A kayaker should fit in his or her kayak like a hand in a glove: you wear it rather than sit in it. Once you add water it should sit level when you are sitting upright. It may take an hour or two of adjustment to achieve this fit and trim, but that is time well spent if you want to get the best from your boat. So where do we start?
Most kayak seats can be moved forwards and backwards. For ease of manufacture and to make the cockpit feel comfortable in the shop, this is usually fitted as far back as possible in new kayaks. The result is a boat that will sit too low at the stern (back) whilst the bow (front) is well out of the water: it will be difficult to paddle forwards in a straight line, slow and unstable as the stern will catch in turbulence.
Start by moving the seat forwards to between the middle and front settings. If you can, try the kayak on the water at this stage. Get a friend to look at how the boat floats on the water and adjust the seat as necessary until the bow and stern are level.
So now the boat has been trimmed we can move on to making it fit. First adjust the backrest and footrests to approximately the right places: you will probably have already done this to check the trim on the water. Now, if the thigh brace is adjustable move it back or forwards to optimise for comfort, grip and ease of getting in and out. You might need to add a layer of foam to the thigh braces. Then check the fit between the sides of the seat and your hips: it should be snug enough to fit but not so tight that it prevents any movement of the hips. If necessary pad out the sides of the seat with foam or with a hip pad kit. Still working on the seat consider whether the seat height is correct: some seats have adjustable height but if not the job can be done with a layer of foam.
Once the cockpit area is a snug fit return to the footrests and adjust those. Again layers of foam can be added to supplement or refine the adjustment. For the connoisseur foam blocks or pads can be added around the knees to provide more protection and a better fit.
It may seem like a tedious process, but if you want the best from a kayak the time spent adjusting the trim and fit will be time well spent. It will enable the kayak to help you to perform to your full potential.
First published August 2008