Whitewater kayak outfitting guide

Whitewater kayak outfitting guide

Having a correctly outfitted boat is very important, not only for safety reasons, but for connectivity in how the boat responds to your movements and comfort on the water. Don’t forget you’re going to sit in the boat all day long, you want to be comfortable. There’s lots of things that we can do with a kayak to outfit it correctly.

You want your footrest to be snug, touching the footplate with the balls of your toes. You can adjust the metal runners on the inside and fix them in place with wing nuts. Some kayaks have a foam pad that you stick on to the foot plate. This needs to be cut a little bit, so it fits onto the foot plate and covers the holes above or below the foot rest which stops your feet from sliding behind and reduces the risk of entrapment.

Thigh braces can be adjusted, either forwards or backwards to be cupping your thigh, closely and comfortably. If you want more connectivity and a tighter grip higher up your leg you slide the thigh brace back, if you want a bit more room for your knees to spread out move the thigh brace forwards. You can also make your knees more comfortable by sticking foam pads against the inside of your boat where your knees touch the plastic.

You can adjust your trim by moving the seat forwards or backwards. When the factory fresh, seats are central, which is optimum for most people. If you want a more tail happy boat, you can move your seat backwards and that’ll set your trim further towards the back of the boat which will make your stern engage more a little give you more length and rocker at the bow which will create lift over rapids and drops. However, it might feel a little bit more sporty and twitchy.

By moving your seat forwards you will bring your weight further forward over your knees so you might have a bit more control with your edges in front, but it slows everything down slightly so central seat position is optimum.

You can raise yourself up in the boat with foam seat pads. They tuck into the seat itself underneath the seat padding and that’ll give you a bit of a booster and a bit of elevation. What that will do is that heighten your centre of gravity, so I’ll make the boat more responsive. It also gives you better leverage with your paddling strokes so you can reach the water for a longer deeper stroke. It does make the boat a little bit more tippy, but if you’re on the lighter side of the weight range for a boat it will help you throw the boat around.

Hip pads aid connectivity and hold you into position well. Your hip pads will adjust with height with Velcro that you can move. You also have lots of pads that you can put into your hip pads which make them closer into you. With my hip pads, I like to make them nice and high at the top, so it hooks over my hips and hold me down into the boat a bit more.

Backrests are very adjustable. You’ve got height adjustment with the bungees at the back and the adjustable strap, so you can really lock in a nice height on your back. You’ve also got ratchet buckles to pull through and encourage the back rest into the base of your spine. Always make sure that you tighten the back band first before doing the ratchet.

I always recommend putting airbags in a kayak as well. They help it float when you’re not inside it if you have a swim. We also sometimes put airbags in the front of our boats, particularly with boats with so much volume at the front.

In essence, there’s lots of adjustments that you can make with your boat to make it nice and snug and comfortable and connected which gives you a pleasurable experience on the water with lots of control. There’s nothing worse than chucking everything in and then 10 minutes into your trip having to pull everything. I always recommend making small adjustments periodically to really help you learn how you like to fit in your boat.

Here at Above&Below, within Lee Valley Whitewater centre. I’m always willing and ready to help people without fitting. Even if you’ve got a secondhand boat or an old boat that you may not have bought from us, please come and see me and we can have a chat through outfitting and will get you on the water comfortably and safely.

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