What to do when Kneeling isn't an option

Via some late spring runs with local paddlers,I’ve fallen in love with creek running.

In the process,I’ve discovered: A)the perception america while durable has too much draft and too little mobility in maneuvering the twisties of the narrower creeks in western new york (and is a load to portage around log jams)

B)the broken ankles of many years gone by (along with the replaced hip )are not going to lend themselves to a kneeling style of paddling that seems to be the preferred style for solo canoes.(at 66,I’m not into dealing with a no pain no gain mentality)

I see most folks using a single paddle style (and I made one for the america because the double kayak style paddle is ill equipped for narrow fast moving water with overhangs and sweeps etc…)but noticed the double paddle as the preferred for folks with lowered seats and no kneeling (which sort of kills the reason for investing in a canoe)

Just wondering if other folks have run into the same issues/problems and what your solutions were?

Thanks in Advance

Consider inflatable kayaks designed
for whitewater. They are light for portaging, easy to escape, somewhat rollable, and their handling is pretty good. Aire Force XL deserves a look. One disadvantage to inflatable kayaks is that you are less protected from the elements and will need a Farmer John with drytop or a full drysuit.

Here is what I do.
I have my seat set so I put one knee down, one leg extended and my butt on the seat. It’s a very stable and powerful position.

I can also slide forward with my legs crossed, my knees are then down in the corners and my butt on the seat. This is about as stable as pure kneeling without the pressure on the ankels.

how about a saddle?
Plenty used in ww canoes and you can tailor it to keep the pressure off your knees…

In touring plenty of people sit with a lowered seat and never kneel…but I personally haven’t seen any sitting creekers.

I think however that some folks may have suggestions for bad knees and ankles and kneeling…

damn those knee joints!
What I do is put my weight on the seat & kneel. This way, you keep all the pressure off your knees & you don’t have to bend your knees as far. Plus, I move around a little. Sometimes, if my knees bug me (especially in the winter) I will stretch out my legs when the creek is straight & no obstacles.

I wouldn’t go double paddle on moving water. I think you would lose too much speed & solid options for moving quickly.

Whitewater kayak ?

If you can’t Kneel, Sit
Plenty of folks sit in solo canoes. They might lower the seat some but typicaly not so much as you would find in a kayak or pack canoe so a single blade paddle still works quite well.

ScottB is sitting in his Royalex Wildfire and styling Owasee Rapid in this shot.


Good Luck,


I have seen a couple
of pictures where paddlers who canoed seated added some foam paddling at or just under the gunnels. This made sort of kayak like knee/thigh braces that they could slip their knees under to lock theselves into the canoe better when going through rapids.

The big benefit I find kneeling is not more stability, but rather the ability to controlably shift my weight to conteract tipping forces. When seated I just seem to slide off to on side causeing overcorrection (swim) if I act quickly or sliding in the wrong direction as the canoe tilts and going for a swim because I am to far over to shift my weight back the other way. Having some extra padding to help give me better contact with the sides of the canoe when seated should have some of the same effect as kneeling. Of course you want it so you can be “free” and relaxed when not going through the rapids.


So many options!
If you don’t want to kneel you can outfit most any boat for sitting. You can sit in a canoe with a lowered seat or you can sit in a kayak.

As far as paddles go you can use any paddle in almost any boat. It you are sitting lower then you need a short paddle. My favorite canoe paddle is a 52 inch bent shaft single blade. My favorite kayak paddle is a 48 inch bent shaft single blade.

There are times when other paddles are better but for most of the paddling I do I use a bent shaft single.

It sounds like you need a lighter boat with a shallower draft that turns quickly in your twisty rivers. Sice you like sitting a kayak is most likely to be comfortable with the standard outfitting and I would definately try a short single blade paddle in the narrow twisty stuff. Try other friends boats until you find one that you think will work better than the one you have.

Thinking on and
leaning toword adding bracing should I go to the dark side (canoe) for the creek runs.

Several local paddlers have solo canoes and I found one that everyone else found ‘tippy’ was fine for me because I braced my knees against the hull.

…Which still leaves the adapability of a single paddle in such a lowered position.

God help me,I wish my ankles turned the way they should but 3 min into that position and I felt like Jimmy Caans character in MISERY when Kathy Bates unloads with the hammer.

It’s quite obvious the canoe (one with the correct amount of rocker)is the way to go on creeks and back water paddles. Less draft, easier maneuvering, easier to carry (even a 45lb canoe is easier to carry than my 50lb perception america)and easier to drag should that be the option.

Don’t assume less draft with canoe.
Solo canoe drafts can vary greatly, just like kayak drafts can vary greatly. My slight V bottomed Blackhawk Zephyr will drag bottom in water that my royalex Bell Wildfire / Yellowstone solo floats freely.

Hull shape matters when evaluating shallow water clearance in canoes and kayaks. V bottoms will likely drag more than shallow arch or flat bottoms - at least that is my experience. YMMV.

Canoe easier to maneuver than kayak
on narrow, shallow and twisty streams and creeks?

That hasn’t been my experience. I paddle a solo canoe and lay no claims to having good river reading and paddling skills, but it seems to me that the kayakers in our groups (most paddling rec yaks including Otters and such, often borrowed) seem much more relaxed and easy going through tight turns with downed trees and sweepers than I feel and they seem to have much less trouble making turns while staying out of the downed trees that the current is trying to push the boats into.

One suggestion for single blade paddle selection if paddling shallow, rocky streams where having enough water to float your boat is a concern - don’t use carbon. If you use carbon in that situation, you will chip the blade when digging for power to stay away from the sweepers and downed trees that the current is pushing you into - the water just isn’t deep enough to get any power without hitting the rocky bottom. Use an old Mohawk paddle for those situations.