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Set Up Your Kayak

By Dino Heald

Senior Instructor Dino Heald provides some great pointers on how to set up your kayak for maximum performance
"How should your kayak feel? This really is a personal choice but a boat fitted to you will allow for far greater control, performance and comfort. Here are a few points to remember"

The Fit

You should always be able to exit the kayak normally regardless of the adjustments

Play boaters may require a snugger fit

River boaters usually need more comfort to allow for flexing feet, preventing cramp and entering and exiting in tight spots

Sea boaters will not usually need to adjust the seat but may need to allow for greater comfort for those long touring days.

Trimming the Boat

Set Up Your Kayak

Do you feel that the front keeps digging in or that the tail persistently dips at the stern, it could be down to the nature of the kayak that you have purchased but given that hopefully you have made a wise choice, some of the following tips may help.

Sitting in the boat in the normal paddling position (upright and slightly forward) then get a friend to see whether the kayak is balanced forward and back. This is shown in the diagram by the two red lines, if the boat is correctly trimmed these two lines should be parallel.

Adjust the boat accordingly to alter the kayaks trim.

Minor adjustments - by simply moving the footrest and the backrest one-way or the other.

Major adjustments - by moving the seat. Most boats are adjustable simply by moving the seat forward or back then check the trim again.

Hip Pads

Set Up Your Kayak

When paddling my kayak I like to think of this as an extension of my body. This means a snug fit when I am in it. So the use of hip pads makes a big difference.
Most manufactures now provide some form of hip pads with the kayak. If not you can make some from closed cell foam. There are 2 common types:-

1. Hip Pads that come with the boat from the manufacturer.

These simply fix in using the strap provided.

Set Up Your Kayak

By simply fitting the pads around the seat post and using layers of foam to adjust till a comfortable fit is achieved. The advantage of this system is that it can be quickly moved from kayak to kayak.

Set Up Your Kayak

2. Foam blocks, which allow you to shape and fix.

By simply using a piece of closed cell foam about the same size as the side of the seat, you are able to shape the foam to the rough shape that you want then try it out. By using a knife or even better a Stanley surf form shaver. (This really is a useful and cheap piece of kit)

Set Up Your Kayak

Then continue to shape the foam doing this until you have the required size and shape. Allow for different clothing and also the foam will dampen after a while.

Set Up Your Kayak

Once you have shaped the pads fix them in using duct tape. This will allow you to try it out before making them a more permanent fixture.

Fixing Hip Pads into the Boat

Mark out the area where you want to fix the foam using a marker pen. Using a strong spray adhesive, which you can purchase from most diy shops and following the manufacturers recommendations. Spray both sides which need to be stuck and allow the area to become tacky before fitting and applying pressure .

Thigh Braces

Set Up Your Kayak

The thigh braces should help you to grip the boat using you thighs. On most modern boats these are adjustable. Simply slid up or down to a comfortable position. For greater comfort apply a layer of foam under the thigh brace.

Set Up Your Kayak


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