Tiller steering

I had gas-type pedals on my Futura II surfski and have sliding foot rests on my Kestrel 140, but what is tiller steering? The EFT comes standard with it.

Tiller Bar
Tiller bar steering consists of a fixed footrest mounted almost vertically in the cockpit. An aluminum rod, the tiller bar, protrudes through a horizontal slot near the top of this footrest. You place your feet on the footrest with the tiller bar positioned between your two big toes. You steer by pivoting both feet which moves the tiller bar either to the left or the right depending on which way you want to steer.

Tiller bar steering is very popular in ICF boats. I’ve tried it and found it adequate on flat water where just little rudder corrections are needed.

However, I much prefer a gas pedal type system, especially in bigger water.

Westside has always offered tillerbar steering. I think many of their customers might prefer a gas pedal system, but I have heard you either get it Doug Bushnell’s way or you don’t get it at all.

Some have had a difficult time getting him to install bulkheads. I don’t know what he would say if you asked for something other than the hanging sling seat. I have never personally met Doug so do not have any first hand experience. But from what I have heard I kinda picture him as the soup nazi of sea kayaks.

Tiller Steering
Thanks for the info, it pretty much rules out tiller steering and the EFT for me. My right knee would puff up like a grapefruit with that kind of twisting.

I would never rule out the EFT ,its a great boat and they just dont get any faster.<br /> Dealing with Doug is a royal pain but its worth it.<br /> It will take 3 months to get a boat thats how popular they are. I understand they are built in a barn?<br /> I would order one and never say anything about the steering unless you want a 30 min butt chewing like I did.<br /> Then order the gas pedal steering from Pat at Onno <br /> they work great.<br /> I have put them on 2 efts and have friends that added them to their Tbolts and loved them.

I hope Doug doesn`t use the internet yet

I have had two knee surgeries, and have no problems with tillers. I have had two of Dougs boats with tillers and they are wonderful. Super light, super fast, and made in the US. Don’t rule it out.

Tiller Bars
I too have an EFT and retrofitted it with Pat of Onnopaddle’s gas pedal system. The aluminum closet rod that comes stock on the Westside boats is simple, light and does the trick. What I don’t like about it is it gives little in the way of a platform to push against; the slippery aluminum is minimal-many folks fabricate their own footplate to bolt on.

Advantages of Pat’s gas pedals include a wide, solid platform to push against, and the ability to actuate the rudder from any foot position. With my size 12s, I found it awkward to ‘shuffle step’ my way side to side with the tiller, and a real handful in a following sea. The gas pedals are very ‘surf ski like’, and give complete control. It’s a great upgrade to an already great boat. As Cliff said, don’t let the tiller deter you though. The EFT is a brilliant design.

Only thirty minutes?


If you are going to be racing…
I don’t think you will like it.

I have his Bullitt, (or will have my own one of these centuries) which is his EFT cut in half and a section added in the middle, and it has his tiller steering.

I have already cursed it in two different races.

Reason: If you are making a sharp turn you won’t be able to keep pumping your legs and will have to contort your body to make the turn. Also my bow paddler doesn’t like my cursing too.

When and if I ever get my final boat, I’ll probably change to a gas pedal type

The plus I’ll give to it is it is much more sensitive than the gas pedal type, so might be better for a non-racer.




ICF doesn’t prohibit K1s to be equipped with pedals. Still I have yet to hear of an ICF K1 (Marathon) kayak without a tiller control. If there was even the slightest advantage to be gained by using pedals everybody would switch overnight.

Still a tiller control can be trouble if it isn’t tuned/geared correctly. Ideally one should only have to slide ones feet sideways for max 2cm and still be able to make sharp turns.


I bought a boat from Doug
this summer and yes he can be alittle hard to deal with but come on he’s 70 and still is totally into racing. That alone makes him worth dealing with. He’s open to suggestions as long as there exactly what he wants. I call him for training advise and any questions and he’s alway ready to talk for as long as I need. Now that was a problem when I was waiting for my boat, I wanted him to get to work and stop talking. And yes he has a small barn he works out of and it’s not what I expected from the guy that makes some of the fastest kayaks. I was up there getting my boat the week before JackL picked up his, and there isn’t much room to put 3 boats. Anyway I’d atleast talk to Doug before you rule out the EFT. If your anywere near go to see him and he’ll let you test anyboat you want, we drove 4 hours to test but just getting to talk to him about all his experiance was well worth the drive let alone checking out all his stuff.

