Replace Backband w. Foam in Valley

-- Last Updated: May-26-09 11:38 PM EST --

I am going to do it. I despise this backband on my 2008 Valley Aquanuat LV. I feel similarly on my Valley Nordkapp RM and Avocet RM. I finally yanked out the backband on the Aq LV. I think these cheap Valley plastic seatpans really don't allow the backband to be mounted high enough--my 2002 Valley Argonaut with older glass seat, for instance, has a wonderful backband and feels great for hours of paddling.

I am going to carve a minicell backrest. The bulkhead on the sectionals, is heavy duty and will support well. I'll stick it on with some Dap Weldwood. I am thinking about 4 inches wide and slightly curved on top to allow layback rolls. Sort of a pillar of foam against bulkhead and coming above the seat pan.

If anyone has ideas, photos, web links or suggestions, I'd appreciate them now. Thank you.

I tried
that with an extra peace of minicell that was only 3 inches wide. The support was ok but in rougher conditions or chop it was too squirrelly.

Let us know how it works out for you.

Not sure about comfort…
I guess you can make any shape you want if you experiment and practice a bit shaping. This is the seat in my Aquarius surfboat, from foam, the lower part curves around and fits my but and hips … the back rest pushes tight against my back, and keeps me from hitting the cockpit coaming when forced back on the deck. It works well for a tight fit, but I think backbands are more comfortable for touring when you are spending 8 or so hours a day sitting in the boat …

Ideally you should paddle for a few weeks with no backband at all and learn the proper posture for paddling. The backband isn’t a chair’s backrest, you arn’t supposed to be leaning back on it. It is intended to keep you up off the coaming only.

Bill H.

I like mine
I put one in my '95 pintail (first with the deep fiberglass pan seat, and now with a foam replacement seat). I think it works great. I used a 3" wide piece, but that was too narrow, so I glued on some 1" wide strips on either side to make the face of it 5" wide. That’s a nice width.

I kept mine fairly low, and curved the top of it as you are suggesting, to make laybacks and entry easier. My ocean cockpit is pretty tight to squeeze into, so having something low-profile back there is helpful.

I find it very comfortable for rolling sessions, long days on the water, and rough water handling. For me it beats a backband in all of those situations.

removed back band in Nordkapp LV
and installed a 6" wide piece of coarse closed cell foam sloped to allow laybacks.

Covered the foam with neoprene.

I did not glue the foam block to the kayak but I used the existing anchor point of the backband on the bulkhead and bungeed the block in place.

The block is perfectly shaped to the bulkhead/coaming and sits there wedged nicely however the bungee is there for extra security in surf.

Too bad I don’t have a picture yet since I just did it last week.

Initial paddle of couple of hours was OK. More testing needed for final verdict.

If it works I will remove all backbands in my kayaks (5) and install the foam block. Most back bands rub when paddling properly will decent torso rotation.

Steve, I use two pieces of 2" minicell
glued together and shaped to fit the entire bulkhead surface. It extends forward of the coaming by about 1.75 “. The way it angles backward, it only makes contact around the beltline, but provides some protection from the hard edge of the coaming on laybacks. I pound it in place with my fist and it has never come out on me and I use no glue or velcro. The seat bottom is a two inch piece of minicell that spans side to side and from the seat back to four inches behind my knee joint. This piece is cut on an angle that makes it 2” in front and 0" in the back where it tucks under the backrest. I liked the way Betsie Bay made their seats and copied it. I can send you a picture if you like. The problem I have with the Valley seats are more with the backrest than the pan. They tend to fold under the coaming and get stuck angled backwards. On my Naut RM LV I intend to remove the backband and put in a solid block of minicell. As far as not using the backband for back support, uh…yeah…sure, not this guy. I need the support to resist the push from my feet and to have something to lay back against to stretch my back out. When I paddle I try to assume a forward position as it is more efficient, but I still need contact at the very bottom of my back. For some this is the upward curve of the seat pan, when you are 6’3" and 245lbs, that little curve is stuck under your *ss. Kayaks are made for the average body shape, of which I am not. Bill

works great on my Q boat
with plastic seat pan. I started with card board template then transferred to 3 inch foam. Glued to bulkhead, hull and under coaming. Friction fitted around seat pan’s rear edge. Took knife and sand paper along for 3 trips until all was comfy. For me it allows much better rotation and lay-backs on rear deck. Plus it stays put for wet entry.

