What part of thigh should the braces contact?

My thigh braces on my Tempest 170 have about 6" of adjustment. Right now they are set in the forward position, which puts them closer to my knees. If I adjust them rearward, they would move closer to mid thigh. Is there a place that would be ideal for the thigh brace to come in contact with my thigh? Should my thighs be snug and touching the brace at all times? Or should there be a small gap b/t my thigh and the brace. Only pushing my thigh into the brace when needed to control the boat?


I don’t think I have seen specific guidelines for positioning. So thinking about this on the fly, so could be wrong. Love to hear other people’s thoughts.

On leg positioning against brace - I generally sit with my legs in contact with the brace at all time. My feet are looser against foot pegs when I am relaxed, and pushing into the foot pegs to lock me in when I need the full contact for bracing, rolling, etc… In rare case when I am in an uncomfortable boat, I will sometimes (in appropriate conditions) take feet off foot pegs and put them straight out, so then won’t have contact with thigh braces (not an issue with personal boat - more with some of the boats I guide with, as outfitters invariably seem to have old boats).

On where to place thigh brace, I think the brace should be closer to the knee than thigh. The further out toward knee, the more leverage you would get, which is good. The closer in to thigh, the harder it may be to get in and out of boat, so that is bad. But overall, the main thing to look for is comfort. If it is hitting your knee in a funny way and causes pain or discomfort, that is not good.

Thigh braces should not be right on top of the knees, for the sake of your knees. How far back from there comes down to how easy it is to get back into the boat in a wet re-entry. A small person will often have a lot of leeway here, a big person or someone with biking thighs may have a narrower tolerance before the braces are far enough back that re-entry in difficult conditions is too dicey. You don’t want to be locked into a position, best way to do a job on your low back is to be constantly tight in the thigh braces. They just need to be aligned so that when you do need them, it isn’t a big reach to get to them. That is why some people pad down the thigh braces vertically, to get them closer to the thigh when they need them.

I like my thigh braces to contact the lower half of my thigh, but don’t like them to contact my knee or knee cap. When I’m paddling, I like to be braced between my foot brace, back band, and thigh braces, so I can control my kayak. But I set my foot braces far enough forward that I can straighten my legs if I want to relax and move around.

I think it’s a matter of what one is comfortable with and will be different from boat to boat. I don’t like feeling locked in and would rather be ab!e move around a little.

from my understanding, it should be just in front of your knee. maybe an inch or two.

Some of this may depend upon the length of your legs, or maybe the boat. I’m 6’ with a 32" inseam and size 11 feet. I have several sea kayaks. I like to be able to lay my legs flat on the bottom of the kayak, with my feet naturally and comfortably upright, and just touching the footpegs with no pressure. I’m pretty happy with contact anywhere from my knees to mid thigh, but just above the knees I would figure to be ideal. I can tolerate, and am happy with, a good amount of space between my thighs and the thigh braces from this flat-legged position. A little more leg space, and I can pump my legs and involve them in my strokes more. I’m not terribly tolerant of having my legs locked into the thigh braces for the same reason - it interferes with using them in my forward stroke. Locking in legs is more of a whitewater boat thing. I understand that a whitewater playboat and a sea kayak involve different dimensions of control - and I’m very much into sea kayak control as opposed to the control afforded by a whitewater playboat. There’s no sense in locking in for certain levels of control that don’t apply to your craft - submerging your bow or stern, while locking yourself out of dimensions of paddling that do apply and are a significant feature of your craft - distance forward propulsion vs. riding the current in whitewater rivers. The reason the leg length may matter is that I can personally slide my heel back a couple inches with the balls of my feet on the footpegs, and my knees will raise 6". And I can comfortably relax them in that position and leave them there should I choose. (The struggle of holding your legs up to keep them in contact with the thigh braces has always been a puzzling concept to me. Though I hear it repeated many times over the years as a concept, I’ve never realized anything of this struggle. I’ve been left skeptical of whether it is truly real for anyone - or if it falls into the “blame the equipment” category of comment. I’m always open to it as a possibility - so I guess this is my way of pointing it out as an unlikely concern?) What I’ve realized is that I’ve learned to improve almost everything through involving my legs, and now to not do it in a sea kayak feels very inhibiting. As for the sea kayaking that I do, I spent Saturday and Sunday on the local ocean beach, playing in the surf. This is not to say I’m any better than anyone else at it. It’s just to make you aware of the type of sea kayaking that I do, so it’s not written off as just a flatwater preference.
So in short, I recommend the beginning of thigh contact starting just above the top of the knee-cap, and a few inches of room if the kayak allows for you. I certainly wouldn’t pad it out to allow less than a few inches of room if it were me. As always, time in the cockpit may lead to different preferences now, and perhaps several years from now.

