Seat Height for Sit & Switch Speed???

I know that a lot of canoes set up for sitting have a lower seat in order to provide a lower center of gravity and more stability…but was about for speed and efficiency?

Seems that a higher seat position would give you more leverage and power…and would also allow you to have room for kneeing when needed.

Is this the case?



Lower seats in sitting canoes? Really?
IIRC, my stock Wenonah Advantage sliding seat is 8" off the floor, but maybe I’m mistaken.

I dont see a connection between seat height and power except for poling…where you throw all your body weight in.

And the footbraces wont be as effective IMO if they are way lower than the seat… You really do need to be locked in for power.

multiple factors

– Last Updated: Nov-08-09 11:45 PM EST –

The theories have changed over time. I suppose which are valid and which are not depends on one's personal experience. I do know that the seats in the Wenonah performance canoes I've paddled seem lower today than they were in canoes built 20 years ago. I don't know if that is fact, but that is the way it seemed to me. It would be interesting to know if my impressions are correct, and if they are, why the change was made.

There are a couple of factors that are worth considering if you are looking for good power in a canoe using the sit-and-switch paddling style. The goal is for you to feel comfortable in the boat and to have the body-boat connection solid enough that you achieve good power transfer. This presumes that your paddling technique is good.

First, you need to be comfortable with the boat's stability. If you spend all of your time wondering if you are going to wind up in the water you won't be able to devote your full attention to your paddled stroke. That may mean that lowering the seat is necessary.

Second, you need to be able to "lock" yourself in position. That usually means a footbrace and either a bucket seat with enough of a lip on the back to keep you from moving backwards or a canted bench seat. You want as much power to be transferred to the paddle as possible. Excess movement of the lower body wastes some of that power.

Third, you need to be able to bend forward somewhat to mobilize the torso muscles. When you are bending forward, you still need to breathe as well as possible. If your seat is excessively low, you will have problems with both of those factors.

There are a couple of other factors, but those are IMHO the main ones.

"And the footbraces wont be as effective IMO if they are way lower than the seat…"

I’m probably reading something into that statement that isn’t actually there. The difference in seat height won’t vary that much - probably no more than a couple of inches. I don’t think that is enough to make a significant difference in the seat height to footbrace height relationship. Even if it did, it isn’t like you can raise the footbrace up several inches and paddle with your feet up in the air.

Seats are lower now
the older style Marathon boats had seats about gunwale level. theory was a longer paddle and a longer stroke.

Contra-indications were more rotator cuff problems and stability issues. They have lowered the seats several inches and have mad the boats alot more stable. 7-9inches seems to be the current standard.

I can still fall out of a boat with a lower seat Charlie

but there is some
that is why the flatwater sprint paddlers use a high kneel position.

Just my opinion, but I say yes

– Last Updated: Nov-09-09 5:51 AM EST –

I have raised the seats on several canoes just for that reason.
Also a slight pitch seems to help also, (about 3/4" higher at the back of the seat.)

On the other hand, when we first got our comp cruiser, it seemed very unstable to us. A friend; Canunut suggested putting both seats under the cross bars instead of on top, which we did and it was amazing how much more stable the boat was.
Needless to say after getting used to the boat we have the seat back on top of the bars.

J & J canoe sells some neat little aluminum with a plastic insert seat raisers, or you can just use a wooden dowel, (curved at the bottom with a bolt drilled through it)

Go ahead and experiment and make whatever mods that you think might work for you.


High cadence
High cadence trumps more leverage and power for producing speed for the duration. Going the more power and leverage direction will make you run out of gas faster and may eventually cause you pain. If your primary objective is more speed from sit and switch paddling, focus on what will give you higher cadence (50 to 60 stokes per minute): lightest weight paddle, paddle shaft length that gets the blade in the water but the grip not above eye level, bent paddle with blade area 120 to 130 sq in, clean huts that don’t miss a beat, consistent rhythm, and minimum use of control in your strokes.

as an amateur attempt
I tried that and it did not make me warm and fuzzy feeling.

Seat height for stability
It seems most builders set their seat heights for adequate stability for their average customer.

Higher seating, combined with a longer paddle improves poser and boat control at the cost of stability. This may not be important in a YS Solo, but may be a big factor enhancing swimming option in a competition cruiser.

In response to Matt’s query; sure, move the YSS seat high enough to get your feet under the seat’s front edge and install footpegs to improve boat to body weld when sitting and switching.

Actually I was asking about it for my Bell Magic. I do have a YS solo as well but use that only for kneeling.

The Magic I previously used only for sitting, partially because of the seat being so low (maybe about 6 inches) which made it very difficult to kneel in anyway.

I have been reconsidering recently whether or not I really like the whole “sit and switch” thing and therefore considering selling the Magic and getting Merlin.

I decided as an experiment to try cutting the seat drops on the Magic to raise the seat enough to kneel with it and see how I liked it as a kneeling boat.

I did so and now the seat is about 8 inches off hull. I can kneel in the boat and it does okay that way but is certainly not as maneuverable as the Merlin.

However in doing so I tried sitting in the boat as well. Of course the stability was less but not a big deal; however, it felt much different.

The higher seat obviously made my paddle “effectively shorter” but it also felt like I could maybe keep the paddle more vertical.

I think that with a longer paddle you would have a bit of a mechanical advantage by having a longer lever arm; not sure if the same advantage would exist with same length paddle but I guess so if you changed your grip on shaft.

I did notice that the boat seemed to paddle with more resistance. I don’t know if that was an illusion but felt that way.

Perhaps it was because of longer lever arm which was causing each stroke to have a greater resistance (which then would have a cooresponding greater effect on moving boat faster)???

Did seem perhaps like a more efficient upright position. Like I said seemed easy to keep paddle vertical. May have tracked better.

I will continue to experiment. At least this way I can kneel too. That is a good thing for tripping when you have to paddle some windy stream sections as part of a longer open water route. Also would be useful for really windy and rough days.


Harder to use the switch when you’re
sitting. Also note CE Wilson’s advice:

“Higher seating, combined with a longer paddle improves poser and boat control at the cost of stability.”

So, you’ll be a more controlled poser, but less stable.