Paddlers Use Kayak Footpegs Too Far Out

-- Last Updated: Sep-17-06 9:28 PM EST --

I have read, and watched on Nigel Foster's DVDs, that kayak footpegs should be adjusted to a position where, with legs extended fully at knees and sitting in a very upright positon, the feet are flat on the footpegs with toes pointing skyward.

I would wager, by that criteria alone, many paddlers have their footpegs placed too far out, mandating unnecessary repositioning in the cockpit with frequent hand pushups on the coaming due to forward butt slide. Or paddlers simply compensate by slouching backward and down, ever so slightly, a big no-no, as we are all aware.

Going one step further, though, I have found that when I use this recommended footpeg position, and I in practice edge and lean, extend my knees laterally to hook on the knee/thigh brace, although my forefoot and toes are still in contact with the footpegs, it is hard to push off on the pegs for an effective forward stroke. Just not getting enough force through the toes and peg contact.

Bringing the footpegs--yes, it's heresy, but try it yourself--even CLOSER (shorter) still, allows me a generous contact with the knee pads and the pegs for pushoff, plus keeps me very upright in the seat. A good feeling of contact with the boat.

I believe that most novice/ intermediate paddlers have their footpegs not only a little too far out, but a lot too far out.

What are your thoughts and experiences?

I discovered this when I had to readjust my pegs afer letting someone else use the boat. I moved them two steps closer and quite a difference.

How would you be able to pump if you are straight legged??

I would not beable to use the thigh braces if I did that, does not make sense to me.

Cooldoctor says Nigel is wrong…

– Last Updated: Sep-18-06 5:10 AM EST –

and I agree if this is what he says ( only met him once and never saw the videos etc. ) Just don't get the straight legged part. If taken literally ( my disclaimer to avoid any fodder that ricochet off Cooldoctor : ) ones legs get almost totally out of the paddling out.

IMO, having ones legs bent ( say enough for 3 fingers to a fist under knee minimum) not only helps with boat speed / performance and control, it also takes a bunch of stress off the back, legs and opens up new possiblilties for better over posture and torso rotation.

Now start thinking about getting your feet closer together to really ease off the poor splayed out ankles,knees and hips and really see how comfortable you can be in the boat.

That Might Explain It
In recent threads some folks write that they try a Tempest 165 but the footpegs have to be set all the way forward. I’ve got two very tall friends that frequently roll my 165 with no problem. Looks like some folks bend their knees and others don’t.

I think that what Nigel is saying is that when the legs are flat and the feet at 90 degrees, the footpegs are at the proper distance. This is not the same as saying that you have to paddle this way. When the knees relax up closer to the thigh braces, the feet then go to 45-60 degrees and now you’re in the proper position. My experience is that my legs have gotten flatter and the pegs further away over the years, but perhaps that’s because I paddle Greenland and don’t race.

If it says that, then that is BS
You would never be able to use your legs to push off with.

I would strongly suggest that you adjust your pegs so that you can push off with them, and your sure as heck won’t be able too if they are adjusted as you are quoting.



“Real” GPers don’t use footpegs at all
The use a masik, a brace across the thighs.

They paddle with their legs in the center of the boat, stetched out fully, feet not pressed against anything but thighs pressed upwards against the masik. When they take a stroke on the right, rather than press on a right footpeg (which doesn’t exist in a true Greenland boat), they push their left (opposite) thigh upwards on the masik and do an abdominal crunch.

Don’t have a boat with a masik? You can simulate it by laying some flat outfitting foam under the coaming and across your thighs, and maybe down your legs too to hold it in place. You’ll have to experiment to get the size and placement right, but it provides a pretty good setup to simulate a masik and let you paddle true Greenlandic. Oh yes, don’t forget to practice a wet exit with this foam across your thighs, even though ~real~ GPers ~never~ come out of the boat – right? ;-)))

(Information from a recent course with Alison Segithy – – who came back from the Greenland competition with a fistful of medals.)

Some controversy here maybe
No contest about whether the feet should be in a position to be able to push with for a properly rotated stroke. (And losing the darned hard little footpegs and going to full foam blocks against the bulkhead is so much nicer.)

But… you’ll get some debate about whether that position should be close enough to frog-leg/lock the knees/thighs against the thigh braces or further out so that the legs can lay straighter under them. That is, have the pegs set so that the legs are actually more straight and tend to be well under the braces rather than up in them.

What we were hearing at the Bar Harbor symposium, from L4 and L5 coaches, was that the legs should be able to lie more relaxed along the bottom of the boat in the normal position, and just come up into the braces as needed, in order to promote good loose hips to handle things like playing in surf over rock formations, etc. Give it a try in your own boat rocking from side to side - betcha you’ll find that you get better movement of your hips with the legs more down and relaxed than torqued up into the braces.

That said, this obviously works best when the boat fits correctly so that the braces can be gotten to very quickly without having to rearrange your legs a lot. If you have to move your legs all over the place out and up to get to a brace, I can see this feeling a little unnerving thinking about the possibility of having to roll or brace up from a capsize. I don’t have that issue with either of my sea kayaks, but it may take a little more fitting for some people to feel that they can be below the braces as suggested but still able to get to them when needed.

Legs actually alternate…

– Last Updated: Sep-18-06 8:31 AM EST –

...between flat and bent in a good Euro forward stroke, as you swivel your hips and stroke left and right. In more detail...