I used 4" in my Tern 14…

– Last Updated: May-11-13 5:11 PM EST –

.....and that's plenty for me. It only contacts me right at the top of the seat. Not so much a foam back as a foam stop. The shaping of that stop was critical for me. It required a shallow vertical groove to even out the pressure across the contact area of my back/spine and pretty specific shaping along the outer edges in order to really enhance comfortable torso rotation. I'm not done with the top yet but that's just fine tuning.

Surprising how the block allows such easy access to the area behind the seat. Feels like I gained space back there. I'm going to hollow out a slot across the center of the block to put a small waterproof box in for wallet, phone, keys, etc.


a back support used to resist
the push from your feet is at least somewhat ineffective leg pumping, and as much as nearly entirely ineffective leg pumping. I know when I first began concentrating on really using my legs to help with my forward stroke, I was placing pretty good pressure against my back, and sort of intuitively knew that must be defeating my purpose. Whether propelling forward or turning, the only effective resistance to the pressure your putting with your foot is against the paddle blade. If your unable to transfer the pressure between the paddle blade and your foot, it’s wasted energy just creating pressure between your footrest and your back support. It can be felt sitting next to a dock or something stationary that you can hold onto with one hand. Hold with your left hand for example, and pump your right leg applying pressure, with the normal press into the backrest. Notice the effect on the kayak. Then continue to pump with your right leg working on using all the force to propel your kayak forward with that right foot, and creating as little pressure as possible into the backrest. If you’re able to do it, you will notice a very appreciable difference. For me, sometimes when I find a very simple way to demonstrate something to myself, it goes a long way in helping me put some real useful practices together. From this instance, I no longer press my back against a backrest when pumping my legs.

Capefear, Interesting post, I did not
mean push back from the stroke, but more for body repositioning, thigh contact for a brace, etc. Now that I think about what you are saying though, I have not mentally attempted to connect my feet to my paddle. My forward stroke has me off the backband for the most part (I must be hitting it at the very bottom I would guess though), but actually “feeling” the transmission of energy from the blade to the foot is not something I have attempted. When I get tired or feel myself battling conditions I will over do the foot pumping to help me grunt through a difficult section. I have always known this was counter productive (as you explained), but I think it is a mental boost, like a weightlifter yelling during a lift. It also provides a muscle change/stretch that provides some relief. I will also switch to my storm paddle for a similar diversion/muscle change when getting tired. I understand what you are saying, agree with the principle, and probably do it much of the time, but having a solid backrest is essential for me to position, stretch, and roll. I would not dream of heading out without one. Bill

You might try
using exterior double stick carpet tape instead of glue to fasten it. I used some to attach my version to my Romany’s bulkhead and found it was very difficult to pry off when I didn’t like the results of the foam. Be sure to get the tape marked for exterior use.

Wow, great replies.

– Last Updated: May-27-09 3:03 PM EST –

"I understand what you are saying, agree with the principle, and probably do it much of the time, but having a solid backrest is essential for me to position, stretch, and roll. I would not dream of heading out without one, " moparharn. I agree with the sentiment precisely.

These are fabulous photos and ideas. I can imagine, based on these ideas, that I might try first without Dap Weldwooding into place. I can also see that "play" might be too much if too narrow, so I will go 5 inches, and perhaps even a bit wider at the "base" where it contacts the bulkhead to elimintae lateral shear. I really like the idea of cutting out for waterproof key box, or perhaps even pump storage laterally. I agree--having taken out my back band, already I feel like there is a ton more space there for storing things. Okay, carve I will, with utility knife, hacksaw blade, Dragon skin, and sandpaper. I'll post a pic when I have it dialed in. I wonder if covering with neoprene, as suggestd above, would make it less prone to wear when I exit and enter the boat repeatedly. Hmm.

