When learning to roll one quickly discovers how critical it is to be able to move the kayak with your legs, thighs and hips. A solid connection between the kayak and your body greatly facilitates learning to move the kayak. Few of us are lucky enough to have kayaks customized to our exact dimensions, so we usually find ourselves with kayaks that have more room than necessary, or desirable, in the cockpit. The additional space this can create between our legs and the kayak’s deck can increase the challenge with learning some rolls.
For example when learning my forward finishing rolls I found it a great help to be tightly wedged in to my kayak. This tight connection made the kayak move instantly when I move me torso. Now that I understand how the roll works and I have trained myself sufficiently I no longer need that tight connection, but it really helped when I was learning.
When I purchased my Tahe Marine Greenland I found that I connected with the kayak on my knee caps. This was painful so my first experiment was to add a layer of closed cell foam under the deck.
This decreased the pain in my knees from rolling but I still found that I had to consciously keep my knee in contact with the deck, or hunt for the deck when upside down. The next improvement I tried was to carve out a complex shape of closed cell foam that fitted under the deck and along the front of the cockpit rim. I attached it with Velcro. The design angled towards the center of the kayak and so my knees tended to end up touching in the center using this design. Due to the large forces applied by my legs the Velcro attachment point frequently failed and pulled off either the foam or the deck.
So I tried another improvement that was to introduce a movable one-inch thick layer of foam that can be pushed forward under the deck to get into the kayak and then pulled back over my thighs once seated. This approach had several benefits. The connection with the kayak moved back behind my knees (my knees were now in front of the foam when it was pulled back in place). The foam was sufficiently bulky that it filled the void between the deck and my thighs and meant I was in constant contact. Rolling with this method was improved during training, no more hunting for the deck. There were however a couple of downsides: The foam tended to move forward in use, and thus required readjustment during intense rolling sessions. When paddling normally the foam moved considerably, making it uncomfortable to have in place during day trips. The foam forced my legs to the center of the kayak and pushed them flat. This caused cramping at times and did not allow me to use knee/thighs to maintain the kayak in an upright position as easily as when my knees were spread apart. This design masik was inspired by James Manke and Alison Sigethy, both of whom have used this approach successfully.
My current masik was an attempt to recreate a masik from SOF design kayaks. A simple wooden carved beam fixed across my thighs. The beam is just high enough to allow me to slide into the kayak, and yet low enough to provide instant contact with the “deck” during rolls. Being set far back it allows my knees to spread apart which gives me a comfortable paddling position and I have taken several long day trips without cramping or stability issues. Initially I attached the masik using Velcro. Now that I am happy with the solution I have bonded into place with flexible adhesive, thus there are no issues of this approach moving like the foam solution.
The masik is clearly designed for me. It has meant that some people with larger thighs can no longer fit into my kayak. Some people who have been able to get into the cockpit still find it uncomfortable. I will admit that after a long rolling session I can sometimes see some bruising where the masik fits me.
There is no right way or traditional way to implement a masik in a modern kayak. We are after all attempting to make a modern plastic kayak feel and fit like a custom built wooden kayak. These are just some of the many approaches I have tried, and my experiences with using them. It was only by trying many other peoples’ ideas that I found one that worked for me. Let me know if you have any innovations in masik design, I would love to try them.