Do you need a backband?

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Do you need a backband?

Post by SimonMW » Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:02 pm

I’ll start this off by saying I have removed the backband from my playboat as part of this lightening exercise.
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With the band removed the boat now weighs 12.1kg with the airbags and JK Thruster. It used to weigh over 15kg empty.

Bren Orton recently replied to my FB topic saying that he doesn’t use a backband in his playboat but keeps it in his creek boat.

That begs the question, what is the back band really for? An internet search brings up a load of contradictions. A lot of people say that it should be adjusted so that it “reminds” you to sit forward and that it should be barely touching your back. To me that just says that it’s pointless.

Others say it is to keep you in your boat upside down. I shouldn’t have to explain why that is nonsensical. It just is.

Others say it is to stop you falling off the back of the seat so you can lock yourself in with pressure on the feet. This is a better explanation, but if you need to be constantly pressing in order to fit properly in your boat that just says to me that you need much better, more tailored outfitting and adjustment. It also highlights that a seat that allows you to slide off the back perhaps isn’t the best design. The new seat I fitted to my Jitsu is from Gui Gui Prod and doesn’t have that issue.

Slalom boats don’t really have one either. So is a backband really just a security blanket for less experienced paddlers, or does it actually have a properly useful purpose that solves a problem that cannot be solved in a better alternative way?

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by dbpmagazineonline » Sun Apr 29, 2018 3:20 pm

For a creeker I would say that it is important as if you have a large impact going backwards the backband will break a lot easier than the cockpit rim of the boat, taking some of the force out of the system and potentially saving you from a damaged back or worse.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by PlymouthDamo » Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:36 pm

On all of my kayaks - sea and whitewater - I've swapped over from back-band to a simple shaped foam block. This gives me much greater freedom to lay back, which helps with aft-finishing rolls. I think you still need something back there to keep your butt in the right position forward/aft as that's key to the way a kayak handles. With the seats in all my boats, the friction wouldn't be enough to stop me sliding backwards when I'm giving it welly. (I could improve my whitewater boat, but in my sea boats, I wouldn't want snug outfitting as I need to be able to flop around inside the cockpit to do some types of Greenland roll.) A back-band is definitely more comfortable though, especially when you're feeling lazy and want to slouch.

Other than protecting your back from big impacts, as mentioned above, I'd say that backbands have become ubiquitous because comfort is a priority to most kayak-buyers and they can easily be adjusted to fit different sizes.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Chris Bolton » Sun Apr 29, 2018 6:18 pm

I'm considering removing the backband from my sea kayak. If I'm paddling properly I don't touch it, and it gets in the way when doing re-entry rolls etc. I should be pulling myself forward with the paddle (else how can I pull the boat forward) so I don't see why I should slip backwards. I used to feel it was really important to support my back, but I'm now thinking that's only if my back/core is weak. But I haven't actually tried paddling without it yet, so have no proper evidence.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Franky » Sun Apr 29, 2018 8:49 pm

PlymouthDamo wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:36 pm
I think you still need something back there to keep your butt in the right position forward/aft as that's key to the way a kayak handles.
That's my experience too.

However much you lean forward with your torso, your arse is going to slip backwards if you don't have something supporting your lower back.

This is assuming that you are pushing against the footplate with your legs to control direction and maximise power. I know there are some paddlers who do everything with their arms, though I don't know how they manage it.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Chris Bolton » Sun Apr 29, 2018 10:14 pm

This is assuming that you are pushing against the footplate with your legs to control direction and maximise power
I do see what you mean. But if you look at sprint K1s, which you might say are the ultimate examples of forward paddling power, they don't have backbands. I don't fully understand how the pressure on the footrest is controlled, but any pressure on the backband is requiring muscular effort, so if that can be avoided it must in theory be more efficient. To be clear, I'm throwing ideas into the debate, not arguing a point.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by SimonMW » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:31 am

I could be wrong (since I haven't been in a sprint kayak), but I would imagine they have much more 'bucket' shaped seats (I think as well, but could be wrong, that sprint kayak seats are on a pivot and actually rotate).