Thanks for all the comments.

Well I put my Tempest in the water today for the first time. Actually my first time in a kayak, ever. My thighs actually started cramping after 15mins. I wasn’t comfortable at all. So I went back to the landing and completely removed the thigh braces. Moving them back would made it worse, so I just removed them. Went back for another 30 mins of paddling. Much better in the thighs and legs. However, when I removed the thigh braces, apparently the straps also support the back band thingy. So the back support wasn’t there. I just leaned back until my back hit the back of the cockpit and used that. It wasn’t the best, but was better than the first trip out. I’m going to screw the straps back in without the braces for the next time out. Overall, I’m very happy I managed to get in and out of the boat, plus actually go paddle around a bit without flipping it. LOL! At 22" wide and being my first time, it was a bit nerve racking for sure.

Don’t base the comfort, or lack of it on your first time in the boat. And don’t get used to leaning back on the back band, or the back end of the cockpit. It might take quite a long time for your legs and back to get used to paddling, but you will be much the better if you assume the correct posture. As I said, it might not feel right, but stick with it and your body will get used to it and it will feel natural and you’ll be able to do it for hours without discomfort. I’m purposely not going into what I think the right posture should be; I think it would be better for you to research it, because you will probably learn something along the way and there will probably be some variety of opinions.

It is totally normal for paddlers new to a proper sea kayak, which WILL wiggle and it is supposed to do that, to be unduly tense until they figure out how things work. Your pain was likely due to your jamming your thighs hard into the braces - a usual instinct for new paddlers but not one that is necessary. The thigh braces are there for boat control when you need them, not to be constantly under pressure.
The thigh braces are functional for boat control. Given your report of your first trip, it appears that you do not yet understand how. But you do need them. As above, leaning back is also counter-productive. You need to make relaxed peace with both the way your boat achieves stability - which is not by sitting flat - and the thigh braces in conjunction with the foot pegs and a centered position in your seat.
You don’t seem to have a profile on where you are paddling, at least in this new format I didn’t see it. If you are paddling in water that is under 40 degrees centigrade right now I can see being very nervous about taking a spill. But honestly, tension is also the surest way to capsize a boat. You need to keep your hips loose and let it wiggle under you. That is all it will do, not go fully over, unless you tense up and lean out too far.

Oh for sure leaning back isn’t good. I didn’t like it at all. It was just the result of removing the thigh braces. I will be reattaching the back band straps today. It created more room for my thighs though, which was was what I was after. I prefer to have my torso more perpendicular to the water. Having my thighs jammed into the braces was the problem. There was no space b/t my thigh and the brace when just sitting. I’m probably just a shade too big for the boat. I’ve removed the hip pads and thigh braces. Once I get the back support right, I think I’ll be ok. If not, I’ll have to find a boat with a bigger cockpit.

It was 65 air temp, I don’t know the water temp, but don’t imagine it was very cold. I live in South La. down in the swamps. I can totally see the need for the thigh braces in rough water etc. I’m strictly on flatwater right now. The wiggle wasn’t so bad. I could see how once I get comfortable “fit” wise, it will be just fine. Just when you are not comfy and cramped up, it made the wiggle a little worse than it should be. Also, there are a ton of alligators in Lake Martin, so I was a little tight, all things considered.

Like I said, I’m thrilled I was able to just enter/exit the boat without making a fool of myself! Next time will be better.

Tempest 170 takes a fairly large paddler. At least I have seen anything but thin folks fit in it fine. How tall are you?

I’m 6’1 230lbs. I’m wide through hips and shoulders longish legs, size 11 foot. I’m not the most flexible and I suspect having tight hamstrings isn’t helping either. Coming off complete knee reconstruction also with a torn rotator cuff. However, that is one of the reasons I got a kayak. Need to strengthen my core. Figured it would help me out fitness wise. After my injury riddled spell, I’m getting fat. Can’t do what I used to do for exercise anymore, so I figured a kayak would might be a good thing.

The Tempest 170 is probably too small for me, but I want to see if I can make it work. I figured I wouldn’t have this boat vary long for various reasons. So I’m looking try and sit in bigger boats to see how they fit.

