Manufacturers are making much better boats these days, especially in the area of outfitting. The old saying, you wear your boat is still quite true - even more so for Play Boats. When outfitting boats, always make certain you can quickly escape. Each boat has it's particular quirks for adjustments and outfitting. If you have a Jackson Kayak, I highly recommend stopping by the Valley Mill store in Germantown: Valley Mill Boats. They really stand behind Jackson Kayaks and will take the time to help you get outfitted the right way. Potomac Paddlesports has scheduled outfitting days at their shop in the past and probably will continue to do so. All you need to do is buy the foam, not a bad deal.
Why Outfit / Customize?
This is a really good question. Many boats like my Prijon Creeker 225 are pretty much ready to use. This boat comes with a special torque wrench that fits all of the boat screws. You will of course need to adjust the foot bulk head to the correct length. Hip pads also need to be adjusted for a snug but comfortable fit. Finally, adjust the back brace via the cam straps and you are ready to go. We generally customize boats to make them fit our bodies, add safety features, and make them more comfortable.
Keys Areas To Adjust
Many of us have seen power boats that bounce up and down under speed. This wastes a great deal of energy and makes the boat hard to control. We have a similar issue on kayaks. If the boat is too heavy in the rear, we will back-ender when passing through holes or paddling large waves. If the boat is too heavy up front, the boat becomes much harder to steer. Ideally, we want our boat to sit perfectly flat on the water. The heaviest item in our boat is the paddler. We need to adjust that dead weight forward or backward until the boat is trimmed. We do this by moving the seat. Each manufacturer has their own seat adjustment mechanisms so look for instructions at the boat sellers web site.
To be an efficient paddler, you need a boat that fits snugly. When taking a forward stroke, you press down with the same side foot against the bulkhead. If you can't reach the bulk head, you will be using your arms and not your strong abdomen muscles for propulsion and have a very weak stroke indeed. Better adjust the foot bulk head so you can press down on it. You will also need the bulk head to push off of when trying to leave the boat quickly. Some boats lack a bulk head like play boats. On these boats, you will need to add mini-cell foam and carve foot rests to provide the same capability.
OK, we have the bulk head set correctly and my knees are in a comfortable position. You still need something to stop you from going too far back in your boat, that is where the back band comes into play. The back band should rest in the small of your back. Once adjusted properly, all the energy from your torso is applied to the boat.
Now let's take a look at bracing and sweep strokes. Your boat is leaning on its side and you want to either hold that position or get the boat back upright. How are you going to accomplish this task? You need to do this with your hips. This is where snug (but not to tight) hips pads help you to control the boat.
The final area is adjusting the knee braces and padding where your knees and thighs rest against the boat deck. Most knee braces have a couple of simple screws or bolts with a series of holes so you can move them forward or backward to a comfortable position.
The first step is to check out your boat vendor's web site. Often, these sites will have a number of suggestions. I would also contact the place where you purchased the boat. If they have carried boats from that vendor for awhile, I am certain they have learned a trick or two. Local outfitters are probably your next best stop for supplies. You will need a good screwdriver - Phillips and standard. Oddball heads like those used on Prijon boats have special tools that come with the boat. A really good adhesive I have used over the years is Weldwood Oil Based Contact cement.