Mine must be tuned wrong, but
then I am not in the same class as the speedies, and maybe don’t know how to use it properly.



I agree completely.
I probably am the only person in the world who has ever talked over Doug, but I figured I had a right to since I have a few years on him.

I hope he doesn’t mind me telling tales out of school, but I can’t resist"

We were having a argument over the phone as to who was going to pay for something. He was insisting that he would pay for it, and I was insisting that I would pay for it, ( you are hearing that correctly).

I tried to interrupt him, and he shouted “don’t try to talk over me”

Then I complety blew my stack and told him that I had a few years over him and would talk over him any time I wanted to.

There was dead silence for a few moments on the other end of the line before we both continued whatever we were arguing about.

I don’t advise any of you younger guys to try it.



Every conversation I’ve had with Doug has been a pleasure. The man will converse at length about his boats, boat design, racing in general, anything to do with the activity. I’ve always come away in admiration of his skill, knowledge, and willingness to speak to the layman. It is obvious kayaking and boat design/building are his passions, and he lives them quite well. I know to never break the cadinal Bushnell rule: never ever talk modifications that he doesn’t already offer, and never suggest they will be done by you or someone other than him, unless he offers it up. Like the Nike ad goes: ‘Just do it.’ I do wish he was a little more open to things like front bulkheads (Have you seen how much water an EFT can take on even with a float bag?), but can also see his ‘Papa Bear’ point of view. Modifying designs can alter and even compromise their effectiveness and intended use. So swap the seat if you’d like, install the gas pedals, even bolt on some non-Bushnell fabricated bungees (Gasp.) but remember, shhhhhhh…

As to the tiller vs. gas pedals, I can compare my boat as originally spec’d to now. Racing on flatter water the tiller was fine, where minimal course corrections were needed; it actually forces you to pin your knees together and pinch the bar between your toes, placing you in a strong ergonomic/biomechanical position for rotation. Where the gas pedals really shine are in the ability to actuate them from anywhere on the footbrace. In conditions, surfing a following sea, etc., you can hook your knees under the coaming for additional stability. In the event you do dump you’re prepared to roll back up again, and you can easily get to the pedals to make course corrections on a wave. With the tiller bar, I was enacting leg/foot/toe contortions Baryshnikov would have been proud of, and my ‘level of concern’ added to an already high heart rate.

Much of this likely stems from my inexperience with tiller bars, never having worked my way through the k-1 ranks. Someone coming from a sea kayak or surf ski and to the gas pedal system will find it intuitive.

Laughing with tears in my eyes …
Thats a good one Jack.

I have a couple guys using my Gas Pedal system unbeknownst to Doug in their Westside boats ( names withheld for their own protection ) who have actually been out training with Doug … talk about adrenalin rush.

gas pedal
I heard he would speak to them when he found out.

I know I`ll never bring it up again

tiller bar on Thunderbolt with …
… added footrest:


I did more outfitting to my Thunderbolt including replacing the sliding seat by a foam seat (you have two options for seats in Tbolt).

gas pedal and tiller
I don’t exactly have a k1 pedigree but I now spend 99% of my time in ICF boats. In flatwater marathon, sprint, whatever, any flatwater (even really twisty rivers like the Weeki Wachee) I want a tiller. But, throw in a following sea or pushy rapids and I want pedals. If I was buying a sea kayak and intended to use it for downwind runs, I’d want pedals. As it is, there’s a reason you won’t find a surfski with anything other than pedals.

tiller rules
Tiller is easier on the knees. Try it and please realize that Doug designed, built and raced the boat that won blackburn 3 years in a row. And he is a super wild water racer. I spent 4 grand on a new www.vandusenracingboats.com mohican that is a tiny bit faster than my t-bolt but maybe not as stable. All 4 of my boats including glider have tiller. Tiller rules!

South African Marathon ICF boats
…many of them brings foot-pedals. In fact, they quite popular for marathon river races in SA. To me, a tiller bar is better as long as you’re sprinting and/or paddling in straight line. I would never use them for open water.