Because you are sat in a recess it is very hard to slide backwards out of it, much like the seat I just fitted into my Jitsu.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Poke » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:44 am

Surely in any “dynamic*” environment, your backband is needed to support you. Say you’re cartwheeling a playboat - you might be able to get away without a backband holding you in, but if you clunk a rock with your stern you’ll be glad of one. Same for creeking, if you hit something backwards, or you’re upside down and being ragged around a bit, you want to be concentrating on rolling up, not holding yourself in your boat. It gives also you an extra point of contact in the boat which surely can only give you greater control.

Also, I guess you’re pushing on your footrest as part of normal paddling. Obviously some of that will be countered by locking your knees in place, and some by forward force on the blade, but unless you’re racing and need all effort to go into forward motion, having something to counter a bit of backwards force from your feet can’t be a bad thing.

*by dynamic in this case, I mean creeking/playboating. I know sea kayaking is dynamic, but doesn’t usually require the same level of agility. Slalom and WWR are also much more controlled environments.
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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Yew » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:50 am

I fear this may be more of a comment on the quality of Pyranhas backbands. I personally replaced mine with a foam block, however the backbands in Jackson/GuiGui kayaks are much better for freestyle. These do a much better job at transferring force into the boat when cartwheeling, and keeping you sat in the seat during loops.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:03 am

SimonMW wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:02 pm
Others say it is to keep you in your boat upside down. I shouldn’t have to explain why that is nonsensical. It just is.
Please explain why that is nonsensical, because a few years ago I tried the "replace the backband with a foam block" thing in my sea kayak, and discovered I had to pull myself up into the seat in order to roll it.
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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by SimonMW » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:26 am

Please explain why that is nonsensical
Because kayakers are constantly contradicting themselves. One moment the back band shouldn't even be touching your back when paddling, the next it's there to keep you in the boat when upside down. None of those two scenarios are compatible with each other. The truth is that if you are properly fitted into your boat, it's the mainly the thigh grips that stop you falling out. If the backband is the thing that's keeping you in, that just says to me that your outfitting and positioning needs sorting out in other areas. Otherwise, why do slalom guys not need one? Why does Bren not need one when he's throwing the boat all over the place in freestyle (surely if it was that important for keeping you in the boat and not falling out of place, of all the places you would need it it is in freestyle. Yet seemingly that isn't the case)? The best explanation for keeping it I've seen so far is for creeking, giving some cushioning and protection for the back during high impacts. That I can understand. But for most other boating...

The back band done up to the point where it is keeping you in the boat upside down is also inhibiting an exit if you need it. It's placing pressure on nerves that it shouldn't. And it's preventing good rotation. Yet if you loosen it to the point where it doesn't do those things, it won't be keeping you in the boat. However, and this is very important, this can't be properly discussed unless your seat is bucket style like the power seat etc. If you have a seat you can slide off the back of like most standard kayak seats it isn't possible IMHO to give a good relevant comparison of trying to remove the backband.

The other thing that contradicts the idea of the backband keeping you in your boat upside down is that fact that a lot of people like their backbands really low (I'm one of them). A high backband cuts off my circulation and inhibits movement. But a low backband isn't going to offer the sort of 'keeping you in your boat upside down' resistance you talk about. That's done mostly by the thigh hooks.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:44 am

I think you're trying to conjure a rule that applies to all scenarios, when each scenario is different; e.g. a creeker is less tightly packed into their kayak than a playboater, a sea kayaker even less so. I don't know for slalom. Certainly a K1 paddler is hardly attached at all. Hence the apparent contradiction.

From all of your discussions I would say the bucket seat is the one thing that certainly reduces the need for a backband.

Also the back band doesn't stop you escaping your kayak when inverted, because to escape the kayak you bring the knees together thus unhooking the thighs.

Some sea paddlers like no backband (foam block instead) so they can cowboy re-entry without it getting in the other way. Others prefer to re-enter and roll - in which case the backband works better than a foam block.
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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Chalky723 » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:49 am

I probably don't need a back on my car seat, would do my stomach muscles the world of good!

But it's comfortable, makes me feel connected to the car rather than perched on top of it & useful to brace against if needed.

I find it just as important in the kayak, possibly more so as the ability to brace without the cockpit rim digging into my knackered old spine is useful.

I'll leave mine just where it is cheers!!