It depends on the specific boat design and how big your thighs are. Deck height has a lot to do with it. For touring in a large cockpit closer to the knee than hip, but just where it feels comfortable to use for leverage for edging and rolling. Whitewater boat is about mid-way. For a surf kayak they may be very close to your thigh and you want them positioned so you can get out of the boat easily. I don’t remember clearly but I paddled a squirt boat where the padding under the deck almost kept you immobilized in the cockpit - kind of scary.

It often helps your comfort to bring your heels in a little and point your toes slightly outward.

@mjamja said:
It often helps your comfort to bring your heels in a little and point your toes slightly outward.

This actually the only way my feet fit. Barefooted it’s better, but prefer to wear a shoe with the foot braces. I took a pair of fip flops and traced my toe and heel line, then cut all the excess sole away. Actually works pretty good.

Now that I have the back support straps secured again, I’m anxious to get back out and see how much better it will be.

@SeaDart said:
It depends on the specific boat design and how big your thighs are. Deck height has a lot to do with it. For touring in a large cockpit closer to the knee than hip, but just where it feels comfortable to use for leverage for edging and rolling. Whitewater boat is about mid-way. For a surf kayak they may be very close to your thigh and you want them positioned so you can get out of the boat easily. I don’t remember clearly but I paddled a squirt boat where the padding under the deck almost kept you immobilized in the cockpit - kind of scary.

That all makes good sense. Even with my thigh braces removed, I can still raise my knee and hit that area. So for just flatwater touring, I may be ok. We will see.

If you want to strengthen your core try stand up paddle boarding, it’s much better exercise than kayaking, and forces you to have much better balance and flexibility, but can be pretty demanding on your legs, I know people recovering from knee replacements doing it, but talk with your doctor.

Adventure357, a couple of suggestions:

  1. Put the thigh braces and other outfitting back in your kayak. The Tempest looks like a pretty nice kayak with good outfitting, designed by people who know a lot about kayaking. Better that you should get used to that good outfitting, than that you should rip out the outfitting and reduce your pretty nice kayak to the level of a cheap recreational kayak. You may not need thigh braces very much when paddling around in flat water. But when you get out into waves, thigh braces, foot braces, the backband, and hip pads are how you control a kayak. If you have wide hips and aren’t slopping from side to side in your kayak seat, you may not need hip pads. But the other outfitting is an essential part of a kayak.

  2. Get on YouTube and do a search for “how to paddle a kayak.” There is a lot of good information in some of those videos. For example, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCyikqdIhmY .
    Good paddling technique will make paddling a kayak easier and more fun. Another way to learn more about how to paddle a kayak is by paddling with experienced kayakers, watching what they do, and asking them for tips.

  3. Give yourself some time to get into shape. Paddling a kayak is a pretty laid back activity, but like skiing, biking, and other sports, it uses some muscles which need to get developed by a beginner. For example, if you are sitting up straight in your kayak seat like you should be while paddling (with the help of your back band, which should be pressing firmly against the back of your hips), you will be using muscles on the front of your hips which you are probably not accustomed to using. Don’t be surprised if the front of your hips are a bit sore after the first couple of times you go kayaking. You need to develop those muscles. You also need to develop the muscles in your upper body and arms which you use for paddling. Paddling with good technique is a lot easier than paddling with bad technique, so watch those YouTube videos. For example, if you leave your torso stationary and move your arms like you’re pedaling a bike, you’ll give your arms an unnecessary workout, and you may develop tendonitis on the outside of your elbow (“tennis elbow”). If you leave your arms generally straight while paddling, swing your arms and shoulders like a unit, and drive your stroke with upper body rotation, it’ll be less effort to paddle, and your stroke will be more effective.

  4. Wear footgear to pad your heels. I get sore heels if I paddle without footgear. Flip flops are not a good choice for kayaking.

Back to the fit part myself -after getting your size, you are not way off the traditional average paddler height. My husband was 6’1". albeit lighter weight and probably a bit thinner, and he swam in the Tempest 170 cockpit. Thigh brace fit is as much about leg/thigh length than hip width. And a local paddler who has your weight, carried on the wide side, has paddled the 170, worked just fine in terms of fit. They didn’t stay with the boat, but it was not due to fit issues.
Agree with above, if the thigh braces produced pain at your size the issue is more likely due to how you were sitting in it than a fundamental fit issue. You should take a look at the videos and put them back in, though taking out the hip pads may give you some needed room.