SOF seat upgrade - update

I posted in 2007 about installing a Spirit Line foam tractor seat in my Cape Falcon SC-1. It was an improvement at the time over the original sleeping pad. After a couple of years, it progressed into being more and more of a torture device. I assume this is tied to my advancing years and general decline in fitness level. I tried modifying the top of the seat to make it work, but no joy. Whatever - yesterday I tested it and after 35 minutes my legs were fully asleep to the extent that I capsized while getting out of the boat onto dead legs (of course there was a witness, very embarrassing, etc).

However, I was there to test the Gurney Gears Bumfortable seat I bought a while back to replace the Spirit Line seat. I put it in with no adhesive or notches for the ribs, and was able to immediately paddle for 90 minutes without numbness! The seat’s a little thicker, so I was higher in the boat. Not really a problem as the boat is stable, plus I was able to rotate easier into the bargain. In fact, after the paddle, my back actually felt looser than when I started which I’m pretty sure has never happened to me before.

Anyway, next time out I’ll notch it to fit down over the one rib it sits on, and take out the Snapdragon backband that’s in the boat now. The Bumfortable has an integral backrest which was comfortable, flexy and probably has enough support on its own. It seems like the seat will increase boat control, but mine wasn’t attached so I won’t know until it’s stuck in there. One last benefit - the backrest is just high enough that it supports the spray skirt deck behind my back, preventing the pooling I usually get back there. So I guess I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid on this seat, but it’s almost like having a new boat - it’s much easier to focus on your technique when you aren’t in pain (well, duh).

Cheers, Carl

Got a link?
Never heard of it but would like to see it.

I using a carved mini-cell seat for a while now and added them to my store. While not cheap, I have yet to find a seat I like better.

Here it is
I meant to include the US vendor link, but forgot:

I bought the wide (yellow) one, for regular sea kayaks.

The seat is nice but

– Last Updated: May-18-10 11:33 PM EST –

It is still a foam seat. If you like foam seats - good. But they are still flexy, soft, and on their own do not provide lower back support (all these attributes can be a + or a - in someone's book).

I've had the same wide Bumfortable seat for some time now in one of my kayaks and it is a nice easy way to get a decent foam seat. It needs to be padded b/w the sides of the seat and the kayak so that it keeps its shape when edging etc. I do not use a backband so the lack of one is OK but some may find it unsupportive.

Lastly, it allows more rotation than my home-foam-carved seat but still a lot less than a slippery plastic/wood/composite seat.

I think I bought from the same place - quick shipping and I could actually talk with the guy before buying.

The "wide" seat is not that wide though. Most "average" folks should opt for it IMO and some wider than average folks might find it too narrow...

A cheaper option might be the Necky seakayak pad (or whatever the name is) that they use in Chathams and other boats. Don't know what retail price is but I bought one locally for about $30. It is also customizable somewhat by cutting away the leg support area as it may be too high as it is for folks who like their legs to go flatter towards the hull. As with all seats, the shape may or may not work for all and for all applications. For me in my kayak the Bumfortable feels considerably netter. But the Necky seat in another kayak I had at one point in time worked great too initially (until I changed how I paddle and then it no longer worked for me).

Good points
It’s true the lower back support is somewhat flexy. I did find that I sat in a more vertical posture in it, so didn’t feel that the back support was lacking, at least for 90 minutes. There is a slot in the seat to allow 1" webbing to run around the seat back to increase support - I may give that a try at some point to see how it works, as I already have attachment points on the coaming for the original seat back.

I was interested in the Necky seat at one point, but had forgotten all about it. I just checked, it’s $62 from Necky - looks like a good item:

Patrick at ONNO paddles has a drop in fiberglass seat for $225.

I’ve never tried one, but everything of his I’ve used is very high quality.

One comment caught my eye
"In fact, after the paddle, my back actually felt looser than when I started which I’m pretty sure has never happened to me before."

If it’s not that way every time you paddle, the outfitting isn’t right. Once you feel that, you won’t settle for less in any kayak you actually spend time paddling any distance in.

How you get there varies a lot though, as everyone and every kayak is different. Some people have a lot more lower body flex (or actively develop it) and can tolerate a wider range of position (like more hardcore really tight low butt straight leg SOF setups than I wouldn’t want to do anything but roll practice in). So far the more spartan the arrangements the better for me. Not into pads an gadgets, despite their clearly superior marketability.

Butt being higher than heels seems to be a key element. In SOF and most kayaks (sea/rec) that means raising your seating position (as you can rarely lower your heels!).

Feet themselves are just as important. Foot board/bulkhead vs small pegs is another night and day comfort thing. Allows legs to be more together (with options to move around a bit more), larger foot support area, etc. Makes knees happier, which makes hips and lower back happier.

My SOF has floorboards above the ribs that do the trick (and a thin pad). Since they don’t go all the way to my feet, my heels are on the skin and about an inch lower (even with keelson curvature). Footbard is a bit narrow but the fit makes for more contact elsewhere so I’m not really needing as much footwork as I might in a more spacious cockpit so it works out. Still not an all day boat, but it gets better the longer I’m in it and beging to loosen up - which is the opposite of may I’ve tried.

My QCC is OK with just bare seat pan and low back band (has full foam foot surface), but I have been wanting to do a new/raised seat with a bit of rear lip so I can sit a bit higher and ditch the band entirely. Considered the Bumfortable as it’s a quick drop in option, but I like the bare pan a lot and don’t really need cushion or want flex/grab issues of foam. Maybe something like the KayakPro Italian seat, or one Nelo makes that’s really simple too. Neither have sidewalls like the Onno which for me I think would be better. I suppose I could just glass something myself (or just legthen the pan I have and add a bit of lip).

Interesting concept but not sure I would like it. I use these with the backband and I rarely find myself uncomfortable. My knees will get stiff if I don’t move them around some. As I said, that is why I sell them. Of course everyone is different!

Foot level
I think you have it right about the relative height of feet and butt - I’m sure that’s factoring into the increase in comfort. In addition, the sacral support in the Bumfortable (I believe that’s what the central bump is called) feels somewhat obtrusive at first, but I definitely felt a reorientation of my pelvis that made me sit up straighter, allowed me to turn my feet out while taking pressure off my hip joints. This appears to be key for me in the boat because the front deck is a little low for me. I had a foot board in it for a while but took it out - I may try it again now that the seat is comfortable.

I have a CD Pachena with a high front deck - the wide glass seat in it is quite comfortable for long times. I think it’s a combination of the foot-butt height issue plus the ability to move my legs around at will under that huge deck.

Re: the back issue, I should have mentioned that I pulled a back muscle fairly severely about 10 days earlier (while taking off my paddling booties, if you can believe it). The paddle with the new seat was almost like a massage, which was something I’d like to continue.

I like the looks of the ONNO seat, but I didn’t want to put a hard shell seat on top of the ribs and lashings in my SOF. If I ever need a new seat for a hard shell boat, that would be the one I would try, right after checking whether the Bumfortable worked, of course.

That Italian seat from Kayakpro looks pretty good. I have something similar in a Struer flat water boat. It’s extremely comfortable, although I never paddle that boat for very long, as it is, um, twitchy.

Cheers, Carl