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by SimonMW » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:54 am

Also the back band doesn't stop you escaping your kayak when inverted, because to escape the kayak you bring the knees together thus unhooking the thighs.
The traditional escape is to straighten the legs and push out with your arse coming out first followed by the legs. I didn't say it stopped you escaping, but a tight backband can inhibit it. Along with all the other issues I mentioned. Why on earth would you want to be less well fitted into a creek boat? A well fitted kayak means that you are properly locked in and connected without needing extra physical effort (such as pressing on the feet). It will be natural, and you will still be able to escape easily if required.

A good fit in a WW kayak is a good fit, no matter what the discipline (forget K1 sprint for the moment because their boats and seats are totally different). Corran Addison posted not so long back on FB that he's ditched the backband when using the power seat. Just doesn't need it.

You mentioned a play boater being more tightly packed than a creeker, but you forgot the point I made about Bren Orton stating that he doesn't use a backband when doing freestyle. If the backband was needed for that 'tight packing' he wouldn't be able to ditch it.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by SimonMW » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:58 am

But it's comfortable, makes me feel connected to the car rather than perched on top of it & useful to brace against if needed.
A car is a bit different to a kayak. Well completely different.

If you want the backband for comfort, that's fine, but it doesn't address what it's really there for, or whether there are better solutions. I can understand protecting the back during big hits. But let's face it, if we're perfectly honest most WW aren't doing those. But I can fully understand it for those that do. But if we go to the beginning, my original post, I talked about the most common reasons people give for the backband being there. And most of them don't stand up to scrutiny. It's one of those subjects that is full of dogma.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:46 am

SimonMW wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:54 am
you forgot the point I made about Bren Orton stating that he doesn't use a backband when doing freestyle.
Fair point. Does he use lap straps or a thruster?
SimonMW wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:54 am
Why on earth would you want to be less well fitted into a creek boat?
In a creekboat you're in an environment that has pinning potential and you want to be able to get yourself out of the kayak if you can't pop the spraydeck.
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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Joseph:) » Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:55 am

I think a lot of the evidence you are giving of boats that don't need backbands are boats that have bucket seats or at least a seat with a high back - including yours. To me a bucket seat does the job of a backband, just a bit lower down. What kind of seat does Bren use?

I don't think there are better solutions to having something to stop you sliding backwards, yes lots of people don't need it to stop big hits on their back but it only takes a small bump to move you enough that you lose connectivity in your boat. Other solutions could be things like lap straps or thigh hooks that grip more of your legs, but these are going to make it much harder to get out of a boat.

What's bad about a backband anyway? Apart from the weight (500g?) I can't see any reason for getting rid of it unless you replace it with a bucket seat, but lots of reasons for keeping it (comfort, connectivity, safety)

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by SimonMW » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:16 pm

thigh hooks that grip more of your legs
If you had no need for a backband then the thigh hooks could form around the legs more because you wouldn't have the backband inhibiting escaped when you straighten your legs and push out.
I think a lot of the evidence you are giving of boats that don't need backbands are boats that have bucket seats or at least a seat with a high back - including yours. To me a bucket seat does the job of a backband, just a bit lower down.
Yes, I know. Which is why I mentioned those types of seats in the first place. Which begs the question of whether having a backband is a partial bandaid to the type of seat that normally comes as standard in boats now?
What's bad about a backband anyway?
A tight backband can cause dead leg by putting pressure on nerves. It can reduced mobility such as rotation, and it can also act as a crutch for posture by some, and it's more stuff to break such as ratchets and ropes.

But you are missing the point of the post completely. That being is a backband really truly needed and what is its real purpose? Nobody has yet answered those questions, particularly the latter. We've had conjecture, but nobody has really been able to properly state "this is what it is there for". It's all been opinion, conjecture, and dogma.

