Seats and support and leg space

We are very new at the kayak thing, actually just a couple of excursions last year. The potential for a leisurely hobby is there. It really does match our mentality

The rentals we used were Pungo 120 and the seat was very supportive. Rented from Birdseye Outfitter in Soo MI, they were very helpful with guidance our first time out and we really think this is something we can do. But, comfort has to come first.

Significantly better- half has a bad back and shoulders form 35 years of sitting on the wrong side of the car, delivering mail. So what he is able to sit in/on for a couple of hours at a time and be able to change his leg position somewhat as needed will determine how enthusiastic we can be about this adventures in kayaks. The seats seemed pretty good. I am assuming that they are the ones still mentioned in the Pungo literature–Phase 3 air pro.

About the only complaint(used loosely) he had was not being able to change his legs a bit more to help keep the hips loose. Thinking that a wider cockpit would help. He is 5-8 and 150ish pounds.

We do want to try some other brands, however, there are not a lot of rental liveries around except Birdseye. I think the closet I found is about 50 miles away in Paradise .I have to call yet to inquire about brands etc.

We want to get started again soonish assuming my “hypersensitivity pneumonitis” from a years worth of mold exposure begins/continues to fade.

So thoughts on seats styles, leg wiggle room and brands will be greatly appreciated.

Doesn’t matter much to my knees and seat area. I’m trying to get better seat arrangements but about every two hours
I’ve got to stretch , move, stand up or relieve the pressure. Kayak, canoe, office chair or restaurant chair it doesn’t matter. So stopping each couple of hours is our normal mode. Five minute stretch and back on the water. I can also edge the boat and lean over Qruiser’s back deck but if you only go once or twice a year. That may be beyond reach.

If you find the Pungo 120’s seat comfortable, you might consider a minicell footbrace which allows you to keep your legs with knees closer together, rather than that wretched frog-leg position. Can also move your feet around. A wider boat won’t make any difference and will be more of a slug to paddle. Photo of footbrace I installed in my own kayak (which is 21" wide) is below (that’s part of an underdeck bag and my bilge pump in front of it).

Only outfitters I know of up there deal with sea kayaks only because Lake Superior isn’t safe for recreational kayaks. I recall you live on the St. Mary’s River - glad to hear your house is fixed.

Dang---- couple of night owls.

Overstreet---- don’t know why I didn’t figure on just getting out more frequently. We were amazed at how reasonably able he was to do the kayak thing. All those years in the passenger seat of a car–leg stretched over the hump to reach the gas and brake, one arm extended to the steering wheel and the other doing a repetitive motion upwards of 500 times a day, sort of left much of his back, shoulders etc in a mess.

Rookie— thanks for the picture. Don’t expect that we will be purchasing anything this year as a couple of the same molds that infected the house and me are found naturally occurring in the breakdown of organic matter. Living in a dampish, wooded region may be a bit unwise. Do you have a recommendations on outfitters in the UP? Really can’t find many (1 or 2) within a 50-75 mile radius.


There is probably nothing that helps more than just a lot of time in the saddle. I would suggest though, that sometimes it might help to roll up a towel and place it under your legs at the thigh, or knee area. Always sit up straight and do not lean back against the seat back, or back band. Do not get discouraged, your body should accommodate to this seating position. Don’t be dismayed if you have to sort of start all over every time you change kayaks. Eventually you will feel pretty comfy in just about any boat, but that could take years.

If a Kayak seat is uncomfortable after 2 minutes I would not want to spend more time in it. Try some closed cell foam cushions. When buying a boat off the floor try to sit in it for at least 5 to 10 minutes!

I love CURRENT DESIGNS. Seats they use are simple, indestructable, flexible, comfortable.

An adjustable back band (like those made by Snapdragon and NRS) can be more comfortable than a cushioned larger seat back since it works like a lumbar cushion, giving firm support to the lower back and hips. I don’t even use a seat in my hand-built kayak (that has a Snapdragon backband) but sit on a piece of closed cell foam, actually 1/2" thick Ensolite, as is used under sleeping bags for backpacking – yoga mats work just as well. I use a half pad (about 36" long) and roll it up to support under my thighs to lift them. When I stop for lunch I will often reverse the arrangement, putting the rolled up end behind my lower back and then allowing my legs to stretch out straighter under the deck, with the foot pegs moved forward to allow them to brace. The problem with fancy molded and padded seats is that they have limited options to change your position. As we get older (I’m 67) sitting in the same position for any length of time becomes uncomfortable.

Doing isometric exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting your lower back and tightening your abdomen is something I have found helpful. I do these when I am driving my car or sitting on the sofa reading or watching TV. Every little bit helps over time.

Also, for people with repetitive stress injuries and chronic joint problems in shoulders, neck, elbows and wrists, switching to the thin narrow Greenland style wooden paddles can help considerably. They put less stress on the joints, tend to be lighter and are paddled at a faster rhythm with less force (kind of like “granny gear” on a bicycle). Unfortunately this type of paddle is not generally available at rentals or in kayak dealers, though there are quite a few home woodworkers that make and sell them on line. Also free instructions on line for anyone with basic woodworker skills to craft their own. One of mine was carved from a cedar 2 x 4! I switched to Greenland paddles 10 years ago and have been very happy with them. Can keep up with anybody using a conventional blade paddle and have no trouble with fatigue or aches after even a long day.