Thanks, all.

I would cover with neo… not only does it not wear, but also doesn’t grip you when sliding in…


– Last Updated: May-28-09 9:51 AM EST –

Not much to add, except I agree with moparharn that the valley back bands are pretty much useless. Mine (Nord RM) does the same as he describes, it folds down under the combing and disappears.

I get enough purchase in the seat pan and possibly the lower edge of the band to paddle correctly, but am now considering an alternative minicelle option, good posting. Plus I cut or scratch the hell out of my knuckles anytime I store anything behind the seat in my Nord and I try to retrieve while seated.There isn't much room beween the band and combing.

Supportive backband important?
I started out as a WW paddler. And the dogma among WW paddlers was that you needed a snug backband (or foam back support). People wanted to be “one with their boat”. The boat should instantly respond to every body movement. I carried these same ideas over to sea kayaking and installed quality back bands in every one of my touring boats. I would loosen them in order to get into the boat and then tighten them up just like I did on my WW boats. I now think that was a mistake. I still have a quality back band in my QCC700X but it is permanently in a loose position. When I am paddling I would not know that I have a backband. I only feel it when I lay back for a roll. As a result of this change my forward stroke has improved (better rotation and more power, as explained in a previous post). I can roll just fine and just as easily as I did with snug back support. I can edge my boat just as easily. Granted it took some time (actually something like 10 longer paddles) to adjust to paddling with good posture without support from a back band. But it was worth it.

What is Valley using these days?

– Last Updated: May-28-09 1:37 PM EST –

Their old back bands were pretty bad and generally wore out quickly. The looked more like an afterthought than a functional back band.

I've found that the key to making a back band useful is having the top anchored so that it cannot roll forward when I'm entering the boat. What I usually do is attach a loop of webbing or a padeye to the top of the back band and connect it to an anchor under the coaming with bungee so that the top is angled backward. It basically forms a "ramp" that I can slide down into the boat. Once I'm in, the bungee allows the back band to tilt upright for proper hip support.

Brian, Valley has a set up that allows
you to udjust the top and bottom of the backband with nylon straps and buckles. You theoretically could adjust the band in the manner you use, however, on your first layback the top of the band will snap under the coaming and will be in the same layback position you were just in. If you look at their system it seems as though there should be plenty of adjustment possibilites, but the thing continues to hang up. One thing I am going to try is this. The main velcro strap that mounts the backband is attached to nylon line on the seat pan. If you shorten the lines you can draw the backband further forward and in doing so keep the upper lip of the band far enough forward to prevent it from hanging up on the coaming. The problem with this might be an adjustment that is too aggressive or provides more contact/support than what is desired. I plan to shape a minicell replacement as soon as I put a new bottom on the Cetus, repair the gelcoat blisters on the deck of my composite Aquanaut, and finish skinning my new SOF. Sounds like July sometime. :slight_smile: Bill

my version of foam backband
I’m still fine-tuning this setup, in my newly completed wood boat. I did not make the back support as a pillar, since I wanted to have some room behind the seat for a couple of bottles of water, or something.

The backrest is 3 inch minicell laying horizontal, and about 5 inches deep from the bulkhead, and carved so that it fits around the combing. It is supported on the sides by uprights that interlock with the seat pan. There are some epoxy drips from an earlier attempt to attach the pieces; now, they are separate, with a bit of Velcro holding each piece in place against the bulkhead. The seat pan is 4 inches thick to the V-bottom, and I have carved out 2 1/2 to 3 inches of that.

very new Valley
hmm, just goat a brand new (custom) composite Aquanaut a few months ago and the backband doesn’t have the straps on the upper part that would prevent it from falling forward on a re-entry. It has one strap through a buckle that connects to the seat and a single point of connection at the base of the backband to a small bolt in the center rear of the seat. I keep the band rather loose so it really just stops my butt from sliding back, but no real support (which I don’t seem to need). I am thinking of rigging some elastic to an hook I’ll add behind the rear combing to prevent it from laying flat on re-entry.