Padding the Cockpit – Rockpool Taran

The Taran was designed from the outset as a performance sea kayak for paddling on moving water. To gain the best of that performance in the moving water environment I believe you need a snug fit with good physical contact inside the boat. You want the boat to respond instantly and with accuracy to your edges, leans, pitch trim etc.

Without that connection the boat won’t respond promptly or with finesse to your inputs, nor will you get the full feedback that the boat offers.

So, you require good physical contact with the boat through your feet, knees, thighs, hips and lower back.

As the Taran is a performance boat it has minimal outfitting in the cockpit area – you are expected to tailor it specifically to fit your needs, body shape and paddling style. Everyone is different, and generic fitting won’t cut the mustard here. If you don’t tailor the boat to fit you, you are missing a trick.

However at the same time we have to remember we need to actually paddle the boat, that is we need enough movement to be able to produce a n effective paddle stroke, in order to drive the boat forward. So while we need that snug fit to accurately edge, lean and steer we also want free movement to paddle effectively – it is a compromise.  You decide on that level of compromise.

And of course we also need enough room for the comfort required on longer trips and for colder weather clothing. There’s a bit of an art to getting it right. But it is worth the effort: without good padding you are only paddling half a Taran.

NOTE:  This is a quick look at how I pad my boats – everyone does it differently. This is a starting point to work from but you should tailor the fit for your specific needs.
(The seat shown here may be a little different to the one fitted in your boat, but the principal is the same.)


Before you start make sure your boat is clean and completely dry. Wipe it down first and then allow it to dry fully. Don’t skimp on materials or adhesives, the soggy, sweaty cockpit area is a testing environment!
If you fit out your boat correctly it should last the lifetime of the boat, with minimal maintenance.


Use a non-water based contact adhesive; in the UK the brand name to use is Evo-stik. There is nothing better for this job.


I use a quality high-density black foam, this foam does not absorb water and does not deform or compress over time.  It also bonds well with the contact adhesive. These are all important characteristics for a decent padding setup. You want a foam rigid enough to transfer your handling inputs but at the same time provides adequate comfort.

I use:
6 mm for the rear pad
10 mm for the thigh pads
17 mm (or greater) for the hip pads

Steer clear of Ethafoam, sleeping mat foam, or the grey foam used in pillar buoyancy – variously between them they deform, compress, hold water or have poor bonding characteristics with the contact adhesive. Don’t waste your time with these – they won’t cut the mustard for serious paddling.


If you have a Smarttrack system fitted, use a large (#3) Phillips screwdriver to remove the footrest machine screws- don’t use a Pozi Drive screwdriver as you may damage the heads.


Of course if you use adhesives, solvents, sharp tools etc then you need to take the relevant safety precautions with regards to ventilation, fire hazards, personal protective equipment and so on, blah…

Tools ‘n’ stuff:
Tools ‘n’ stuff 1
Tools ‘n’ stuff 2
Seat – before. A little lacking.
Thigh Bars – before. So uncomfortable!
Remove the footrests using a large (#3 – big!) Phillips screwdriver.
Don’t lose the screws!
There’s no need to disconnect the cables; bag the footrests to keep them free from errant adhesive and tuck them out out the way.
Thigh Bars:
Measure and cut the Thigh Pads – 23 x 35 cm for me
Mark the thigh pads outline under the Thigh Bars – ready to glue. I go down as far as the centre of the seam.
Spread the glue carefully on the area – wear gloves, or pick at those fingers for days! Place a cloth/cardboard etc below if you are a bit of a dripper!

Spread glue on the thigh pads
Important! Don’t rush the glue – let it go tack dry on all surfaces or it will bond poorly.

Pre-bend the thighs pads to roughly match the contours of the deck and thigh bar. Then starting at the centre of the pad and working outwards, press the pad firmly into place under the thigh bars. Beware: with contact adhesive you only get one shot at this. Make sure you place it accurately and press into place uniformly! It gets messy if you need a second attempt.

Press the thigh pad firmly into place. Note:  As you can see, I prefer an extra layer on the thigh bar itself to increase the contour shape.
Repeat on the second thigh bar.
Use a sharp long bladed knife to carefully trim the foam to shape, using the thigh bar edge as a template.
One down.
Thigh bar trimmed – give the foam one last firm squeeze into place.
Padded thigh bar- as viewed from below.
Refit the footrests:
You need the footrest back in and correctly adjusted to get the padding correct on the seat.
Add a spot of silicone sealant to prevent leaks. Clean off any excess carefully with acetone.
Take care as you line up the footrest – don’t cross thread the screws.  Screw the screw half way in and use this to locate to the holes in the footrest body. Then tighten gently. The aluminium body of the footrest is soft and you can easily strip the threads if you cross-thread. The screw should be easy to turn and should take a number of turns before tightening fully. If it tightens fully in one or two turns then STOP! You may have cross-threaded it – remove and try again.
Seat – Hip Blocks:
Start with the Hip Blocks – sized from the leading edge to the back-rest fittings. I take it vertically down to the start of the curve in the seat, but this is personal to the size and shape of your bum.
Mark the outline of the Hip Block ready for glueing.
A little masking tape can prevent your seat  from  becoming a sticky mess of wayward glue.
Spread that glue! Do the foam blocks too and leave it all to go tack dry.
Press the block into place and then using the long sharp blade once again, trim the foam.
Leading edge.
Top edge.
Bottom edge.
Trailing edge.
Hip block rough trim done – fine tuning later.
The foam is surprisingly tough on the blades – replace them as necessary for best results.
Fine trimming of the hip blocks. Shave a little off at a time (it’s hard to put it back on!). Put your paddling pants on and try the fit between fine trims. Aim  to maintain a good contact area but with no pressure points or tight spots. This may take a while to get right.
Don’t try and trim it as you sit in the boat – it won’t work. And you may need to buy some new pants too.
Seat – Rear edge:

This is the same drill as previously, just on the rear edge of the seat.

Loosen /remove the back-rest and measure…
It’s personal choice how far down you go.
Then cut the foam and mark an outline for glueing. Cut to allow an equal overlap on the rear of the seat (behind the seat).
I cut and mark mine oversize and then trim to fit once glued in place. It risks leaving marks and glue (especially) in the corners as I trim, but I’m more concerned about fit than aesthetics.
Glue the inside rear edge of the seat.
Glue the outer read edge of the seat (- behind the seat). Also apply glue to the foam pad and leave all surfaces to go tack dry.
Press the rear pad into place – notice the overlap at the top of the seat edge.
Fold the pad over the seat edge and press firmly into place on the rear.
Rear edge pad in place – trimming required.
Trim carefully along the lower edge – once again the aim is to remove any ‘sharp’ corners or pressure points.
I like to round the lower extremities off- though this will show your marking and small areas of glue.

Trimmed corner
Refit the back-rest and Rear Pad done.
Job Done:

Now go paddling and enjoy your super handling, super comfortable boat!

by John Willacy