How to Properly Sit in a Kayak

Kayaks lined up at edge of lake
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Although you might think that getting into a kayak and assuming the correct sitting stance requires little more than common sense, your first experience will quickly show you that it's a little more complicated than that. While properly sitting in a kayak isn't difficult, it does require some guidance the first time in the boat.

Before venturing out onto the water, it's helpful to practice proper sitting posture at home. You can practice the steps below in the comfort of your living room (without the kayak, of course). It's all about finding the right body position. Remember to stretch before getting into the kayak, especially your lower back and hamstrings.

How to Properly Sit in a Kayak

  1. Set up the kayak. Bring the kayak to a soft grassy area so that you can properly adjust the kayak outfitting. Doing this in a place that's stable and safe for both the paddler and the boat is essential. First, adjust the back brace so that it is loose yet still supported. Next, adjust the foot supports, or foot pegs, to a position that will allow you to get into the kayak comfortably and still be within reach of your feet once you are inside.
  2. Get into the kayak. While still on land, test-fit the setup. Wearing the same footwear you plan to paddle with, get into the kayak. Be careful not to sit on the back support, and make sure that your feet are in front of the foot pegs. If either prevents you from getting into the kayak, get back out and adjust as necessary before trying again.
  3. Adjust the backrest. Once you are sitting in the kayak, make sure that your buttocks are comfortably in the contour of the seat. Adjust the backrest so that it provides your back with enough support. You should not be leaning back in the seat, nor should the seat be forcing your torso forward. The backrest should be positioned so that your lower back and buttocks form a 90-degree angle, with your chest slightly forward. Depending on the type of backrest, you may need to get out of the boat to make any necessary adjustments.
  1. Set the foot pegs and leg position. While sitting with your back supported by the kayak seat, place the balls of your feet on the foot pegs. Your toes should be pointed outward, and your heels should be angled toward the center of the kayak. Your knees should bend upward and outward, allowing your legs to apply pressure to the thigh braces. In this position, you will find that there is a slight, uniform pressure between your feet and the foot pegs, and between your legs and the thigh braces. You may have to exit the kayak and adjust the foot pegs to achieve the proper orientation.
  2. Practice sitting in the kayak. Once everything has been properly adjusted, take notice of the positions of the backrest and the foot pegs. Rock the kayak side to side and lean forward and back, effectively stretching in the kayak to get comfortable in it. Practice the forward stroke while maintaining proper body position in the kayak.
  3. Ready to go. Once you feel comfortable with the setup of the kayak and the lower back, leg, and foot positions within the boat, you may take the canoe out onto the water.