Getting ready to take a stroke, say on the right, your hips are wound up to the left, your left leg is flat on the hull, your right leg bent with the thigh against the brace. As you stroke on the right, your right foot pushes the peg from the ball or instep, your right leg straightens to make the push, and your left leg bends. At the end, you are wound up to the right, your right leg flat, your left leg bent against the brace, ready to take a stroke on the left.

That's why the test for peg length is as it is.


That could explain…

All the numbness being reported and the need to roll up things and stuff them under their thighs…

Yep, found this exact same thing out when I jumped into someone else’s kayak. MY kness were not as stretched out and my thighs were contacting the pads more securely.

Relaxed leg postion
> …the legs should be able to lie more relaxed along the bottom of the boat in the normal position

and just come up into the braces as needed…

I think that’s why the feet should be vertical on the pegs when the legs are flat against the hull. If you want to engage the thigh braces, your feet should angle forward roughly 45 degrees, with the ball or instep on the peg and the heel farther back, in the air above the hull.


And Celia is right, some controversy. But I disagree with David and the notion that in a good euro stroke, legs must be flat against the hull. One can have a range in the amount of legs bent that does not extend to “flat”. And any physican will tell you that sitting flat legged for long periods of time stresses your scitic nerve and lower back. Hence the need to prop up one’s knees.

Picking your devil?

– Last Updated: Sep-18-06 12:22 PM EST –

Legs flat out probably leaves the hips least affected by tension in the legs, hence giving the boat its maximum ability to handle water movements under it without the paddler getting in its way. But it may not be possible for some to do this and still have the also-correct upright seated position balanced in the middle of the seat/boat, because of things like tight hamstrings or pelvic muscles.

So it seems that the balance is to find a position where the paddler is upright and centered, the legs are as relaxed as possible towards the bottom of the boat but nothing is so stretched out or unsupported that it is beyond what the individual's muscles will tolerate within their normal level of stretch.

I should add that everyone who talked about this also recommended both yoga or similar for stretching and strength training to beef up the front and rear core muscles. I am pretty limber anyway and occassionally make it back to the gym for weight work, so nothing they said was out of my own comfort zone. But I know some for whom it could be tough.

(And yeah, as pointed out next if the foot peg position is either too far out or too close to allow for pumping the legs, it isn't quite right yet.)

Whoa there…
Nigel Foster’s video does not suggest paddling with both legs flat and feet against the pegs. Cooldoc referred to one part of the video in which a technique was discussed that allowed for proper placement of the foot pegs. This proper placement is accomplished by laying both legs flat, feet flat at 90 degrees with toes pointing up, with back straight and against the back band…the pegs should meet the feet in this position.

Once the pegs are in the proper position, it allows for the balls of the feet to come into contact with pegs, forcing the knees to bend slightly. Then as you paddle, rotating the hips and shoulders, the legs are pumped alternating straight leg/bent leg.

If you don’t follow a procedure for adjusting the pegs at the proper distance, you run the risk of having the pegs too far away which results in slouching, leaning back, poor rotation and reduced/nonexistent leg pumping.

Cooldoc suggests this in his post, and questions whether a pegs would be better off even closer than described in the video.

straight legs
Where’s your legs when you need to sit on the floor of your living room (say, to play with the little one)? I bet it’s NOT flat on the floor fully stretched!

So, I find legs straight out on the bottom is NOT comfortable, paddling or otherwise. The most comfortable leg position for me is slightly bend, with support under the thigh or knee.

On a narrow boat, or with the cockpit fully padded, I have enough support on the side of my knee on the bend legged position, which also allows the legs to participate in the paddle stroke. But on a too wide boat/cockpit, my legs can never get comfortable. And the only way I get any support is to pull in the peg to lock my legs to the knee brace!

Funny I never felt uncomfortable in a white water kayak. The thing is, when I’m actually paddling hard, my legs don’t need “support” anyway. It’s too busy “pumping”.

When foot flexes - knee flexes
Alternate that and you’re working legs (and may not go fully flat)…

Note that he said foot pointing straight (heel straight down under peg). That’s just a test (and stretch position). All joints a bit flexed when paddling.

Same as finding the sweet spot when ditch the pegs and foam out.

You can fully extend and push into/against the foam or peg and lock out you knees if you want to - but keep joints flexed while paddling. When really pumping you’re pushing more on the balls of your feet/toes and paddling with more alternating knee bend in the rotation.

That same balls/bent thing is how you lock into the thigh braces. I’m just grazing the undersides of them when paddling hard in the QCC - and actually locking into the masik alternately in my slightly tighter SOF (much like an assisted situp/crunch)).

I do agree… utterly flat not necessary

– Last Updated: Sep-18-06 1:50 PM EST –

Legs should be just extended enough that you can get a good push on the pegs. That's during forward paddling, when neither leg will (should) remain extended for long -- they alternate extending and bending.

For conditions, rocks, etc, when relaxation of the hips and legs is more important than getting a good forward peg push, you can always point your toes and bend your legs a bit more, or just take them off the pegs altogether.

Actually, that's one reason I'm still a tad skeptical of pushing on a bulkhead pad, despite just acquiring a boat without pegs installed. If you make the pad thick enough to push powerfully on for forward paddling, you may be cramped when you want to relax. For that reason I've installed foam foot wedges on my bulkhead pad, and am finding them very comfortable and still give me all the options I had with pegs. It's taking a bit of fiddling to get the wedges placed properly, but I'm almost there.