How do you outfit your new creek boat?
This post outlines my suggestions as well as approaches to outfitting a new creek boat. Most of these approaches are applicable to a play boat as well as river runner, however some are unique to a creek boat.
New citrus and old faithful Diesel 80's.
There are two bolts on each side of the hip pads that are for moving the seat.
There is one bolt on each side, in front of the seat bolts, that is used in conjunction with the bolt on top of the thigh braces, to move the thigh braces.
The rest of the bolts on the boat are structural, so check for tightness, but otherwise there is no need to mess with them.
One of the first things to do is to play with seat position.
I like to start in a new boat with the seat in the center of the boat. This is a good "happy place" and it will be easy to tell if the seat needs to move forward or backward upon paddling it.
From the factory, seats come in different positions. In order to determine where it is at and where the "center" is, I suggest loosening the two bolts on each side of the hip pads (see photo above) 2 to 3 full turns. Once loosened, press the bolts down toward the boat so they sit flush with the plastic (There is a metal plate holding the bolts, which will stay tight and prevent the seat from moving UNLESS you press the bolts down into the plastic once you loosen them). Once the bolts are loose, sit on the back of the boat and the seat should easily move forward and backward. If it doesn't, loosen each bolt another full turn, press the bolts down, and slide the seat all the way forward and backward.
Depending on what you prefer to do, I like to mark, using a knife to make scratches in the plastic, the all-the-way-BACK position, and the all-the-way-FORWARD position. I do so by cutting lines where the front of the seat is relative to the rail (where the water-bottle is placed) when the seat is in these positions. It is then easy to find the "center" and tighten the bolts. If you don't want to make scratches in the plastic, consider using duct tape or a Sharpie marker, however be aware these tend come off with time.
For perspective, the bungee cord in the photo above is the water bottle holder between your legs. If you look closely, you can see the scratches I have put in the rail, noting seat position.
Now that the seat is in the correct position, move on to adjusting the thigh braces.
In general, when paddling, you want your legs slightly bent, with knees out toward the sides of the kayak. You want the thigh braces to wrap around your thighs, contacting them as much as possible. If there is a gap between the thigh braces and your thigh at all, try moving the thigh braces forward or backward to minimize it.
When adjusting the thigh braces, there are two bolts you want to play with (see photo above). First you will want to loosen the bolt furthest to the outside of the boat (the big one) 2 to 3 full turns. This bolt has a nut on the end of it, so try not to loosen it much past these 2 or 3 full turns, as you'll be getting close to losing the nut. If you do, it's not impossible to get it back on, but takes some time. Next, remove the small bolt (at the row of holes) completely.
You should now be able to slide the thigh brace forward and backward as it moves on the outer bolt. You will also notice you can pivot the thigh brace as well, and that there are two holes or positions for your thigh brace. The hole more toward the inside of the kayak allows your knees to remain more relaxed, compared to the hole farthest to the outside of the boat, putting your knees in a more aggressive position. Try them both, and whichever feels best and fits your style of paddling, go with it. I like the aggressive position.
In regards to forward-backward placement, play with the small bolt, and place it in the hole (in the row of holes) you feel best fits your position. Hold the thigh brace in place, and screw the small bolt into the hole on the thigh brace, detailed in the above paragraph that is most comfortable and best fits your paddling style.
Once you have the seat centered and thigh braces in position, move on to adjusting the bulkhead and placing foam at your feet.
First, while sitting in the boat, look down toward your feet and you'll see a silver rail running along side your leg, as well as a yellow wing-nut tightened onto a stud on the side of the boat, on each side. Loosen the yellow wing nuts (1 per side), pull the silver rails toward the inside of the boat to free the holes of the stud, and slide the bulkhead either toward the front of the boat, or the back of the boat.
As mentioned previously, when sitting in your kayak, you want a slight bend in your legs. You want your thighs wrapped by the thigh braces and you want your feet to be touching the bulkhead with your feet. That said, you don't want to be so tight up against the bulkhead that there is no room for foam and that your legs cramp up before you are even done outfitting. Therefore, when outfitting, I suggest pointing your toes, and bringing the bulkhead toward you to the point where your feet barely touch the bulkhead. Place the silver rails back on the stud in the correct hole relative to this position, and replace the yellow wingnut.
Next, you will need to adjust the height of the bulkhead to prevent your feet from slipping between the bulkhead and the boat. When you are out of the boat and look down into the boat at the bulkhead, you will see two bolts on the surface of the bulkhead, that are holding a sliding plate stationary on the bulkhead (see above photo). Loosen each bolt about 2 to 3 full turns, and slide the top plate upward toward the top of the boat as high as it can go. Tighten these boats, and you are good to go.
Finally, take the foot foam that came with your new creek boat out of the bag (what I am pointing to in the very first picture). The left ones curve outward to the left at the top, and the right ones curve outward to the right at the top. They have a sticky back to them and can stick directly onto the bulkhead or to each other. I like to stick two or three of these together, and then glue them will gorilla glue to the bulkhead itself. I suggest doing the same. Reason being, by giving yourself a thick chunk of foam at your feet, you are giving yourself that much more room for your legs to move once the foam collapses in the event of a piton, thereby protecting your legs and ankles **.
Rule of Thumb: The more foam the better!
**Remember, this is a creek boat and you will more than likely piton something HARD during the time you have your boat. You want to give yourself enough room at the feet to place enough foam for padding, and give yourself enough room for "flex" so that you don't injure your ankles or legs in the event of a piton.
Last but not least, take the hip shims (what I am holding in my left hand in the very first picture), out of the bag, and start putting them in your hip pads.
To do so, loosen your hip pads via the straps toward the back of the boat on each hip pad, and unzip the zipper hidden beneath the hip pad and the side of the boat.
Take your shims, and place them in the zipper. If you can't close the zipper, don't worry. As long as the shims are a tight fit, they should be okay.
Lastly, do a once over on all the bolts on your boat, making sure they are tight (grab loops included)!
Your boat is now outfitted for your first time on the water. Take it out on an easy local run and try it out. Play with the seat position and bulkhead position if you feel like you need to be a little forward or back of your current position.
If you are a small person in a large kayak, read on for some helpful hints:
1. Add another seat pad!
If you feel as though you are completely swamped in the boat and can barely see over the cockpit rim, consider adding another of Wave Sport's seat pads. Not only does it give you some added height, it gives you some extra cush, and since the seat pads are so elegant, no one will even notice there are two in your kayak!
2. Add a strip of foam under the seat pads, under your thighs!
If you feel as though you are now fitting in the boat height-wise and can finally see over the cockpit rim, but you're having to hold your thighs up in the thigh braces, consider putting a strip of one inch
thick foam under the seat pads at the edge of the seat. The seat pads will velcro to the bottom of the seat, keeping the foam in
place. A little leg lift will lift your legs upward into the thigh braces, improve your paddling and give your legs a rest!
Keep in mind that every one is different, and what works for me may not work for you. If you have any suggestions or cool ideas on how to outfit a boat, chime in and let's hear it!
For information on what to carry in your creek boat, check out the following link:
See you on the Rio!