your right foot alond with it as you switch gears...

You might consider trying the following

– Last Updated: Aug-07-08 9:38 AM EST –


I did not have exactly the same problem you describe . . . mine problem was mainly pain the back, "sit bone" and legs. The seat cushion shown above is very adjustable and can make a big difference in comfort. For instance, the seat can be adjusted so there is more (or less) support or pressure under your hamstrings.

Just a thought.

Try legal action!
(that’s how I first mis-read your post! :wink:

I agree with Kudzu (and with what everone has said): 1) Engage your legs; when you stroke on the right, push with your foot on the right, etc. 2) Support your thighs further out. It’s not the same seat, but Necky used to make a short black seat; my legs went numb immediately. Then they came out with a longer foam seat, that gave support further under your thighs … comfort itself! My legs never slept again. Good luck!

I agree
On many trips, I have some numbness in my right foot. After getting the same advice, I started doing serious stretching before I get into the boat and I can really tell the difference. It works well for me


review the other boats you’ve paddled where this hasn’t happened and reproduce their seats. It’s possible that the immediate area to the side of your sit bones doesn’t have adequate support and laying in some small triagle wedges in the sides might make a slight difference.

What you described is exactly the same thing that happened for me in my first s&g kayak where I got up out of the kayak and my legs buckled. After that I became a maniac for customizing seats.

A lot of folks mention under thigh support but that’s not really where the problem is, it’s the nerve being pinched right under your sit bones so the immediate area around the sit bones has to provide support to lift your skeleton up off the seat bottom,that happens from a curve on the sides as well as the back whereas the under thigh support is a distance from the weight of your TORSO pushing down on the nerves.

The feature of adjustable underthigh support meets a market need for beginning paddlers who don’t have quite the postural muscles developed or lower leg action to provide circulation and movement in the hips.

Try the following,

1.little minicell wedges on the bottom/sides of your seat to squish the fat/muscle in and help lift your skeleton up,OR, a thermarest brand Sportseat 90% deflated,

2.AND heel stops glued under your foot pegs so your heel can rest forward and not just the balls of your feet to apply forward pressure.

3.AND stretch

4.AND find a way to move on the seat to relieve pressure on the nerve

5.AND get out before you get numb and stretch some more.

If you haven’t had this problem in other boats then it’s probably a little adjustment of the seat within 2" of your sit bones. The heel stops will reduce some non-productive tension in your legs