Sliding Seat for a Kayak?

I am interested in utilizing the sliding seat concept (such as those for sliding seat rowers) in a kayak to be able to use the extra force of leg, hip and back muscles while paddling a kayak.

Do you know of any such seat on the market or have any insight or advice on installing one in a kayak? Has anyone ever seen a kayak with a sliding seat before or can offer any insight into it’s effectiveness?

Any thoughts or advice will be much appreciated!!

I think you would be making a mistake
since you want to be able to push off a solid foot brace whith your kayak forward stroke, and don’t want the seat to move at all.

If it did you wouldn’t get the power into your stroke.



Agree with JackL
I am hardly an expert - but have been given enough “critique” on my stroke in a kayak that I know well the basics of what I am supposed to be doing…

Sliding seat in a kayak, at least one that slides as you paddle, seems counter-productive to me. While it is helpful to be able to slide your hips back and forth some, it seems that a sliding seat would introduce too much movement to the point that it could limit the torso rotation that is so important. Maybe encourage some leaning back as well, I suppose it’d depend on the paddler.

Are you coming from a non-kayak boat background?

If any folks know the mechanics of
efficient kayak stroke, it is the Olympic flatwater sprinters. Their seats are rigid (possibly ADJUSTABLE for trim, but do not move when paddling) and they pump their legs to maximize thrust.

I am less of an expert than Celia or Jack, but I agree that if there was a perceived advantage, someone would have tried it by now.


difference with rowing boats…
I think the big difference with such sliding seat rowing boats is that the oars are attached to the boat. So any way you can get those oars moving will translate to forward speed of the boat at the point where the oars attach to the boat. With a kayak the paddle is only attached to yourself via your arms and the forward speed is translated to the boat through your legs and feet. Having the seat move means much of the energy then goes to moving the seat rather than the boat.

Would not work.

One, in a rowing shell, the ability to use the whole body via a sliding seat depends on a fixed pivot point- the oarlock. Our pivot points (hands) move already.

Two, there is a huge disadvantage to a sliding seat. The movement of body mass within a shell has a negative component. Imagine riding a skate board, and then stepping off of it, your body moving forward.What does the skateboard do? It slows down. Same in a shell, and that is why, under observation, rowing shells do not maintain a constant speed, they are always slowing down and re-accelerating. The best rowers minimize this “check” of the boat by careful application of power on the oarlock while minimizing center of mass movement back to the bow. In comparison, top level sprint kayakers have very little changes in speed every stroke. You would be surprised to see how close an Olympic kayaker is in speed to an Olympic class single sculler. Off the line, no contest, the kayaker is hugely quicker.

Three, it could limit application of the kayak. Such a seat would likely induce instability, and make the boat only usable in flat water.

Here is a hint. Race kayaks never,never, never have foam padding on the seat (and rarely, if ever, backbands). Slippery seats are the way to go. You can indeed use your legs for power, but the leg drive is on one side only (on the working blade side), and is accommodated by rotating the entire body. Slippery seats allow the hips to twist. In top level competition, many use rotating seats, as well. But the extra instability of those seats, added to very unstable sprint boats, makes the use of rotating seats somewhat uncommon (they were banned by the ICF for awhile, as well).


When I first started
the biggest surprise was how much you do use your leg and back muscles when paddling.I’ve walked away from several trips with sore legs.

If you paddle with just your arm muscles, you aren’t going to be going very far.


I love that feeling
a few hours after a hard fast paddle or race.



You’re not…
less of an expert than me, by any means. I just seem to have trouble getting the torso rotation like the coaches really want, so keep hearing about this…

swivel seats in ICF K1’s

– Last Updated: Feb-10-10 3:34 PM EST –

As noted its the ICF sprint K1's that are set up for optimal power transfer. Absolutely leg pumping is a large part of getting every bit of power into moving a boat forward as fast as possible.

Typically sprint K1's have no back-band. The seats are smooth and slippery to enable hip rotation to enhance upper body rotation and the through put of leg pumping power to the forward stroke power phase.

For the very skilled (and highly balanced) some use rotating seats that are mounted on a swivel point. This allows even more leg power transfer without seat friction. Regular K1's are tippy enough, add in a twisting moving seat and they become super extra tippy!

Have never seen a sliding seat arrangement, not to say it hasn't been tried. Not sure if there are racing rules against some of these enhancements too.


edit, sorry Karl, I didn't fully read your post and this is mostly a repeat.

