A New Fitness Craze: The Kayak Balance Stool

Today I canceled my YMCA membership and started to put together my own home gym. Bored with the usual gym accouterments, I’ve set out to build some fitness equipment on my own starting with a kayak balance stool.

I discovered this idea in Christopher Cunningham’s book Building the Greenland Kayak. To make your kayak balance stool, find a piece of scrap wood. I used a 2 x 8 and cut it to fit my ass to toe dimensions. Cut two end boards, each a foot long. Attach the end boards to the sittin’ board with some bolts or sturdy screws. The deeper the curve on the bottom of the end boards, the more tippy it gets. Cunningham suggests a depth of 1 1/2 inches to start. I’d suggest making that curve a bit on the “pointy” side, as any flatness will lead to a lack of tippitude.

Why do this? I’ve been taking a few kayak lessons lately which have showcased my inflexible hamstrings. Mrs. Homegrown describes my flexibility as that of a ginger bread man and my swimming as being like, “throwing a 2 by 4 in the water.” I’m hoping spending a few minutes a day on the kayak simulator will improve flexibility and strengthen core muscles that keep you steady in the water while kayaking. I’ll note my bad form in the animation above. I’m guessing it’s better to use your core to stabilize, rather than moving your legs.

According to Cunningham Inuit children in Greenland got a meaty bone to nibble on while they practiced on one of these things. I’m going to skip the bone for some reading material and slowly increase my time on the board.

For a fancy kayak balance board tip yourself over here.

Note from Mrs. Homestead:

Came home last night to find Erik had made this highly attractive new toy on the porch. I was actually somewhat intrigued, because it looks like it could be used to build core strength whilst reading cheap novels. Top that, pilades!

A few observations from first use. First, only Skinny-Butt Erik could seat himself comfortably on an 8″ wide plank. I’m discomforted by the issue of…um…overhang. Most folks would be well-advised to make the plank more along the the lines of 10 -12″.  12″ boards are hard to find, but the seat could be made of a 3 2×4″s. 

Beyond that, I also found the 1 1/2″ rise a little too easy to master. But we’ve learned you can make it harder by putting your feet flat on the board, thus changing your center of gravity.  Nonetheless, we’ll probably be making the curve steeper very soon.

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9 Comments

  1. What about strapping your legs to the board? sure, you might roll over onto your face, but you’ll be using your core muscles!

  2. @Anonymous: I don’t doubt my center of gravity is lower than Erik’s, but I do hope the general public does not imagine that my “overhang” cascades over the sides of the balance board in the same way a hound dog’s ears droop around its dinner bowl.

  3. Treespeed,

    At the Leeway Sailing and Aquatics Center, run by the city of Long Beach. The people are very nice, and the price is right (very cheap), but I can’t say that the lessons are that great. It’s enough to get you started, but no Eskimo rolls or much in the way of entering and exiting surf. I’m going to see if the Sierra Club has any sea kayaking opportunities. Let me know if you find anything.

  4. Thanks for the suggestion, but that does sound a bit novice for me too. I’m down here from Seattle where there was an abundance of kayak instruction, including indoor pool roll practice. Now that I’ve picked up my own boat I’m surprised at the dearth of education so close to the water, though I have seen other paddlers on occasion.

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