One example to this is the idea of being connected to the boat. Yet a backband is suspended by floppy flexibly bungee cord. It has absolutely no solid connection to the boat hull at all. So it cannot physically offer any hull connection at all. A person might 'feel' connected, but that's an entirely separate thing to actually being connected.
Apart from the weight (500g?)
It's a separate subject, but by removing the backband I can also replace the rather heavy plastic thigh hooks as well because the ratchets aren't needed any more. Adding up to over a kg. Added up altogether it's the difference between a Jitsu that weighs 15kg and one that weighs a smidgen over 11kg. For a playboat in particular that's a big difference.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Adrian Cooper » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:39 pm

As a canoeist, I need to be a little more imaginative with the concept of connectivity. I kneel on the floor and perch on the seat or thwart yet I am able to control the boat by weight shift and friction. I may not be connected like mechanically attached or adhered but a connection there must surely be. The floppy back band, once you apply pressure on the footplate, comes into play as a connection device if only in one direction, a bit like the connection of the paddle to the water, another means of transferring load

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by SimonMW » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:41 pm

As a canoeist, I need to be a little more imaginative with the concept of connectivity. I kneel on the floor and perch on the seat or thwart yet I am able to control the boat by weight shift and friction. I may not be connected like mechanically attached or adhered but a connection there must surely be. The floppy back band, once you apply pressure on the footplate, comes into play as a connection device if only in one direction, a bit like the connection of the paddle to the water, another means of transferring load
Thanks Adrian, nicely written and a good explanation. Do you think a bucket seat does the job just as well?

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Adrian Cooper » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:51 pm

Sorry Simon, I don't think I am sufficiently experienced to answer. I have a kayak with a back band but I occasionally paddle a K1 just to keep my hand in. I don't know if I would call a 'normal' K1 seat a bucket but I can tell you that, through not paddling these often enough, I find the muscle strain of sitting up without either a back band or thigh braces, quite tiring. I suspect it might be the thighs which are worst.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:58 pm

whether having a backband is a partial bandaid to the type of seat that normally comes as standard in boats now
That's pretty much it as far as I can see....
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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Franky » Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:21 pm

I've never thought about it much, but I do know that if my boat is starting to feel "slippery", the first thing I do is tighten the backband. (Backbands seem to creep backwards over time.) This always helps - in both my playboat and my river runner.

I can see that a backband might theoretically inhibit torso rotation, but in white water (whether you're creeking or playboating) you don't need the same freedom of movement that you do in racing (where any unnecessary friction impedes your performance). What you do need is precise control of your boat. Therefore, you should have as many contact points with the boat as is possible. You shouldn't feel constricted, but you should feel snug, so that you can apply pressure where necessary at a moment's notice.

As for a backband preventing you from getting out of your boat when you're capsized - kayaks are designed primarily for carrying people, not disgorging them :) There are several impediments to bailing out that paddlers have to learn to deal with. E.g. getting the spraydeck off isn't always easy, but no one would suggest doing away with spraydecks.

Finally, as several people have mentioned, a backband just makes kayaking more comfortable, and is probably good for your back too.
A well fitted kayak means that you are properly locked in and connected without needing extra physical effort (such as pressing on the feet)
But pressing on the feet isn't extra physical effort - it's redistribution of some of the effort that otherwise your arms would be making. It's much easier to paddle using all the muscles down the side of your body, than putting all the strain on your arms.

In my experience, pressing with the feet is also the best way to fine-tune which way your boat is pointing.

Either way, pressing with the feet is only effective if you have a backband for leverage. I'm only speaking from my own experience though.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Joseph:) » Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:50 pm

SimonMW wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:16 pm
what is its real purpose?

dbpmagazineonline wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 3:20 pm
For a creeker I would say that it is important as if you have a large impact going backwards the backband will break a lot easier than the cockpit rim of the boat
PlymouthDamo wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:36 pm
A back-band is definitely more comfortable though, especially when you're feeling lazy and want to slouch.
Franky wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 8:49 pm
However much you lean forward with your torso, your arse is going to slip backwards if you don't have something supporting your lower back.
Adrian Cooper wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:39 pm
The floppy back band, once you apply pressure on the footplate, comes into play as a connection device if only in one direction
I would say these reasons show it is filling a purpose. I don't find it it cuts off circulation unless it is done up too tight.

Since it is on my lower back I don't find it restricts my torso rotating either, I'm not attached to it so I can move independently of the backband and still twist my upper body. My legs being fixed inside the boat are the thing stopping me rotating any further.

