by Tom Bergh
Over the years, Tom has custom fitted many hundreds of kayaks for paddlers. Here are some of the tweaks and tunes he’s found helpful for his use in coaching and guiding.
Front Bulkhead Foam Footbrace
Most of us prefer paddling by driving our paddle pressure through our body and into our boat against a foamed front bulkhead. MIKCo has NDK build our boats to a preferred front bulkhead positions. This dramatically strengthens the boat, as the bulkhead is now closer to its bigger cross section. It also increases front hatch storage volume by inches, reduces the thickness of foam needed for a bulkhead footbrace, and, of greatest importance, reduces water in the cockpit for re-entry rolls, cowboy or paddlefloat re-entries. This system gives the paddler more specific adjustment than normal sliders with their ¾” spacing, and offers greater choice of foot angle and placement which can help relieve tight hips and sore backs. We don’t glue in the foam bulkheads; they’re pressure fit. Note the upper center notch that holds one end of the under deck pump, and helps us pull out the foam bulkhead for adjustments.
Front bulkhead foam with cutout.
Underdeck Pump Storage
Even with NDKs’ low foredecks, many of us like to store our boat pump under the foredeck’s center line, where it’s out of our way and always with us. Note that one end of the pump is held firmly by the front bulkhead foam cutout, while the paddler end is held by a bungee loop secured to anchor points glued underdeck.
D-Rings epoxied under foredeck, with connecting bungee.
Pump securely stowed: accessible and out of the way!
Footbrace Slider Rails
Many private paddlers we service do not have their peg sliders installed to save weight, and instead use the above bulkhead footbrace. You may opt to install peg sliders for other paddlers’ possible use, but remove the pegs. As the rails are aluminum while the bolts are stainless, we treat the stainless threads with salt water resistant lubricant to reduce corrosion, so the bolts remain removable.
Footbrace slider rail with peg. Note bolt with stainless threads at the end of the rail.
Footbrace slider rail bolt on hull exterior.
Many of us appreciate NDKs’ low cockpit rims which increase our effective lower body contact and retain less sea water. To defeat the backband’s tendency to slide down toward our seat, we glue a triangular pad to the seat back to hold up the backband. We also like to separately tie off each of the 4 little backband bungees, which allows for individually adjusting their tension in support of the backband.
Backband bungee separately tied off.
Backband with foam support.
Skeg Pull Down
To more easily free up the skeg blade when it gets jammed with gravel or small stones after sliding off a beach, we drill the skeg blade’s end and tie on a loop or line. This helps you to pull down the skeg blade to free it, whether you’re on the beach or your paddling partner can reach underneath your boat after launching. Also note the foam plug inserted behind the skeg slider knob which prevents a skeg from vibrating or falling down during transport.
Foam plug in skeg slider.
Skeg pull down with skeg fully deployed.
Hatch Cover Attachments
Many paddlers like to attach their hatch covers to an inner hatch anchor point. I often find these limiting in my transporting and loading functions, and can easily tear through the little rubber tab. Alternatively, our tensioned bungee line encircling and lying in the hatch cover’s outside edge groove holds the hatch covers on with greater grip, and can easily be tied off to the deck line if desired. This bungee can be quickly removed if you want to store the hatch cover separately from the boat. The biggest advantage of the tensioned bungee around the hatch cover is its far greater and tighter contact with the hatch rim, further reducing chance of loss or water infiltration.
Hatch cover with bungee attachment.
Necky day hatch cover.
Day Hatch Cover
While NDK hatch covers provide excellent watertight seals, I prefer a Valley (also sold as Necky) cover for my day hatch. It snaps audibly onto the hatch rim, and it floats. Keep the other cover inside your day hatch as a spare.
Here at MIKCO we say that any coach or guide that shows up without a tow…is a client. Most of us use waist tows plus another system. On my Contact Tow, I like to use a large paddle biner, easier to manipulate with cold hands, easier to attach in bumpier, up and down water with the bigger gate. I'll often grind off and round out the big biner’s sharp edges to assist attachment and release. Suggest your biner gate goes over your paddle shaft so you can use it as a paddle leash while attending to a rescue, holding onto another, etc. For the tow itself, I like a length that will reach across my deck to another’s deck lines. Caution, all will advise you to have a quick release in your tow system.
Contact tow with large wire-gate paddle biner and stainless carabiner.