Tips and Techniques - Staying Put
Staying Put - The Thigh Strap System
The evolution of thigh straps has come a long way since I started boating. This applies not only to the design and construction but also the intended use. Years ago, when we solo paddled Grumman’s and Old Town Trippers, the main purpose of thigh straps was to keep us from falling out of the boat when we leaned or tried to tip them up on edge. Those straps were made of loose pieces of webbing or rope and no one ever thought about quick releases.
As the boats and paddler's skill levels developed, we needed more performance from our outfitting. There are two main reasons for using thigh straps. The first is to provide boat control and the second is to hold us in the boat. These are two different functions and each requires a different placement and approach.
For precise boat control, you must use your knees. By applying either up or down pressure on a knee, you are able to control how far you tip or "heel" the boat up on it’s edge, but your knees have to stay in contact with the hull. Preferably, there should be no movement at all but it must be limited to no more than an inch in any direction. The strap needs to cross the leg about 4-5 inches above the knee.
To stay put in the boat when you are side surfing or doing a roll, you need to be really anchored down. The straps must be up high on your thigh, crossing over close to your crotch.
How do you get the benefit of both? The answer is a three-point double strap system. It works like this: Point one, a knee strap that attaches to the side of the hull adjacent to and about 4" back from the tip of your knee. Point two, a crotch anchor (positioned on the hull, about 1" forward your crotch when looking straight down) that the knee strap passes through and then connects to the thigh strap. And point three, the thigh strap coming up over your leg, tight to the crotch and ending at an anchor point adjacent to outside of your anklebone. You specifically want to avoid gunnel attachment because it won’t keep you tight enough in the boat.
In essence, this gives you is a single strap that crosses your knee and then doubles back over the thigh. By placing a quick release Fastex slider between the thigh strap and the ankle anchor, you can tighten the entire side with just a single pull. Mike Yee has pioneered the refinement of this system (pictured above). You can check out his website by clicking here.
No matter what system you use, don’t overlook a quick release for the straps. Without it, entrapment is a possibility. Always test out a new strap system by doing a few wet exits with a spotter along side in case you need help.
So tune up your straps and stay put in that boat!