Leg Length: An Overlooked Measurement?

I took some rough (tape measure) measurements of one of our local BuK boats row by row to learn if and what kind of trends existed in seat metrics.  My thoughts are that while decisions on seating arrangements in the boat are widely multi-factorial, you can’t get around the fixed dimensions of the boat and this establishes a fixed equipment setup that may affect athletic performance, comfort, and health.

Amongst the various measures I made, the set that I thought was most related to paddler function on the boat was about the bench itself.  Here are measures I took:

  • Bench height above the “trough” (lowest point in the hull to front edge of bench)
  • Bench height at midline (mid-hull to front edge of bench)
  • Diagonal reach from front edge of bench at gunnel to corner of first foot stop
  • Straight reach from front edge of bench to first foot stop
Measures taken in a BuK boat rows 1-10

Measures taken in a BuK boat rows 1-10

Results / Discussion

You can see the trend from the graphs that both bench height and effective leg room increase from Row 1 to 5 and then decrease from Row 6 to Row 10.  What this means is that paddlers with longer legs will be more comfortable and, quite possibly more efficient, when sitting in the middle rows.  With the importance of leg drive in paddling efficiency, it makes sense that paddlers who can set their feet in a stable position to transmit force to the boat will be reliant upon finding the correct bench setup that facilitates this.

Typically, crews place heavier and/or taller paddlers in the middle rows.  While it makes sense most of the time that larger athletes may coincidentally have longer leg lengths, it is not always the case.  Anthropomorphically, the ratio of leg length to overall bodily dimensions varies through the population.  If you have a few hours, take this paper for a read!  What this means is that paddlers who are shorter or taller don’t always have shorter or longer legs respectively.

So…

Leg length may be a useful metric to have in setting up your crew through the boat for best results.

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