Shearwater knee braces

Taking paddling classes with goal of becoming safer and learning to roll.

The instructor uses whitewater boats for initial roll class and then transitions to sea kayak in practice sessions where you can bring your own boat. He knows I have a CLC boat and says they usually don't have a good enough fit to learn to roll. Particularly he is concerned about the flat knee braces and how securely you can lock into the boat when upside down. He suggests some support on the inner edge of the foam padding to keep your knees from sliding  over the padding to the center of the boat. He believes the force needed to lock into the boat will pevent me from learnig to roll correctly.

Is he correct. I know I've seen the demo boat rolled and I don't remember if the padding was even contoured?

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RE: Shearwater knee braces

The Shearwater offers a pretty snug fit. Any snugger and I would feel cramped.

If you want a little more support to grip onto for rolling to prevent your knee from sliding out (I do not think it will unless you are much smaller than 5'6" and 165 pounds) there are foam knee braces out there available that have a preformed shape that describes what your instructor is looking for.

You can also epoxy in a wood hand shaped support and glue generic mini cell foam over it to create your own lock in bracing for your knees.

You can also further snug up your hip bracing the same way.

RE: Shearwater knee braces

Interesting, I've certainly never heard that before.  It might be true of the Chesapeakes, but the Shearwater is a substantially tighter fit than the Chessies.

I have a northbay and just sitting in the boat (I have no thigh or knee braces of any kind) pretty much locks me in if my feet are on the pegs.

The NB has a 20 inch beam,  the shearwater has a 22 inch beam, and the chessies have a 23 or 24 inch beam.

If you're worried about it, bring some extra foam with you to add to the boat after giving it a try.  If he's right you'll be prepared to make mods based on the instructor's recommendations.  If he's not, no harm.




RE: Shearwater knee braces

I included one of CLCs knee brace kits in my 2006 shearwater 16 (21 inch beam).  The kit included two large angled blocks of foam that I glued up under the wooden "knee braces." 

After a bit of foam sculpting, I acheived a very tight, yet comfortable, fit.  The boat rolls really nicely now and is still easy to wet-exit.



RE: Shearwater knee braces


I have a SW 17HB with no pads whatsoever.  No hip pads, no knee pads, and it rolls just fine.  The simplest answer to your questions is to just give rolling a try and decide if you need the pads or not.  I'm 6"2 225, and simply don't need them.

RE: Shearwater knee braces

Birke's advise is very sensible and applicable to all parts of the boat, not just braces. Each boat/paddler combination is unique and you simply don't know what works until you try it.

I'd even discourage completely finishing the boat until you've had a chance to try it out a few times. Take it out in its epoxy underwear, try out all sorts of things and see what changes you want to make before applying the paint or varnish. That way any accidental scratches will happen before the finish is applied.  For that matter, think of how much fun it'd be to apply umpteen layers of varnish and then have to remove part of it to, say, put in a skeg. Good luck matching the new coats without having to sand the whole thing again. So try it out, only get the braces if you need them and then do the finish work.

Have fun,


RE: Shearwater knee braces


You wrote: 

"I have a SW 17HB with no pads whatsoever.  No hip pads, no knee pads, and it rolls just fine.  The simplest answer to your questions is to just give rolling a try and decide if you need the pads or not.  I'm 6"2 225, and simply don't need them."

In light of your configuration, is ther a preferred rolling method that you fell works best?


Tim Clark 

RE: Shearwater knee braces

I am a sea kayak instructor and have experience teaching rolling. A well fitting boat is an important part of learning to roll, but is not the only thing! It might be that your boat is just right the way it is, or you might try foam thigh braces later. Look at how the cockpit of some similiar designed composite boats are outfitted. I am only beginning to learn about wood boats but I have paddled plenty of composite boats and recognize what I like about them. That is why I like the Shearwater so much, and am excited to build my own soon. The neat thing about building your own boat is you can build into it (almost) anything you like!


RE: Shearwater knee braces

The timing of this thread is perfect.   I came to the forum for information on this very topic.

I just launched my "completed" Shearwater 17 this past Friday evening.   Today I was carving foam for knee and hip braces.  I am 5' 9" and 168 lbs. 

I learned to roll this winter in a whitewater boat in an indoor pool.  After two sessions, I had no problems rolling.  However, I found myself fighting to stay in Shearwater when upside down. 

I intend to go ahead and glue the knee brace foam on (they feel pretty good sitting in the kayak on the lawn).  As for the hip brace foam, I am not sure how necessary it will be.  The kayak in the rolling class had foam that fit me tightly. 

So, I will experiment.  That's the great thing about building your own kayak!




RE: Shearwater knee braces


Hi Tim,

I only know how to roll one way, so I don't think I am qualified to answer that question.  I am a disciple of the Kurt Maurer school of rolling (special ed class).  He had me spinning in the boat on the first day.  I believe the roll I know is called a sweep roll?  Supposedly it is the easiest one.  One thing I did try later though, out of curiosity, was to try setting up from my "weak side".  To my surprise I popped back up on the first try.  I find it more natural to rotate clockwise as opposed to counter clockwise.  So the only advice I could offer is if you are having trouble rolling, try seting up from the other side, it may help, then again...maybe not :) 

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