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Separation Anxiety & The Foam Solution

Posted Jul 12 2005 12:00am
I can saw a woman in two
But you won’t want to look in the box when I do
I can make love disappear
For my next trick I’ll need a volunteer -zevon

Lately on the “boards” there has been some discussion about replacing the factory seats in some kayaks with foam seats usually caved out of minicell. Often this discussion is among us NDK owners who seem to be having a variety of problems with the seat separating from the boat or wearing through the hull underneath. Mine is coming loose now for the second time. The seemingly easy answer is to just cut out the seat and replace it with mini-cell foam. But is this the best choice?

Before you decide to get out the trusty hack saw I’d like to share with you some comments from Jonathan Walpole;
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The NDK Explorer LV model now ships with a foamseat, not so much because of comfort, but because smaller, lighter paddlers who use the LV need to experiment with the seat position in order to get appropriate fore-aft weight distribution to optimizethe handling characteristics in wind. For this reason,the kayaks come with the foam seat lose (i.e., not glued in).

On other occasions, people have replaced a glass seat with a foam one in order to lower the seat and gain more leg room. However, there are disadvantages to this approach – see below.

Regarding design characteristics for seats, thereare a number of issues that should be factored into a design. These include comfort, safety andefficiency. Efficiency is one that people don’t tendto think much about until they start to paddle longer distances at a faster pace. What you need is a seat design that allows you to maintain an efficient posture and to slide and rotate on the seat. For this reason,a hard, slippery surface is better than a soft surface with a lot of friction (ie. I would go for the glass seat over the foam one any day). Similarly, a higher seat allows for more efficient paddling technique thana lower one. Of course, you need enough leg room, andas you raise the seat you reduce stability. However, lowering a seat will stretch your hamstrings and potentially cause strain in the lower part of your back, which leads to discomfort and inefficiency.

Finally, maintaining an upright posture allows for a much more efficient forward stroke. In several cases, I have foundthat people who feel uncomfortable in the NDK seats (dueto the seat feeling too short) have adopted a sitting position more akin to slouching on a couch than sitting in an upright position suitable for efficient paddling. Often, when posture has been improved seat comfort has not been an issue. Also,as one develops the conditioning that allows good posture tobe maintained, comfort increases dramatically.

So, given that you have enough leg-room, a higher seat, witha slippery surface and enough space side-to-side to allowyou to rotate, is better. Also, a backband that contacts your back/sacrum in the middle only (i.e., doesn’t wrap around)allows for more rotation and better paddling technique. This can be a good feature of replacing the band with a block, butyou have to be careful in this case that you can still lie back on your back deck without the block damaging your back.Not that you would choose to paddle this way, but when you areheading out through surf you might meet a big wave that forces you back like this, and you don’t want a back-injury from it.Alternatively, you could try paddling with no backband at all!This is a good measure of how well conditioned your torso muscles are, and how well you are able to hold a good paddling posture.If you look at kayak racers, they don’t use back-bands at all.

So, beware of the fact that a big, wide, soft, fabric-coveredcouch seat may feel compfy in the store, or even just hangingout on the water. If you intend to paddle far, fast andefficiently you should factor in other considerations.

– Jon

ps. I’m an ex bike racer and this kind of issue comes up in that sport too. People who have never riden a bike love those big fat squishy matress seats, on the grounds that they are more comfortable. However, if you try to ride far on them the inefficiency leads to long-term fatigue and discomfort. If you look what the pros use in the tour de france you’ll never see anything like that,even though these guys cover huge distances day after day.

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Good Information! Thanks to Jon for allowing me to re-post it here.

Now with all that being said, and I’m sure Jon would agree, everyone is different and may have very valid reasons for cutting out their seats and replacing them. So, as long as it’s safe, do what works for you!

-dm

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