I own a Dagger Jitsu. I like it, although like many playboats it has its fans and its detractors. Generally though it is regarded to have a good hull shape, and, frankly, I find it hard to fit into other models simply because I’m one of those awkward people who has long legs for their weight.
Image: Eagles Nest Photography
I’m not going to be world champion any time soon, and if I was to buy a ‘dream’ playboat I’d likely be buying a carbon one. But there’s one thing about the Jitsu that most who know it can agree on. It is a lot heavier than it needs to be. In fact this very same criticism can be levelled at pretty much any modern boat on the market today.
From the very first moment you sit in a boat you start to get “a feel for it”, how it fits and possibly even how it may perform. As beginners we start off in boats that may be used by many different size paddlers, which results in cockpits being kept clutter free. Loose, comfortable boats feel good on flat water, but they can make leaning and bracing difficult. Once the boat is padded to provide a close, body-hugging fit that still allows for quick and easy water exits, performance can dramatically improve. This same rule applies to all levels of kayakers, whether they’re paddling easy whitewater, big water runs or creeks. Customised outfitting helps transfer every trace in the river’s current through the kayak’s hull to your body, helping you sense your surroundings, make critical maneuvers and maintain your balance, thus staying upright!
Since paddlers press against their boat’s inner hull with the small of their backs, butts, hips, thighs, knees and feet, it is these key areas that should be customised to match the shape and size of the paddler. To make this as easy as possible I am going to break the cockpit into a handful of sections and tailor each one to help you get the best control possible from your boat. Many boat manufacturers have really stepped up their game and are providing some excellent outfitting as standard in their kayaks. However these systems still need adapting in some way to ensure that they fit YOU correctly.
In some respects the birth of uber flexible outfitting in kayaks has killed off the need for the many hours spent shaping and glueing foam together to get that perfect fit. However if you are not using a bean bag footrest or want some outfitting that is a little bit more bespoke then you do need to rely upon cutting/shaping and glueing foam.
The plastic seat most manufacturers install in their kayaks is molded to generic size even if the kayak is available in several different sizes. To get the most of any kayak design it is important that it fits you well. This means that all contact points – seat base, seat sides, back rest, foot rest and thigh braces should be adjusted/customised to fit your body. In this post I’m going to concentrate on the seat and what you can do to improve fit.