I think I agree with Adrian that although the backband is floppy, it's quite stiff if you push backward through your feet and I can still lie back on the deck of my boat because the elastic holding it up allows it to fold down. It's normally attached to the boat with bolts at the cockpit so there is connectivity, it's just only in one direction.
SimonMW wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:16 pm
Which begs the question of whether having a backband is a partial bandaid to the type of seat that normally comes as standard in boats now?
I think I agree with you on this, and we could do away with backbands if all boats had a well-fitting and well-adjusted bucket seat. Buckets seats would make it much harder to get gear in the back of your boat though and will need more time spent adjusting to fit more than one person in. Lots of bucket seats also come in different bum sizes too and a flatter seat will probably fit more different people.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Adrian Cooper » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:11 pm

Joseph:) wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:50 pm
bucket seats also come in different bum sizes too and a flatter seat will probably fit more different people.
Do you mean a flattering seat? :-)

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Chris Bolton » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:54 pm

Either way, pressing with the feet is only effective if you have a backband for leverage
It may feel that that's true, but I don't see how it would work, as both the forces are just going into the boat. Pressing on the right foot while pulling on the right paddle blade definitely has an effect, because in that case there's a force from outside the boat. It may be that pressing on the footrest and the backband creates a friction force that enables a sideways force - for example, as you sweep on the right, you push the footrest left and the backband right.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Franky » Mon Apr 30, 2018 8:35 pm

Chris Bolton wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:54 pm
It may feel that that's true, but I don't see how it would work, as both the forces are just going into the boat. Pressing on the right foot while pulling on the right paddle blade definitely has an effect, because in that case there's a force from outside the boat. It may be that pressing on the footrest and the backband creates a friction force that enables a sideways force - for example, as you sweep on the right, you push the footrest left and the backband right.
I meant that you push with your foot while pulling on the blade, so yes, you are right. But without a backband, pressing with your foot will have no effect other than to push your bum back, and then you'll have to mess around shuffling forwards again. At least, I think so. I have to confess, I don't really think about it when I'm paddling.

I do find that in a playboat, because the boat is so responsive, I can navigate Grade 2 water with only quite small paddle strokes. You can do a lot by shifting your weight in the boat. I'm not a proper playboater, I hasten to say, but I've learned a lot about balance since I bought a playboat!

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Chris Bolton » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:25 pm

But without a backband, pressing with your foot will have no effect other than to push your bum back
That's not how I see it; provided you're pulling on the paddle, pressing on your foot will push the boat forward on that side. If you could just push on the backband (which you can't) you'd be pushing the boat backwards. Pushing on foot and backband is just trying to stretch the boat. But I paddle C1 on whitewater so the only kayak I paddle is a sea kayak, and there may be whitewater kayak subtleties I've missed.

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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by davebrads » Tue May 01, 2018 12:29 pm

Going back to sprint kayakers, they can't push on the footplate therefore the way they can transfer the power from the paddle stroke to the boat is via the contact between their bum and the seat. I don't see why it's much different in a ww kayak. You can move the footplate as far forwards as you want, and you will still be able drive the boat forwards. What you won't be able to do is turn the boat very effectively, for that you need connectivity with the boat. Pressing with your foot on one side of the footplate will make no difference to the boat, all it will do will push your bum back on the same side. Simply by being connected to the boat any rotation of your torso will result in a turning force on the boat - how well the boat responds to that force is something else.

This doesn't mean you need a back band. Your knees press up into the deck and your bum presses down into the seat, and most of the time that is enough to keep your bum in place unless you have a flattish slippery seat. Most ww boats these days have some kind of pad that you sit on, slalom kayak seats have a far more slippery surface and so they have a pronounced lip at the back to keep you in place. At one time this was quite high, but nowadays it has been cut down to allow more freedom of movement.
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Re: Do you need a backband?

Post by Franky » Tue May 01, 2018 12:52 pm

Chris Bolton wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:25 pm
That's not how I see it; provided you're pulling on the paddle, pressing on your foot will push the boat forward on that side. If you could just push on the backband (which you can't) you'd be pushing the boat backwards. Pushing on foot and backband is just trying to stretch the boat.
Actually yes, you're right. You do still get the power from pushing forward, even if you slip back in the seat.

You do then have to shuffle forward again, on every stroke. Maybe that's the problem? I'll try loosening my backband next time I paddle, and see what happens.

I do know that if I don't feel significant pressure on my lower back, it feels very wrong, and my boat seems harder to control.

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