The only advantage I could see of a slider in a kayak would be the same reason they are used in cruiser canoes. It would allow for occasional shift in body position ie a change in hip to pedal distance for comfort reasons but of course the sliders dont actually slide while stroking. You just set your body position back or forward to either trim the boat or to be more comfortable. There might be a lil advantage to that on long paddles but not sure if its worth the effort or they would already be setting them up like that.

rotating seat
Some high performance kayaks use a rotating seat that allows for increased rotation of the paddler while paddling, works very well.

Other problem of a sliding seat not mentioned is it will cause pitching of the boat which will tend to slow you rather than speed it up. Rowing shells are very long for a reason.

Bill H.

Nobody’s mentioned it yet, so I will - Mariner was well known for their sliding seats. But their function was strictly to alter trim, both to accommodate load variations in the boat, and to improve handling in varying sea states by modifying the submerged depth of the stern skeg profile. They are moveable while on the water to adjust for changing conditions and the foot supports move with the seat. But they don’t move while you’re paddling - as pointed out above that would be counter productive.

Actually, the motion of the sculler on
the seat is mostly an asset to boat progress, During the power stroke, the sculler moves toward the bow. This stores energy. During recovery, the sculler moves toward the stern, which helps maintain boat momentum.

The problem comes with the transition from recovery to the catch. Even the most skilled sculler cannot avoid checking the momentum of the boat as s/he tries to catch the water with the blades while the mass of the body changes direction from sternward to bow-ward.

If that transition during the blade catch could be perfected, then the obvious check in forward progress of the boat could be eliminated. The rest of the variation of forward progress in rowed craft is only due to whether the blades are engaged, or not. Actually, competition rowing craft use the forward and backward motion of the bodies more effectively than occurs in racing canoes. Much more effectively.

The length of rowing shells has nothing
to do with pitching. Take a look at an eight oared shell. Most of the length is taken up by the oarsmen.

The length of rowing shells has mainly to do with the relative efficiency (compared to flatwater kayaks and canoes) of the propulsion system. Rowing is sufficiently effective that it takes a long hull to allow the speed the rowing generates.

It is true that competition rowing craft pitch somewhat, because of the tremendously effective sliding seat system, which allows effective use of the legs. I have to laugh at people talking about use of the legs in kayaking. I suppose Barton gets something out of it, but most of the rest are just squirming in their boats to little effect.

I have to laugh when I read:
“I have to laugh at people talking about use of the legs in kayaking. I suppose Barton gets something out of it, but most of the rest are just squirming in their boats to little effect.”

You evidently have never raced or worked out in a kayak!



rotating seats are great
But you need width and it hammers stability. Theyt are for straight line speed. Tried one in mohican

I still do not see why not?

– Last Updated: Feb-17-10 12:26 PM EST –

The paddle blade is most efficient when it is perpendicular to the water. In kayaking, that is one very brief moment. A sliding seat would allow to maintain a vertical paddle position longer. The only good reason that this might not work would be due to severe change of trim that would cause more harm than the benefit would be from the greater power applied to the water. But which is bigger? Until someone actually tries a sliding seat and measures their effectiveness with it compared to without it, I'm not convinced either way (e.g. it is all pure speculation until then, since I don't think there are sophisticated enough mathematical models to predict that).

what about recovery time?
Your point about the vertical paddle angle makes sense, as does using more of your big leg muscles.

I think the time needed to recover a sliding seat to the catch position could be a detriment. In rowing the oar requires a recovery stroke to get back towards the front of the boat, and during that time the rower recovers the seat to the coiled position. But in a kayak, there is really no recovery stroke since a left-side stroke is the recovery for the right-side stroke, etc. You would need to pause between each stroke while you slid the seat forward, and I think therefore the paddle would be in the water less cummulative time with a sliding seat than with a fixed seat.

True, recovery time will be needed. May be for doubles, they can do it in a non-synchronized fashio to avoid wobbling back/forth/up/down -:wink:

Unlike rowing shells, in a kayak with a sliding seat during recovery the boat would slow down due to the body moving forward and pulling on the boat back, thus decreasing the wave resistance (lower speed during the glide phase) when there is no power; and increas speed/resistance when there is full power. Not sure how that plays into the equation either -:wink:

I have no idea…