Cool— thanks for the thoughts. We do stretching, planks etc for our backs and bellies. A once or twice a month massage/chiro visit also help keep us somewhat limber. So does living in a 3 story house.

Our “shopping” options are few in this area so we will have to do a road trip. Outside of the rental place with Pungo, most every seat we see is basically a hard shell plastic with some cushion. We liked the Pungo seat as the bottom could be adjust to elevate the knees.

Willowleaf, we are just a couple of year behind you. Thanks for the info on the paddles. I am sure that what we rented in 2017 were mostly generic paddles. Birdseye Outfitter apparently uses decent watecraft for his rentals, I am also guessing that his paddles are not from the bottom tier.

Everybody be prepared for an onslaught of questions as time goes by. Wont be going out yet, due to residual illness and the ice still visible from shore.

I know it’s 4 or 5 hours drive from you (223 miles) but there is an annual Greenland kayaking skills camp in Frankfort Michigan in late August every year – I went last year. You would not be apt to want to attend at this point in your kayaking careers – it requires some specific gear and basic Greenland skills, but if you happened to be in the area during the first couple of days leading up to it you could check out the arrivals and maybe get somebody to allow you to try their Greenland paddle to noodle around the lake. It’s a camp that is not accessible by car so we have to park and unload our kayaks and then paddle the half mile or so across Lower Herring Lake to the camp dock. (a pontoon boat hauls our gear to camp). People come in on Thursday and Friday (August 23 and 24) in a regular stream. If I was coming in and you were in the area I would be happy to introduce you to Greenland paddles.

Not sure if I am going this year yet – have to decide on registration soon. If I was going to be in the area for a while I would let you know. Used to go up to the YooPee during the years I lived in Grand Rapids but it is too far of a drive now that I am back in PA. But I have kin in West Michigan still so when I went up to camp last year I hung out along the Lake Michigan eastern shore for a few days before heading home.

I’m kind of a zealot about Greenland paddles and ultralight kayaks (skin on frame and folding models) which can make kayaking easier for us geezers. I own 5 kayaks at the moment and none is over 44 pounds – the lightest is 22 pounds. Can really make the sport more accessible and less fraught in terms of loading and launching.

I have 2 Pungos and my back has made my lower half a train wreck. Still, the seats are hard to beat. I seldom paddle them because I can’t get out without rolling out. I paddle sit on tops for ease of entry and exit.
I also have a Greenland style paddle
If you use them without a skirt, you get a lap full of water because they don’t have drip rings.
A good compromise is the Swift Wind Paddle. Narrow blades with drip rings and very light.

By the way, folding kayaks like those made by Pakboats, have combination inflatable and sling mounted seats that really allow for a lot of adjustment to adapt to back issues. I’ve got 3 Pakboat models in the fleet at the moment and all are divinely comfortable even on long days. And they are light and highly portable. They also have several models that can be used with or without the removable deck, making access easy in the open deck mode for people with flexibility issues.

@Yooper16 said:
Dang---- couple of night owls.

Rookie— thanks for the picture. Don’t expect that we will be purchasing anything this year as a couple of the same molds that infected the house and me are found naturally occurring in the breakdown of organic matter. Living in a dampish, wooded region may be a bit unwise. Do you have a recommendations on outfitters in the UP? Really can’t find many (1 or 2) within a 50-75 mile radius.


None within a reasonable drive of your location - but I’m not familiar with what’s available across the river in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Downwind Sports has a “try before you buy” program but only at their Houghton store. Another outfitter is located in Copper Harbor, but would-be renters must meet certain paddling and safety requirements before they’re allowed to rent a sea kayak. No requirements for SOT rentals.

Yooper, are you related to Yooperchic? I’m sure there are many Yooperchics but she was a regular poster.

String---- nope not related.

Willowleaf-- at a used outdoor equipment sale, sponsored here by a local group trying to promote outside activities we talked with a gentlemen who uses collaspable. His is a coldwar era Soviet made that was brought here in the late 70-early 80s by a group of Soviet servicemen. I don’t recall the whole purpose of being here, but it was a goodwill tour type thing and they were going to be doing the Superior gig. He said they brought those to save space and luggage fees. We have talked about inflatables or folding as we could easily transport in the van.

We are going to go the Great Lakes Sea Kayak conference in Grand Marias this July(?) as suggested by the same old timer from above.

Our biggest difficulty in travel or Skills camps, are 12 legs attached to 2 Boxers and an Olde English Sheepie. Need to find someone to house sit with them and we kinda miss them even on short 1/2 day ventures.

Ah. That’s why I’ve chosen to stick with feline rather than canine housemates. I have battery operated auto-feeders and just leave extra litter boxes out for them when I am away for up to a week (and a friend stops in every few days to check on things and refresh all the water bowls.) I miss them a bit and they actually miss me – I get lots of attention when I get home. Dogs are sweet but too much work for a single person. And I see how they restrict the options and freedom even of couples and families. To each their own.

One of the reasons our kennel has attritioned down to one retriever. Of course we bought him a brand new RV to travel in to kayak base camps. Then we are good for 8 to 12 hours.