Minicell Back Support: how mount?

I am going to carve a minicell back support for my Valley Nordkapp. Anyone know what I should attach it to; seems that the bulkhead, which on the Nordkapp Classic is right behind the factory backband and convenient for attaching the foam, would be structurally unfit for direct attachment. Particularly for pushing back during a roll, I don’t wish to blow out my bulkhead.

How did you mount your minicell foam back support? Any other advice about size, et cetera, appreciated.

back support
What I’ve observed on many boats, primarily Explorers and Nords, is use of 4 inch minicell. It’s cut so it contacts your back on a slight curve (amount you would shape to comfortable fit your lower back).

It’s cut to fit underneath the rear combing (wedged) and glued to the bulkhead.

Maybe someone can post some pics.

I wouldn’t worry about blowing out a bulkhead, because you really aren’t applying much pressure on the backband/foam. If you look at a lot of boats with experienced kayakers, you’ll find the backband is almost nonexistent…or pushed so far aft, it looks like it would barely contact their lower back.

Think about your back support as a tool to keep your bum from sliding back on your forward stroke when applying pressure to you footpegs, not something used for rolling.

an alternative to rigid minicell
An alternate approach is to take a 3/4 length ridgerest sleeping pad . . . roll it up and place it behind the seat such that it’s wedged in place between the gunwals.

Support for the back while paddling is a weird concept. There’s no good way to support the back and allow for torso rotation and the ability to lay-back when needed.

Additionally, there’s little benefit in pushing back against any kind of “back-stop” in a kayak. It doesn’t aid in rolling. It doesn’t help you go forward more quickly. Some people feel more comfortable wedged into a SINK but that doesn’t mean it’s better to be wedged in.

I use this type of rolled sleeping pad in place of the back band in all my seakayaks. Besides the obvious “soft” butt-stop and comfort while laying back, it’s a handy way to stow an important piece of kit.


agreed Jed. everyone THINKS they want high, rigid, back support and in reality this just retards rotation. I HATE Retarded Rotation!

build up your abs, sit-up straight, rotate.


sorry, I just don’t understand mini-cell blocks aft of the seat???


Minicell helps my rotation, not hurts it
Because of the size of my waist, a backband squeezes me on the sides and makes torso rotation much more difficult. Removing the backband altogether is much better for me than having it. However, after an all day paddle, the abs burn from holding me in the seat. By putting a small minicell foam pad in back it gives the lowest point of my spine some additional support without in any way compromising rotation. The pad is only 3 inches wide and only comes up off the back rim of the seat by a few inches. I can’t say exactly how many because I’m still trimming it to get it more comfortable.

I’m a firm believer in rotation and that it should not be hindered, but unless you’re seated racing style with knees together and raised, or with a very high seat, sitting in a sea kayak without something behind the lower back can be uncomfortable to the hip flexors in a matter of minutes, at least it was for me and others that I know. In trying to rotate, back-bands can have a tendency to chafe. So, something narrow, like about 3 inches, creates something approaching point contact that offers the least restriction on attempts to rotate. Being low and rounded facilitates lay-back rolling. Pre-carved foam pieces for this purpose are available. Those at the address below are intended for the slanted bulkheads of NDK boats, but can be easily modified.


Your bulkhead will be fine
You would get some nasty bruises on your back with every roll if you were pushing back hard enough to blow out your bulkhead. Just glue the mini cell to the bulkhead and go.

It’s also one of the few good uses…
…for a paddle float. Although I’ve only used a paddle float for hip support (not back support) in an emergency (back band failure), there’s no reason one couldn’t use one for that purpose all the time.

Your bulkhead should be
just fine for support. I would think that the bulkhead would get more pressure on it when you are paddling in rough conditions and are pushing on the footbraces and when doing layback rolls the pressure would be more downward onto the hull. I used 2" velcro to attach my foam backrest to the bulkhead and works well. The velcro is attached to the bulkhead and foam backrest with epoxy and it holds very well. I determined the height of the backrest by laying back and getting a comfortable transition from the backrest to the rear coaming so that doing layback rolls were very comfortable on the back. I messed around with different shapes for the backrest and finally found a shape that works great for my back. The part that really made a big difference for me was adding some cupping on the sides of the backrest. Here is a picture of what I’m using.

take a look at
Brian Nystrom’s webshots album and also the BBK website. I just jam mine in between the seat and the bulkhead–haven’t needed to glue it. A little extra sensory feedback at the lower back is nice (not support) but I find that the real benefit is a smooth transition to the coming for layback rolls.

It’s about posture
Mini-cell is certainly better than a back band . . but even mini-cell can stall rotation some what. If you take a close look at rotation, it’s pre-loaded by pulling the dry-side hip and attached leg forward. This pulls the shoulder forward and increases the stroke length by moving the catch further forward. I think in terms of walking my butt forward to pre-load the torso rotation. Then the stroke is driven by the leg AND torso rotation as the wet-side shoulder moves back (because the dry-side shoulder is moving forward).

Regarding the abs and hip flexors getting tired. If your abs are getting a workout that’s a good thing. It means your using your core but there is little need to work the abs hard since your just setting up for the stroke / pulling your hip forward. It’s the leg and back that drive the power in the stroke, not abs, biceps, delts or lats.

The hip flexors are a different issue. Short hamstrings (from sitting in chairs too much) causes our pelvis to tip back slightly when our legs are at right angles to our torso, to compensate for this bad posture people often pull there torso forward with their abs and their hip flexors (in the process hyper-extending their lumbar). This can either get old real fast or at worst cause some real pain. Using a back support only masks the problem of short hamstrings. Better would be to lengthen the hamstrings so that you can sit with legs nearly flat in front of you and your torso canted forward slightly. Think along the lines of pushing your belly-button towards your knees so that you maintain the lumbar curve as it is when you stand. With this posture you can balance your torso on your sitz bones and eliminate anything that hinders your rotation (like back-banks, butt-stops, pulling with your abs or hip flexors). The idea is to completely free the torso of any work not associated directly with the stroke, . . maximum efficiency.

It’s a weird concept to wrap your mind around, but give it a try for a month or so and see for yourself whether or not it works. You can stretch your hamstrings with yoga or even by sitting on the floor with your legs more or less straight out. High seats reduce the problem as well but make for a stability trade-off. Good, healthy posture while in your boat will change the whole game for you.

symptoms of another problem
"unless you’re seated racing style with knees together and raised, or with a very high seat, sitting in a sea kayak without something behind the lower back can be uncomfortable to the hip flexors in a matter of minutes, at least it was for me and others that I know."

Talk to some Physical Therapy people about the cascade of problems that result from overly short / tight hamstrings. It’s my understanding that 90% of lower back problems are the result of hyper-extension of the lumbar. Using your hip flexors to stay upright in a kayak typically means you are also using your abs to pull the torso forward as well, . . hyper-extending the lumbar in the process. In such a case, you are one strenuous movement away from injury. Hyper-extension of the lumber is similar to hyper-abduction of the shoulder (the primary cause of dislocations), and leads to herniated discs, pinched nerves and in general a world of hurt.

You can either treat the symptom or cure the disease, it’s your choice.


Duck tape it…

…to your back, ya noodge.

good idea