Paddling Without Backband?

I have a Romany I use primarily for two things: paddling “big” (big as it gets around here anyway) water in Lake Ontario and Greenland stuff in flat water.

I had the thought of removing the backband to give me more range of motion for the Greenland moves (I’m not particularly flexible), but wonder what this would do to the overall controllability otherwise.

Bad idea?

pop it out…try it out…
some people prefer this

a foam block located at the center of the sea tot he coaming as just enough support but still provides LOTS of motion…

Foam block
My buddy does that in his Romany, but says it definitely gets in the way of laybacks. But I guess I can always try it!

You can shape that block…
…so that it acts as a “stop” but doesn’t get in the way. Pretty cheap experiment.

Just an opinion
Some people like tight outfitting, but there may also be a possibility that people do it because they assume it is correct.

Such outfitting was very popular in the WW kayak world, but there has been a bit of a move away from that, at least in some sub-categories.

So, what is the purpose?

The most often mentioned is “controllability”.

In WW play boats, it makes sense. One can actually change directions, make vertical moves happen, etc, because these boats are so short that they respond directionally with hip motion (I am not talking about simple edging! This is actually driving the boat through a direction change).

Can anyone do that with a sea kayak?.

I would suggest that, in addition to edging, a lot of control happens with efficient paddle use. And a common observation of mine (as an instructor), is that many paddlers are in weak and inefficient positions, especially for strokes taken at the stern. The culprit is usually poor technique, but many times it can be restrictive outfitting. Backbands can, and do, limit motion. Many times I have had students improve (even forward stroke)efficiency of body mechanics, by simply disengaging the back band.

There is a reason most race kayaks do not have backbands.

Try taking out the backband. Non only your could your Greenland rolls improve (Harvey Golden calls backbands “anti-rolling devices”), but possible your control in rough water!

Disadvantage? Yeah, you may find out that you might need to do some core muscle training. Maintaining good posture is something that needs to be trained, just like other paddling muscles.


As always, Karl,
I love your infrequent posts, and most of all your opinions.

Such a shock for me to find that after I had jerked out the stock seat (I know that some love that seat) from Rebecca’s QCC, that Rebecca had jerked out my lovingly installed back band.

Take home message: Experiment and find out what works best for your unique body, and then outfit your boat accordinaly.

Per Cat Stevens: “Like everybody else I’m searching through what I’ve heard …”


good idea
take it out… put in the foam block - shape the block so it works for you, and so that you are able to do layback rolls. These foam blocks seem to require some tweaking.

I tried it
but no matter how I modified it, it interfeered with laybacks. I threw it away and went back to a Bomber Gear backband.

Seat and backbands vary considerably…
… as do how people install them.

I use narrow WW style in my Qcc as low as I can get it (with bare seat pan), and it’s still overkill for contact. OK paddling Greenland style, starts to bug me a little with Aleut, and interferes with rotation begins to chafe as I move to other paddles and more of a wing stroke. A more racing style seat with a bit more lip/sacral support on the rear edge and I’d ditch the band. On my list of someday stuff…

From backband to foam block to nothing
I took out my NDK back band to stop the notorious NDK butt pinch and replaced it with a foam block for years. I bought a Romany Surf and immediately cut out the back band and stuck in a foam block (but didn’t get a chance to glue it in). My foam block fit so well in the Romany S that after a full day of rescues and surf it felt like it wasn’t even there. Then one of the students paddled over and handed my foam block to me. I haven’t put it back and don’t miss it at all.

Foam block thread, uselful.

Excellent post, Karl
People need to experiment more and find what works best for them. Although I have a few boats with backbands, I find all I need is a butt stop to keep me from sliding off the back of the seat. The stock seat of my ca. 1988-90 Anas does that well as does my foam Redfish seat in another boat, but seating that forces my best posture (dynamic seating position) is my skin-on-frame where I have neither a backband or seat. I sit on a polyethylene sheet (roll up toboggan). Thanks, Cheri and Turner.



Nice thread. I was going to take it out last night and go for a paddle, but upon further inspection realized I would need screwdrivers to do it non-destructively.

2nd this
As greyak suggested either replace with the low seat back (the one that doesn’t come up so high), or get a new seat with deeper lip at the back.

Low seat back is probably the cheaper and less extreme option.

You might be able to get away without any seat back, but that is quite a bit dependent on what conditions you paddle in, and what you expect out of your boat.

tore the back band out of my Explorer when it misbehaved. The boat worked very well san back band. I took it out of the Capella, same thing. The Orion still has a back band but more because I have not taken that out , yet.

The NDK has a lip on the back of the seat that works well.

Pull it out and give it a try. I have friends that CAN’T paddle my boats without a back band: They don’t paddle my boats so that is good too.

I used to have lots of lower back pain then I took up kayaking it went away.

My NDK has not had a back band for over 8 years.

give it a try.


I have said it before
The best thing I ever did to improve my bad paddling posture was to remove my backband. Now I don’t miss it at all and I believe removing it made me sit up straighter and use more torso rotation. I haven’t had a sore back because of paddling since.

all pluses save one
removing it is all pluses save one,

plus to improve stomach and back muscle strength, prevents many injuries

plus for forward stroke, improves upright and even forward posture makes for complete hip leg and torso engagement

plus for edging and bracing by having strength and habit of not leaning back or slouching

plus for not developing sciatica as pelvic tilt can put pressure on a ligament that then pressures the sciatic nerve, periformis is its name.

only negative is even for strong muscular fit paddlers long crossings and multi day paddling butt band not back band can provide relaxation to those muscles. So for those occasions many of us put in the narrow butt block of foam as a good integration of all the above

Or just let the backband lie low, loose
Mine are so low and slack that I may end up removing them. They don’t get in the way of lying all the way back on the deck. I suppose I keep them “just in case” I want to tighten them up, which has not happened yet.

I just got back from using a new kayak (not mine) that had no backband at all and it felt identical to paddling with with my slack band. Guess it’s time to remove half a pound of pointless weight…

When I bought my WW kayak, the guy in the shop set the backband so high and tight that it made my back hurt. I couldn’t believe anybody would be able to put up with paddling like that.

Post your findings

– Last Updated: Jun-30-09 10:07 AM EST –

... when you experiment and see how it goes. For every non-backband paddler, there's a thousand who use stock boats and are good paddlers. This kind of thing is very individual and personal and there is no one best way to make it work ideally for everyone. You could probably take the seat back out of your car too and that would allow you to twist around to see back better when parking as well as build up your core strength.

Took mine out
At last Saturdays racing clinic I took mine out. Better rotation and my toe numbness disappeared. I also tried out raising the seat by adding a one inch pad along the back of the seat to over come the rearward tilt of the seat and it made it much more comfortable with a level sitting position.

So my advice is to always experiment and try to change things as much as you can to see how it will work for you.