Custom Foam Fitting a Sea Kayak

Contact with our boat breeds confidence in conditions. Proper kayak fit is integral to its performance - and your enjoyment - on the water. While there are many kayak models to choose from, fit can almost always be fine-tuned and improved with the addition of custom cut minicell (closed cell) foam.

The following are basic instructions for how we custom foam fit our NDKs at Maine Island Kayak Co:

Thigh Foam

Make a cardboard template for the thigh area. Cut the foam to the template size using a bandsaw or knife. Always cut bigger rather than smaller, as you'll be taking away material as you shape the piece.

Rough shape the pieces with a knife. Use a rasp to further shape and smooth the contours.

The following are a couple of examples of how you could shape your thigh foam:

These pieces have a significant "hook" to hold the paddler's knee securely, especially useful when rolling and bracing.

Thigh pieces rough cut (l) and partially shaped (r).

This thigh pad has ridges on both sides, which holds the paddlers knee in position. You can carve out "pockets" to cup the knee cap. This can be done on both sides of the foam piece.

Thigh pad with inside leg hook and knee pocket marked.

Reverse side of thigh foam shaped at knee pocket.

Hip Pads

We prefer to replace stock hip pads with custom pads that extend all the way to the underside of the cockpit rim.

Stock and custom hip pads.

Hip pad contour.


We use contact cement from to glue the foam pieces in place. (Weldwood is one brand.) Lightly sand the inside of the kayak where glue is to be applied. Rough up and score the back of the foam pieces. Apply several layers of cement to both the foam and the inside of the kayak. Use clamps to hold the pieces in place until the cement is fully dry.

Wildwood Contact Cement

Securing foam in place after glueing.

Also see our article Tweaks and Tunes for Your Kayak for additional tips on how to make your boat perform better for you.

Posted in Boats and Gear.