This is where we can give outfitting tips!
New boats typically arrive attractively outfitted with adjustable pads, so why bother with outfitting? If the outfitting that came with your boat fits your body, you won’t need to make adjustments. The outfitting that came with your boat was created to provide a decent fit for a wide range of body sizes and types, the closer you are to that model, the better fit you will likely get.
How do I know if my boat fits well? The degree of performance and control you have in your kayak is directly related to not only your skill, but also how well your boat fits you. You probably would not try to run a 100 meter dash wearing hiking boots that were 3 sizes larger than your feet! Paddling a boat that is loose and sloppy will have a similar effect on your boat control. On the other hand, a boat that is too tight can cause discomfort, numbness and possibly difficulty exiting the boat. Your boat should fit like a good pair of running shoes, snug, but not too tight.
Key points of control
In terms of kayak outfitting your boat has 6 key points of control. Your outfitting should provide support for your paddling posture and keep your body in contact with the boat in these key places.
How tight should my boat be? Personal comfort level is an important consideration. I like to feel snug in my boat with out any pressure areas. As I sit up and bring my body into an aggressive paddling posture, I want to feel my lower body “lock” into my boat so it feels and functions like an extension of my body. This happens as I sit up and my feet, knees and thighs engage my thigh hooks and bulkhead.
When we make custom outfitting, we are creating, in foam, the negative spaces between our bodies and our boats at these key points of control.
You want your butt to stay more or less in the same spot, so if your seat is very large for your rear end, you may need to modify it to help keep yourself in place.
2. Hip pads
Provide side to side support and hook over the top of the upper thigh to some degree contributing to control of boat tilt.
3. Thigh hooks
Should provide support to the upper thigh area for controlling boat tilt and pulling the bow up. These vary quite a bit in aggressiveness or how much they wrap over the thigh.
4. Knee blocks
Optional equipment. These complement the thigh hooks and actually form an extension of them providing support under the thigh. Support the paddler’s posture by keeping the thighs in contact with the thigh hooks. I find they allow me to control my boat tilt by both pulling up on my knee/thigh and pushing down on the opposite knee block.
Supports a paddler’s feet and limits movement forward in the boat. This can take a lot of pressure which can compress or shift a foam block over time.
6. Back band
Provides support for the lower back and limits rearward movement in the boat.
So, I have my new/used boat. Where do I start?
1. Knee bumps/Seat
Loosen the back band and then get into your boat. Pay attention to where the knee bumps in the hull are. Put your knees up and into the knee bumps, ignoring for the moment where the seat is. Adjust your seat forward or back in order to line up with where your butt is when your knees are in the knee bumps.
If there isn’t padding where your knees are on the inside of the hull, use ½ inch neoprene to line this area. You will appreciate this if ever you suddenly connect with a rock on the river.
Consider whether you need to add a wedge to the back of your seat if the seat is much larger than your rear end. Another thing to consider for those with short torsos (i.e. many women) is whether you will have better reach and leverage if you add a thin pad to your seat to raise your butt in the boat.
2. Check Trim
If you had to move the seat, check your boats trim. That is, make sure is floats flat in the water from bow to stern when you are sitting in a neutral position.
Sitting on the adjusted seat with your knees in the knee bumps, sit up and mark the bottom of your boat with a sharpie where your feet rest. This will tell you where your bulk head needs to be to support your knees and thighs in the thigh hooks. Adjust your bulkhead, add material or fabricate a block to reach your feet. See http://kayakoutfitting.com/tips/outfitting.html
for tips on building a foot block for different kinds of boats.
4. Thigh hooks
With your knees, seat and bulkhead in position, adjust your thigh hooks to support your upper and inner thigh. Pay attention to how well the shape fits you. Remember, they should be snug, but not create pressure points. Sometimes the angle must be changed depending on the angle of the upper thigh in the boat. Taller people will have less angle while shorter people will have more angle. Sometimes you may need to add a wedge of foam that creates a more aggressive hook over the thigh and gives a more snug fit if your thighs are thinner than the model person that the boat was built around.
5. Hip pads
Now with knees, seat, bulkhead and thigh hooks in place, consider your hip pads. Do they provide a snug fit from side to side? Do they have the right amount of hook over the top of the upper thigh? Are there any pressure points? Can you enter and exit the boat with reasonable ease? Check http://kayakoutfitting.com/tips/outfitting.html for instructions on making hip pads. Or refer to pages 14-15 of “Outfitting Your Kayak” by Charlie Walbridge (1997, Menasha Ridge Press).
