Many kayakers head out in their boats seeking a sense of inner balance, but those first couple trips in the spring (for those of us who have to deal with hard water winters) can be a challenge. It is not a sense of inner balance that’s missing its actual physical balance that is missing, the transition from the office chair to the kayak seat can be interesting due to the kayak having significantly less stability. There is a simple way to eliminate this and that is the use of a balance stool, these can be constructed to challenge any paddler by increasing the rocker in the stools base. This is also a good project for anyone thinking of buying or building a kayak why not be ready when the boat hits the water, no surprises, look like you have done it before, from day one.
This blog is also written for those who have experience only in rental and other kayaks that are short, fat, and where choosen for their job because they where completey suited to an application where the majority of users have no experience whatsoever in a kayak. The change is then made from a boat which is 30+ inches [76cm] wide with a flat bottom to a rounded, or V bottom boat, that is 23" [58cm] wide and find that there is a significant difference in stability, that they were not entirely prepared for, with the stool you can be ready. If you find yourself in this state don't be discouraged if it takes a few attempts, much more comfortable in the denon the stoool than on the water in the spring.
Think of it as a rocking horse for adults, and best of all it is simple to construct,inexpensive and can be constructed in a half hour, and requires few tools, a jig or band saw, six screws, a square, and eight feet of 2x 8. If you make your stool 2” [50mm] shorter than I did you will only need six feet of 2x8, the length will depend on how tall you are, what is the distance from the back of the seat in your boat to the foot pegs this will guide you as to the required length. (My stool is 50” [127cm] long and I am 6’ 3” [1.905m] tall as a guide if your boat is not close by) When looking for a suitable piece of lumber look for one that has no big knots or faults, particularly in the longitudinal, you really don’t want it to break if you are sitting in the middle of the stool, and it is easier to cut smooth curves for the rockers if you are not contending with knots.
Cut the 2x 8 into three pieces, two pieces 12” [ 30.5cm] long for the rockers, and a longer piece to suit you for the top. The two pieces for the rockers need to be laid out with a notch on top to accept the longitudinal piece and have the bottoms curved to make the stool unstable. The stool in the pictures has a 1.5” [3.8 cm] in the bottom you can always increase the curve later to increase the challenge or until it feels like your boat or even a little less stable than your boat to really challenge yourself. Note how I drew the curve a ¼” [6mm] up from the bottom, this is to help ensure a smooth curve on the bottom of the rockers, a flat spot would defeat the purpose of the stool, and cutting close to the edge makes it easy for the saw to break out of the wood leaving a small flat on the bottom.
Layout the curve on the bottom by marking the centreline on the 12” [30.5cm] pieces and put a mark up each edge 1 ¾” [4.5cm] up the edges, join these marks to form a smooth curve, with a batten. The batten can be anything that is smooth, straight, and flexible, hold the batten so it touches the marks on the sides and pull the centre down to the bottom line and draw in the curve. This task will be easier with some one to help hold the batten.
The notch on top needs to match the 2 x8 mark half the width to each side of centre and the depth of the 2x8 then draw in the notch, all that’s left is to cut the two pieces for the rockers. As always when you cut; cut on the waste side of the line this should give you a nice tight fit in the notch.
Assemble the three pieces, making sure the end rockers are square to the centre longitudinal. Join the two pieces using three-inch-long #10 or 12 screws, with the heads countersunk into the longitudinal.
If you are new to kayaking the first step is to simply get used to balancing yourself, it will not likely take long. Once you get used to that try turning your upper body as if you where checking out what that paddler just behind you is up to or you wanted to make yourself heard when speaking to them by turning in their direction. The next step is to grab a broom or length of dowelling and go through the motion of paddling, now you are on your way to finding the outward balance so you can concentrate on finding some inward quiet and balance.