Just to declare my high-kneeling credentials first, I have never high-kneeled or even attempted to do so.
So, clearly the first thing to do is to look at how other paddlers have approached it and how they configure their boats. I’ve been doing this for a while, most recently at a mini-sprint regatta organised by Sam and again at the Haslar finals in Reading last year. Trouble is, there aren’t many high-kneelers about.
There seem to be basically three points of contact:
1. A flat surface at the front for the leading foot
2. A piece of high density foam to support the knee and shin
3. A footrest at the rear to brace the trailing foot against
A degree of adjustability is required for different shape and size paddlers.
That all seemed fairly straight forward, so I set about designing something similar for The Darkness.
I manufactured some curved pieces of aluminium, covered with rubber inner tube and fixed them to the seat flanges using stainless steel bolts and wing nuts. Pointing up through a hole in the centre are two addition bolts.
I then constructed a flat platform to go along the bottom of the boat.
This had a flat area for the leading foot covered with grip tape. A right angle foot stop was bolted from underneath in one of a series of evenly spaced holes to allow for adjustment.
Two strips of Velcro would hold the kneeling block in place.
The next problem, where does one get the colourful, multi-layered foam from? I know, I’ll improvise. I had some spongy type foam left over from a C2 seat project, should do the job. I wonder what shape it should be?
To be fair, Craig and Ross didn’t laugh, but simply improvised a little! Anyway, they showed me that The Darkness makes an excellent entry-level high kneeler and a good stable platform for beginners.
Well I’m a beginner, so let’s have a go at this high-kneeling lark then.
Next I needed a paddle. A long shaft with a symmetrical blade at one end. As it happened, I had an old pair of wooden Kober slalom paddles. I bought these in 1976 when I did slalom. They cost me £65 which was a lot of money in those days, and they were “the thing to have”.
Anyway, I chopped one of the blades off and fixed a T piece handle, bingo!
So, I was sorted and went off to Bull Lock on the K&A where no-one could see me, and had a go. I put on a wet suit and a buoyancy aid, just in case. I got in and with the paddle firmly braced on the bank, I tested the stability. It was not as bad as I thought it would be and eventually the boat drifted so far from the bank, I had to let the paddle drop onto the water.
It was not pretty, but I managed about 10 metres with tentative forward strokes and loads of support ones. After repeating this about five times, my leading leg was “on fire” and the sweat was pouring off me.
The ideal location for testing would have a two firm portage points about 40 metres apart. The water had to be clean and the bank had to enable one to get out in the unlikely event of a capsize.
So the next day I was at Dreadnought Reach paddling from one pontoon to the other. Craig spotted me and kindly offered the loan of a proper paddle.
What a difference! Top tip number 1: Always use the proper kit. Top tip number 2: Get a mate called Craig.