Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kayak Backband Retrofit

by George Granlund

I bought a new Valley kayak earlier this year and found out that Valley is notorious for their flimsy backbands. The seat bottom on my new boat was great and the fit and finish of everything else is what you might expect from Valley. But the back band would not stay in position when entering the cockpit, and it gave virtually no lumbar support. I was told by Valley that the backband was designed that way so that I could lie back when rolling. That sounds great in theory, but I figured that 99.9% of the time I’m paddling rather than rolling, and I prefer comfort rather than utility.

Designing and making a better backband had been in the back of my mind since buying the boat, and I finally came upon the solution while making rain barrels for my gardens. The barrels are made from a Delrin-like material that is ¼” thick, and very durable. The 50 gallon barrel is curved in such a way that matches the curvature of the cockpit back and, more importantly, my back.

I used a portable saw to cut a slice from the barrel and began fitting it to the cockpit. Mounting the backband to the seat supports presented the greatest challenge because I didn’t want to start cutting and drilling the fiberglass supports. Every seat support is a little different, so I cut some flat plastic material from the barrel top and fit it to the seat support, which makes for a very strong connection. I inverted the flimsy Valley backband to fit onto the new plastic band for cushioning and the new backband works great. My fallback plan was to cut some closed cell foam and glue it to the new band for increased comfort. Seaward makes a similar backband for over $100, but mine cost under $10.00 and I’ve still got a great topless barrel for scrap or enough plastic material for another 15 backbands.

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