Thigh straps (often called knee straps) are nothing new to the kayak world. Sit-on-top and inflatable kayaks have been using them to help control kayaks in the surf and whitewater for decades. Even white-water pack-rafters are using thigh straps these days! Thigh straps attach up front near your feet and in the rear just behind your hips. The strap should run inside your legs, attaching you to the kayak when you try to squeeze your knees together. This allows you to really gain side-to-side control of your kayak for hip-snaps, better bracing, and even some folks can manage to roll their SOT kayaks.
I have had the thigh straps hanging in my basement for a couple years. I had them for my old Trident, but never used them. Of course, I wasn’t planning on doing any crazy river running in a 15′ long kayak. The couple of times I found myself upside down in the surf, however, could have likely been avoided had I been wearing the straps.
The Coosa doesn’t come outfitted for thigh straps, so I’ll show you the steps I took to install them.. The installation of the padeyes for the straps is simple, and shouldn’t take long to do at all. In fact, I spent more time taking photos than installing.
To start off, you’re going to need to purchase the following:
- A pair of thigh straps (I’m using NRS IK straps and installed my own clips.)
- 4 – padeyes (I get packs from NRS)
- 4 – 1″ 10-24 stainless steel machine screws
- 4 – #10 stainless steel washers
- 4 – 10-24 stainless steel Nylock nuts
- 4 – 3/16″ tri-fold rivets
Many people will already have the rest of the stuff
- 3/16” and 11/32” drill bits
- Marine Goop or silicon
- 10mm socket and extension
- Philips screwdriver
- rivet gun
Provided you already have all the stuff in the second list, that first list is only going to run around $50, depending mostly on how expensive you go with the thigh straps.
To get things started, above I mentioned the how the thigh straps run from your feet to your hips when seated on the kayak. This is important to note, as we will be installing our padeyes in the same areas. I’m not likely going to be running rapids with the Elite Seat in the high position, so I’m positioning the padeyes based on the low seating position. Do note, though, that even if I do find myself in the high seat the thigh straps will still work just fine. They just might not be as comfortable.
Starting at the front of the setup, I started working out where to install the first padeye. The thigh strap will attach to the gunwale, on what would be on the outside of my foot, and cross over my ankle to the inside of my leg. The padeye should be placed just forward of the foot. In the photo to the left, you can see where I thought the best placement should be. I could have even gone a little bit more forward, but this area was suitable enough for me. Once I have a good idea on placement, I put a thin layer of silicon on the padeye to help keep it in place. The last thing I want to do is bump it and have to re-align things. Because I have easy access to the gunnel area via the Day Hatch, I’ll be bolting these padeyes into place. You should make sure you can reach this area inside the kayak. If you can’t, then I would recommend going with rivets throughout this installation. Just ignore all the talk about screws, nuts and bolts. I start the first hole with the 11/32″ drill bit. Using this size allows you to screw the machine screw into the kayak ever so slightly, which will help seal the hole you just put in the kayak. The silicon holding down the padeye will do the same.
With the first screw snug, it’s time to drill the second hole and install the other screw. Again the screw and silicon will help seal up this hole once the screw is snugged down. Now is the fun part – installing the washer and Nylock nut inside the kayak. To make this a little bit easier, I dab some silicon onto the washers before I reach inside the kayak. This does a couple things: One, it makes it harder for me to drop the washer inside the kayak, since my fingers are now a bit sticky with silicon. Two, the silicon will help keep the washer in place on the screw by sticking to the kayak. When you’re reaching into a blind area like this, it’s hard to try to pop on a washer and install a nut on top of it. Once you have both washers held in place with a bit of silicon its time to install the Nylock nuts. I used my ratchet and 10mm socket and extension for this bit. You’ll also have to hold the screw from the outside with a screwdriver. This is the hardest part of this whole install, because you’re working half-blind with your arm at a somewhat uncomfortable angle. Don’t worry, it’ll be over soon enough.
With the front padeye installed, it’s time to move to the rear padeye. Again, we want the thigh strap running up the inside of leg and then crossing over near your hip and attaching to the gunwale of the kayak. I played around with padeye placement again. This area of the Coosa has a lot going on with it. You have the support for the high seating position, flush mounted rod holders and the side tackle storage areas on either side of the seat. I don’t have the mesh pockets (yet) for the tackle storage area, but I kept in mind that I might have them in the future so I made sure that I was installing my padeye out of the way of the tackle stager. As I was looking at where to put this padeye, I realized a second use – an attachment point for a rod leash! Pefect!
I decided to put the padeye in the area between the flush mount rod holder and the tackle stager. This seemed to be the best place for it to work its new dual-purpose. I put a dab of silicon on the padeye and put it in position. Now, this area is impossible to reach from inside the kayak, so the padeyes have to be installed with rivets. The rivets can’t thread into the kayak like the screws, so it’s time to switch to the larger 3/16″ drill bit. Drill the first hole and put the first rivet in place, but do not touch that rivet gun just yet! Just use the rivet to hold the padeye in place. I’m not sure why, but I coat the part of the rivet going into the kayak with silicon. I don’t think that is of any use since the rivet will split and expand, but I guess it’s just for a little piece of mind that the hole will be sealed. Getting the rivet into the kayak might be a bit snug, and it might be difficult to get it into place. The 3/16″ hole is the same size as the rivet, so some force might be required to get the rivet seated on the padeye. Once that is done, you can drill the other hole and install the second rivet. Now you can break out the rivet gun and install the rivets. Once both rivets are done, it’s time to go to the other side of the kayak and repeat this process all over again.
Now, with the padeyes installed, its time to make use of the thigh straps! There are a couple of things here to point out. Start out by attaching the strap at the rear padeye. To get things running correctly, you’ll have to run the thigh strap through the side adjustment strap on the seat. Do not go over the seat strap - things just won’t work out well. The thigh strap should go under the seat strap, over your hip, along the inside of your leg, crossing back over your ankle and clipping into the front padeye on the gunwale. Squeezing your legs together will really attach you to the kayak now! There are a number of straps on the market. If you notice one end of the padding is bigger than the other, then the larger area should be at your thigh with the smaller area toward your feet. Some offer very little or no padding, and with these it doesnt’ really matter which way they are clipped onto the kayak.
The thigh straps aren’t always needed, though. Sometimes they might even get in the way. Fortunately the Jackson Coosa makes it easy to store the straps out of the way, but keep them convenient to get to when you need them! Just leave the rear of the straps clipped into the padeye and tuck the rest under the seat! I don’t keep tackle here, so it’s not a problem for me.
Now, with the straps installed, the Coosa is ready for even more whitewater. That means even more fishing areas can be reached than before. I’m also seriously installing some padeyes on the Cuda so I can use the thigh straps to keep me right-side-up on surf landings.