Optimal Fit for Sea Kayak: Hip Pads???

Just wondering what your opinion was on the optimal amount of hip paddling for a sea kayak.

I have been experimenting and find that how tightly a boat fits in the hips makes huge differences in the boat’s stability, edging, maneuverability and even in top end speed.

I have found that a snug fit is good, but that too snug can be very bad. I am still experimenting trying to find the optimal fit, but so far it seems to me that having it loose enough in the hips to allow for some rotation of the hips and small bit of side to side movement seems best for allowing full power to the forward stroke and for optimal edging.

I am thinking about going even looser than this. I found that with one of my boats that the boat felt overly stable and hard to edge. I removed some of the layers of foam I had in the hips (I layered with 1/16” pieces of foam that I can peel off layer by layer) and with a bit looser fit I found the boat more lively and easier to get up on edge. Maybe taking out more will help even more.

What have you found?

One fingerbreadth extra rm on each hip,
according to Mr. Nigel Foster on his DVD.

You only need enough padding…
…to keep you from sliding side-to-side in the boat. In a touring boat, hip pads should not be tight and there is no need for hooks on them. A simple, flat pad on each side is sufficient. Taper it toward the top to ease entries and exits.

Knee blocks…
…I put knee blocks in my WW kayak and liked them so much I put them into my touring boat.

The additional control is amazing. Not only do

you have something to push up on (thigh braces),

but the oter leg has something to push down on.

they also give you a way to rest your legs with-

out losing contact with your thigh braces.

Obviously, you must be careful about placement

to ensure you can still do a wet exit.


personal preference

– Last Updated: Jul-16-07 9:16 AM EST –

I have my greenlander padded out pretty snugly. Hips are as cooldoc describes and I acheived this by adding the 1/4" minicell foam seat bottom and padding out the sides of the seat bucket the same way (the minicell also grips a wetsuit pretty nicely).

Where I get a lot of my purchase on the boat is with thigh/knee padding under the ocean cockpit (another reason why I love OCs is the flexibility in padding out while also leaving your legs someplace to go). I have one pair of "hip" wedge pads:


on either side of the underdeck, reversed upon each other to form a tunnel for the area just above my knee, and lined with 1/4" minicell to eliminate the seams. Picture rroberts's "knee blocks" with another set underdeck, and you put your knee in between. Cheap but effective. I placed this after paddling my greenlander first unpadded, then with the seat padded out and finding I still didn't have the contact I wanted.

At first it felt like the fit might be too snug but I can get out in a wet exit, and am able to slide back in and r&r even in a drysuit with liner - sliding back in is a natural fit and I've let friends use my boat and received similar feedback. Meanwhile I can paddle and edge for miles with just a tilt of the hips, which helps me big time when paddling into quartering winds.

I had a rolling instructor tell me at first inspection that it might be too snug, but after he tried r&r'ing it he said he liked the fit. I ended up padding out my pintail the same way, which was way too loose and voluminous for me out of the box.

I can photo this setup and email it to you as I know you have a greenlander, just let me know. I love the setup. Fits like a glove but I still slide right in/out in wet exits, r&r's and cowboy reentries.

Not too tight
Mine keep me from slipping sideways during a roll but aren’t tight. I can rotate completely to the sides, wet exit easily, do re-entries (cowboy, paddle-float) easily, and I can pull my legs out of the cockpit and turn to sit facing sideways or backwards or back forward again.

No “sucking sounds” a la the Derek Hutchinson story.

norserner, sounds like a great system.
I have a used Valley HM Classic with OC and I need to outfit it. Can you publish a few pics on webshots or flickr.com so that we can see your great work? Thanks.

Mine are not quite that loose. I realize that you don’t have to be as locked in as you would in a ww boat perhaps, but some snugness I would think would help you in controlling the boat with your hips and help you to “wear the kayak” just not sure how tight your kayak pants should be!

I sure will
Give me a few, I’ll try and email you when it’s up.

You’re too kind, by the way, but thank you. Something about necessity being the mother of invention, but it has held up well (going on the third season and I just had to reglue some of the foam).

I like loose hips
Looser helps torso rotation and G-style bracing. Flatpick has given his opinion in favor of loose hip fit on other threads. I tried it and liked it.

Loose hips . . . .
. . . sink ships? Oh maybe that’s something else.