6. Knee blocks
Finally with knees, seat, bulkhead, thigh hooks and hip pads in place, decide whether you want to add knee blocks to your boat. Leland Davis has a good description of how to make and position these at: www.brushymountainpublishing.com/kneeblocks.html
7. Wet check
IMPORTANT!!! Let the glue dry for a day or two then put on all of your gear and get your boat on water. Roll it a few times, do a wet exit, hold it on edge, paddle it for a mile or two on flat water. This is the reality check. Don’t be surprised if you find a few areas that need to be repositioned or reshaped. Make adjustments and then wet check your boat again.
Congratulations and enjoy your custom-fitted kayak!
I created a gallery of pictures and descriptions of outfitting, modifications and "fixes" for mainly Pyranha boats, but also Jackson, Wave Sport, along with projects like two piece paddles, and open canoe saddles. Many of the ideas can transfer to most any boat if you are not happy with the fit. Many of the pictures have had their titles changed to describe, and some expound on the descriptions even more if you click on the "information" icon. The gallery link is at:
Missouri Pyranha Website:
I will bring the issue from both points of view. (cutters versus stretchers)
If you measure your neck, and the neck gasket at the top, smallest circumference is less than 1 1/2 inches smaller than your neck, you can stretch the neck gasket with a form, such as a polyethylene sherbet container or a 2 liter PET soda bottle, or anything smooth and not subject to cracking with a diameter greater than 5 inches. You can store the drytop with the form inside the neck, and remove it just before paddling. This really helps to keep the gasket comfortable without changing the amount of material on the neck, which will keep the neck that much drier, making the most contact area to your neck.
If the gasket is greater than 1 1/2 inches smaller than the circumference of your neck, you may need to cut. Latex is incredibly stretchy, but it can become a tourniquet around your neck and make you faint while paddling (that is my excuse!). There are concentric rib rings around the upper part of the gasket. It is not a good idea to cut more than one ring at at time. You can always cut a second time, but you cannot put material back. Locate the ribs. I have seen gaskets ribbed towards both the inside and the outside of the gasket. Put the gasket on a form as described in the "stretchers" (I would use something more substantial than the 2 liter PET soda bottle, mainly because a razor blade will most likely cut right through it), with the gasket ribs facing out, in order to be better able to see and follow cutting around the neck. This may require you to put the garment inside out. Taking a new sharp, razor blade, and doing this in a very well lit area, make a continuous cut in line with a rib, keeping pressure against the razor blade at all times, spinning the form slowly under you until you meet where you started.
Do not use scissors unless there are no other options. Any jagged edges or slices into the gasket will be great starting points for "deal breaking" tears.
Preferably, make time for this project and only cut one ring at a time, even though you think it would need more. Try on the gasket after each cut, and rationalize if it would be better if stretched and stored in a form after.
Use 303 protectant on all latex gaskets, preferably after each use. If the gasket is dirty with skin oils, you can clean the gasket with an alcohol (rubbing, not denatured) swab or cloth lightly soaked in the same. Directly after you are certain that the alcohol has evaporated, apply 303 protectant. Prolonged exposure to any residues from alcohol will dry and crack the latex. I only use alcohol about once every six times I wear the garment, but I apply 303 liberally after each use. It will make a difference on how long the dry garment will last, as well as how easy it will be to put on. Detergents, and even just soap and water, will leave a certain amount of residue that will be harmful to latex, so avoid these if possible.
When storing drywear, try to remember to reapply 303 at least every 3 months to latex gaskets, even if you do not wear it.
When you are looking for drywear with latex gaskets for wrist, ankles or neck, beware of sales involving "last season's" merchandise or older. Even the best retailers and on-line sources rarely if ever take the time to apply protectant to dry garments meant to sell as new. Also, you do not know how they have been stored (temperature, humidity, stored allowing the latex to fold, etc). Be assertive by asking how old the garment is, and if it has been cared for since it was procured from the manufacturer. Personally I believe there are no real bargains for dry gear, only remorse when things go bad. My best experience has been directly to manufacturers such as Kokotat, Stohlquist, OS systems, Palm, and IR.