A few years ago, we got a deal on some low-end recreational (Old town Otter, now replaced by the Old town Heron model) kayaks. Instead of opting for the model with all the bells and whistles, we got the base models. For years we were fine with them paddling on flat water (lakes and such). We’ve been using the kayaks a lot lately, and getting more into small rapids (in which foot braces are incredibly helpful).
I researched online for the best foot braces out there. The Old Town foot brace kit is $50! That price is ridiculous. I settled on Harmony Slidelock foot braces. Everywhere I could find them online they were $33 per set. Just by chance, a friend of mine flew to Florida for work and happened into a great kayak outfitter store, Canoe Country. He was able to get me the exact same Harmony foot braces for $16 per set– half price! They have great prices on dry bags too. I had to buy some neoprene washers from the hardware store, but they were very cheap. Overall It was a great buy.
Once I got the foot brace kits, I had to figure out how to mount them in the kayaks. The first step was to sit in the kayak and hold the braces against my feet to see what felt comfortable. Remember to wear your water shoes and life-preserver during this step so the braces will be the correct distance. I neglected to do this. Mounting position isn’t critical since the braces are adjustable, but try to at least keep them even with one another.
I mounted the braces by looking at pics online of my kayak model with foot braces and tried to use a little math to figure out the distances from major features on the kayak. I measured where I wanted them to go, and drilled a 3/8” hole in the kayak. This was worrisome for me because I wanted to make sure everything was perfect. I don’t want to ugly up my boat with a bunch of holes in the wrong place, etc. Drilling was very easy. The Otters are made out of a single layer linear polyethylenethat machines like butter, though it is very strong and generally deflects anything that might try to scratch it. I suggest using a knife to cut a small starting hole before using the drill bit to prevent it from wandering. I should have angled the drill to be perpendicular with the mounting hole on the foot brace, but I didn’t think about that until later. Once the first hole was drilled, I screwed in the first screw just until I could feel it penetrate the inside a little. On the inside, I placed the neoprene washer on the end of the screw before aligning the mounting hole of the foot brace. From the outside to the inside, it is mounted like the image below. This will keep the boat water tight.
To align the second hole, I held the brace up inside the boat to the approximate place I wanted it to be, then used a bright laser pointer from the inside of the boat to help me find where to drill the second hole (this was my friend Daniel’s genius idea). It worked great! The foot brace needs to bend a bit to be able to screw tightly to the side of the boat, so don’t worry about that when installing them. After the first brace was installed, the second one went in much quicker. We just mirrored the measurements and it was a breeze.
After installing them on my boat, it was time to install the braces on Jessica’s boat. Now, this wasn’t visible on mine, but her kayak had some spots from the mold that shows where the standard foot braces should be mounted. These holes didn’t match up with the new braces I got, so I just centered my screw holes to be along a line that connected the visible dots on the boat. Once again, I drilled the lower hole and screwed that in (with the neoprene washer) and used the laser to help me find the correct spot for the second hole.
The next day, we went on a two-day kayaking/camping trip. We paddles 16 miles down the Uwharrie river! Those foot braces made navigating the rapids a breeze and increased the overall comfort of the overall trip. The next step will be to add a seat pad and maybe even some knee padding. Future plan also include kayak sails, and a keel of some type as well. Keep checking for updates on trips as well.