FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS)

How much foam will I need to outfit my boat?

If I custom fit my cockpit, will I still be able to do a wet exit?

Can I use any kind of foam?

How will customizing my cockpit improve my skills?


Is it worth the effort to customize my kayak to myself?


How can you customize a boat to fit two or more individuals?


Why would I want to learn to roll?


Where can I get tools and materials?


Why don't you sell kits?


Wouldn’t it be easier to purchase an aftermarket cushion for the seat and add-on hip braces to custom fit my boat?




How much foam will I need to outfit my boat ?

That depends upon what you are doing, what boat you have, how big you are, and how much material you lose in your experiments.  To make a seat, hip braces, and knee braces requires 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 square feet of 3" foam.  The seat requires a block of foam approximately 12" (fore and aft) by 22" (beam), depending upon the width of the kayak.  Some paddlers make the fore and aft measurement of the seat longer, making it high in front to extend the support beneath the thighs to relieve sitting pressure on nerves and blood vessels, which is the cause of numbness.  Hip braces require about 1 1/2 square feet of foam, but vary a lot depending on the boat.  Wide boats may use significantly more, while shimming in the sides of an existing seat just requires a few small scraps.  Knee braces are the most variable of all.  Sometimes a couple of small chips glued where they'll keep the knees from sliding into the cockpit opening are sufficient.  I used about one and a half square feet of foam for mine, which completely surround the knee, and cantilever out into the cockpit.   

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What can I do if my legs go numb?

Numbness is caused by pressure to blood vessels and nerves.  You can do several things:  
      Reduce pressure by creating a better fitting contour so as to avoid areas of high pressure.
      Increase the surface area of the seat by extending it forward under the thighs.
      Place a block (life vest, paddle float, whatever) beneath the knees to give support to the legs.
      Use a slightly compliant material for the seat.

By making your own seat out of 3" gray minicell foam you can usually address the problem--unless your underwear is simply too tight!

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If I custom fit my cockpit, will I still be able to do a wet exit?

A properly fitted kayak will not affect your ability to do a wet exit.  It is a little harder to wriggle into because the hip braces hook in over the top of the hips.  To enter you will need to drop one side of your butt and swing the other side forward so your hips can angle past the tops of the hip braces.  With a little practice this becomes second nature, and it isn't difficult.  Exiting is easy since gravity is pulling you down and out anyway.  You just tilt the hips and shove, and you should come right out.  An improperly fit boat could be quite difficult to enter or exit.  You've got to sand away enough material so that entry and exit are easy.  Try some wet exits and rescues with a spotter to help you if there are any nasty surprises.  (Water testing any new equipment by seeing if it interferes with rescues, braces or rolls is a good idea.  Have someone spot you if there is any possibility of danger.)
      I like to do my fitting wearing skin tight shorts like cycling shorts, or underwear, then open it up a bit more for my drysuit.  It is much easier to see what you're doing in shorts.  Making things looser for the drysuit is just a matter of uniform sanding all over.  The final fit is not tight, or even snug.  It simply keeps you in place in the boat and gives you the opportunity to lock in by bracing the legs against the kneebraces and footpegs.

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Can I use any kind of foam?

Most kinds of foam have been tried, and they mostly work--sort of.  There are big differences in durability, compliance, carvability, glueing, surface finish, etc.  Gray minicell foam as the preferred material.  The gray minicell foam sold by kayak retailers comes from a variety of sources, and does vary in quality.  All gray minicell foam being sold for kayak fitting works OK, but if you had an opportunity to compare by working with all of the different types you would develop preferences.  We prefer, use, and sell Sentinal SSP 20 polyolofin foam, which is cross linked, giving it a very uniform cellular structure.  Voltec M200 polyurethane foam is another preferred brand.  Most suppliers won't be able to tell you what brand they sell because they usually don't know.  The price of foam varies substantially.  You can purchase the least costly, reasoning that it is the least costly, or you can buy one of the preferred types, reasoning that you're going to be doing a lot of labor to create a nice job of fitting, so you want a durable material that is easy to work with, so you can get the best possible result for your labor, and have it last the longest.

