Replacing thigh braces

Anybody ever cut thigh braces out of a thermoformed kayak? How did you do it, and how did you finish off the edge?

They are angled wrong (sort of down) and have sharp edges. They force my knees downward, and that causes hamstring pain.

I would like to replace them with molded rubber braces like the ones made by Old Town.

The kayak fits me pretty well otherwise—I have good contact with the sides and underside of the deck, so not much will be lost by removing the thigh braces.

My concern would be doing a neat job so as to not substantially lower the resale value.

The braces are supposed to force your knees downwards. Paddle more often and you get used to the position. If your legs arn’t locked in you have no control.

Bill H.

Ain’t necessarily so

– Last Updated: Apr-18-10 8:19 AM EST –

A lot of thought now says that you should not be fully "locked in" as in being tight against the braces for control, that much of what I was first told to do by using the thigh braces can/should be accomplished by shifting weight on the buttocks.

This works best with a boat that fits well in terms of volume, but even in a boat that is over large for me in terms of volume like the NDK Explorer LV I have better control in surf with body weight shift and staying loose than by being tight against those braces. (Still am there to roll up after a capsize of course.)

Then there is the argument that comes from the racing side that you have to have some height over the thighs/knees for the rotation required for a good forward stroke... on that one, my boat with a higher front deck does seem to make that easier. But it's also lower volume and a smidge narrower, so the deck height isn't all that is facilitating things.

The question is still whether the deck would be overly tall for this paddler, and without seeing paddler and boat I don't know how anyone can tell for sure. But the idea of being "locked in" against those thigh braces is one from which many coaches are backing off.

No choice
If it hurts, it hurts and basically you want to be comfortable. I would use a jig saw with a fine tooth blade. That waxy plastic is hard to sand without making a mess but you can try cleaning up the cut with a file. Maybe wet sanding will work too. I wouldn’t worry about re-sale. The market for used plastic boats is huge and what choice do you have if you want to keep it. And maybe the new buyer will like the rubber ones you put in too.

I did it and it worked very well. Here’s how:

  1. Put tape along the coaming where it meets the brace in order to protect the coaming from the saw.

  2. Use a coping saw to cut off the brace.

  3. Smooth the edge with a file. It’s not easy to file, so try to cut close to the coaming and leave as little material as possible to file down.

  4. Sand with very fine wet-or-dry paper.

  5. Wrap a strip of neoprene about 12"-14" long x 8" wide over the coaming and under the deck and glue it down. The neoprene will give a nice soft surface for your knees and make it easy to carry the kayak on your shoulder.

    I’m real glad I cut the braces out. I still have very adequate contact with the sides and the underside of the deck, but I can bring one or both knees up to chage position and provide relief for the hamstrings. This is a lot more comfortable.

I had to do that with

– Last Updated: Apr-28-10 6:37 AM EST –

my Nighthawk 17.5. The thighbraces turned down too sharply for me and cut into my legs. I needed to cut about 3/4" off of the point of the triangle.

I marked off the area with masking tape, following a smoother more rounded contour line. I used a Dremel with a small, thin carbide cutting wheel to follow along the contour I had layed out. Using the edge as a rotary knife, cutting just to a depth of the plastic, it smoothly and easily cut the thermoformed plastic. From there is was a simple matter to sand down the edge with increasingly finer wet/dry sandpaper. The material is very easy to sand smooth. Then you can cover the edge with some tape/neo as you did.

There is plenty enough thighbrace remaining to attach an extension if ever needed or use minicell to build it up.

Eddyline deck too low over thighs?
Ayornamut, I had exactly the same problem with the thigh braces turning down and poking in my legs. I’m puzzled by that, because my thighs are fairly small, yet I don’t have much if any wiggle room in the Journey. I guess people on rough water want a tight fit, but I like to have about 1" of free room above my thighs to avoid cramping. An inch of free space still allows you to brace firmly.

You rarely see specs that give the deck height in the front, rear, and over the thighs. I think all of those measurements are important.

I have a wilderness Tsunami 160 pro fiberglass I fill cramped up in the cockpit because I can’t move my legs around . What I would like to know if I should remove the thigh braces most of the other post and comments talked about plastic brace removal.

We have a Eddyline Journey and those too are turned down to much.

@yakingup said:
I have a wilderness Tsunami 160 pro fiberglass I fill cramped up in the cockpit because I can’t move my legs around . What I would like to know if I should remove the thigh braces most of the other post and comments talked about plastic brace removal.

The specs for your kayak state the thigh braces are adjustable. Have you tried that? If so and your cockpit is still too tight, you could replace them with some minicell foam tailored to your specific fit. Something else to consider is a minicell foam foot brace so you can get your legs out of the frog position and move them around when needed.

I have adjusted them and no good, I order some minicell foam today going to give it a try hoping it will work and if not I’ll have to go with alternate plan. Thanks for the advice.

Since this 7-year-old post was resurrected, I’ll provide an update. I developed severe hip degeneration due to the low deck and down-slanted braces in the Eddyline Journey. The initial injury happened on a day when I was stuck in the cockpit for hours hunting for a campsite. Things went rapidly downhill after that day. In 2016 I had to have the hip replaced. If you think being tightly wedged into a splayed frogleg position is desirable, think again.

For lake kayakers, you can probably remove the braces entirely and have adequate contact with the sides of the kayak if it’s sized right for you. I removed the braces from my next kayak (Hurricane Sojourn 135) and don’t miss them at all. I have plenty of contact and control. Pay attention to where your knees hit at the sides and under the deck. About one inch of free space under the deck is good. Maybe two inches, but three inches indicates that the kayak might be too big for you.

The Hurricane rubber braces are easily removed and installed. They might sell you a pair.