The Importance of Fit
Traditional skin-on-frame boats are custom built to fit the specific personal dimensions of their intended user. The paddler will "wear" such a boat with a tight, body-conforming fit.
Factory standard commercial folding skin-on-frame boats are normally built to one set design. It might therefore prove beneficial, if a paddler were to undertake a certain amount of outfitting of the cockpit to achieve an optimal custom fit, before exploring the full potential of performance of such a boat.
Achieving the perfect fit in a commercially built folding boat is a highly personal thing and is actually largely independent of the factory standard configuration of the cockpit.
Having said the above, the E68 can be paddled very satisfactorily directly out of the bag; the sculling and rolling techniques depicted on this website were performed in factory standard bare boats (even without carlings back then -- see point 2 below). Nonetheless, the cockpit is designed to allow outfitting in a variety of ways if you choose to do so, some of which we list below:
1 - The seatback is slightly concave and slanted backwards. You may wish to add foam padding in various thicknesses and configurations to suit your requirements and preferred paddling posture. Two vertical strips of foam padding applied to the seatback with a gap between them for your vertebrae might be a good starting point. Bear in mind, however, that supporting your back higher up than your tailbone decreases your ability to employ torso rotation effectively to paddle.
2 - Carlings, on both sides of the cockpit, run from aft of the amidships gunwale separation points to the roof of frame number 2 at the front end of the cockpit. You may wish to pad their lower and / or outer faces for a perfect custom fit for your knees and thighs.
3 - Different paddlers prefer different leg positions when paddling. These may range from having both legs straight with the knees close together, to having the knees bent, raised and markedly splayed outwards. You may wish to add padding to the edges of frame number 2 at the front of the cockpit to suit your style and the specific contact points of your shins and calves.
4 - You can adjust the position of the molded foam rubber seat lengthwise in the cockpit. However, European white water, as well as touring folding boat paddlers have at times done away with seats altogether, opting instead to mold their own custom seat out of pieces of their equipment and luggage, suitably packed and tied down. You may wish to explore the effects of different seating positions and heights on the trim and stability on you and the boat.
5 - The molded foam rubber seat provides good lateral stability to the paddler in normal use. For use in rough water or for advanced paddling techniques, such as extreme bracing, sculling or rolling, you may wish to fill the gap between your hips and the gunwales with padding. Think about not bringing this padding so high that you reduce the potential for flexibility of your waist, the paddler's "ball joint", to borrow a term from 1930s white water folding kayakers.
6 - The E68 is a wood frame boat. Many people have sufficient experience and confidence to work with wood. This opens up an endless variety of opportunities for customizing not just the cockpit, but the whole boat to suit your personal needs!
I keep my knees splayed outward, slightly bent and raised far enough to lock my thighs under and my knees on the respective outboard faces of the carlings. I find it easier to achieve a slight forward inclination of my torso with my legs in this position, which in turn allows me to make full use of my abdominal muscles for effective torso rotation when paddling.
The deceptively simple, slanted wooden backrest provides solid support very low down when I lean forward to paddle, brace or roll, allowing full freedom of movement in any direction for my torso, yet is comfortable when I lean back to relax and glide.
My lower body is thus solidly connected to the boat, making me an integral part of it, my waist rotates over my hips like the proverbial "ball joint" and my upper body can do its work with full confidence.
The RZ96, too, is perfectly ready for the water straight out of the bag. The locations of the backrest define the paddling positions in such a way that the combined center of gravity of two more or less similarly sized paddlers will coincide with the design center of buoyancy of the hull. If the paddlers are of different weight, the heavier paddler should take the aft seat because the boat is quite forgiving of being trimmed higher in the bow.
The aft paddling position is factory equipped with the heel rest / rudder pedal assembly. The aft paddler may wish to adjust the position of the heel rest along the length of the aluminium track for the most comfortable distance and angle of bend to the knees. The bow paddling position may be equipped with a similar heel rest as an option; in fact, it is possible to run the rudder lines into the bow, if so desired, but, of course, at the expense of their obstructing cargo space under the side decks.
Under normal circumstances paddlers of the RZ96 will not require strict bracing of the hips, thighs and knees. However, under certain circumstances this may be desirable. (link to "inversion recovery" sequence)
The space on either side of the seat and under the side decks may be filled with inflatable buoyancy bags, secured to the gunwale frame assembly with simple webbing straps. Inflatable bags work well because they can be adjusted accurately to the needs of the paddler. Cargo bags stuffed to the appropriate dimensions work well also and utilize the space.
By pulling back the heel rest, paddlers can bring their knees up under and slightly to the outside of the solid cockpit coaming for a very secure fit.
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