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How will customizing my cockpit improve my skills?

Fitting your kayak will make it easy to stay properly positioned in your boat when it is on edge, or upside down, or even being tumbled in waves.  You will be able to communicate "body english" to your boat.  Without the advantage provided by fitting, your ability to edge the boat, do braces, or rolls will be dependent upon the existing fit of the boat.  If you base the selection of your boat mostly upon fit you may get a good enough fit to do fairly well, but if you try to purchase your kayak for its performance characteristics as a boat, leaving the fit to chance, your technique will probably remain minimal or clumsy until you fit the boat to yourself.  The advantage to fitting is that you can buy your kayak for its performance characteristics, and then create a first class custom fit.  Until you try it you won't be able to believe what it will do for you.  Now that I'm accustomed to a good fit, I'd equate paddling an unfitted boat to driving a car sitting on a bucket while wearing handcuffs.

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 Is it worth the effort to customize my kayak to myself?

 

If you are a very sedentary paddler, mainly parking your butt on the seat of a broad, stable kayak, and paddling slowly along the shallow shore of a quiet pond, it won't make much difference.  If you like high performance equipment, learning good technique and advanced skills, or paddle in unprotected waters, this is the most significant improvement you will be able to make to your equipment.  It is soooo worth it!

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How can you customize a boat to fit two or more individuals?

It is difficult to do this well.  Individuals sharing a kayak will have to settle for second best, which would be some of the adjustable types of hip braces that use shims slipped into pockets, or pneumatic bladders, or multiple sets of velcro-attaching pads*.

*When creating removable velcro-attaching pads, encase the entire pad with fabric by means of spray adhesive.  Otherwise the foam will tear when you are removing the pad.

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Why would I want to learn to roll?

There are four reasons for learning to roll:
      To recover from accidental capsize in the quickest, safest manner.
      To improve bracing skills, which benefit markedly from rolling practice, hence, making accidental capsize less likely.  (Though bracing is almost always taught before rolling, I'm not aware of anyone who braces strongly who doesn't also roll.)
      To improve peace of mind, enjoyment, and composure in a kayak any time you paddle.
      Rolling is a fun thing you can enjoy doing.

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Where can I get tools and materials?

You can get a Flex Curve at a drafting supply store, an office supply store, or an art supply store.  A piece of heavy solder makes a good makeshift Flex Curve.  The Stanley Shureform Shaver 21-115 is available commonly in hardware stores.  Kayak shops selling whitewater equipment are often a good source of materials for cockpit customizing and Dragonskin metal sandpaper.  Stores selling speaker kits may have grill cloth suitable for upholstering foam.  Auto parts suppliers often sell spray adhesive (make certain the type you get won't attack your foam!).  Kayak shops usually sell backbands.
                                          OR
Buy most of these items, except the Flex Curve, from us, at this web site.


Why don't you sell kits?

If we could, we would sell kits that would include all the materials you would need, and would have all of the parts roughed out so you would just have to finish them. Companies that sell cockpit-customizing materials for whitewater kayaks, do exactly that. The problem is that sea kayaks and the people who paddle them are too diverse. The amount of materials that would work on one boat is often quite different from the amount of materials required by another boat. The approach taken to the fit process also differs. Many people do not make their own seat, and make minimal hip and knee braces. They only require a small amount of material. The shapes of the fit components differ so much that we can’t imagine how to do any shaping that would be universally helpful. That leaves us at square one: Fitting individuals to their kayaks, one boat at a time, for the best possible fit.


Wouldn’t it be easier to purchase an aftermarket cushion for the seat and add-on hip braces to custom fit my boat?

Yes, it would be easier. Some of the aftermarket products will make a dramatic improvement for some boats and paddlers. The original seats in some kayaks are pretty good for some individuals, but nothing is as good as custom outfitting. For the best comfort and performance, complete custom outfitting offers benefits to the paddler that cannot be equaled by other means.

 

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