The Smedley Canoe Outfitting Guide | Chapter 1

Outfitting a new canoe, or changing the outfitting in a used canoe can be an extremely long process with countless hours of trial and error. For myself, feeling tight and connected to my boat is one of the most important things in order to perform in a race. I have to feel as though I’m completely attached to the boat, preferably with only the use of foam outfitting.

I have been paddling single Men’s canoe slalom for 8 years and this outfitting design has worked the best for me so far. Feel free to add on ideas and ask all questions that come to mind!

Chapter 1: The Caribou Canoe

Design Components

  • Boat Design: One
  • Company: Vajda
  • Construction: Elite Layup
  • Size: Large (70 – 80kg)
  • Add Ons: Anchors, Carbon back band wrap
  • Notes: Oval shaped cockpit (kayak style)


  • Rasp
  • Brush
  • Contact cement / waterproof adhesive
  • Ruler
  • Square
  • Silver Marker
  • Black Marker
  • Fine pen
  • Hack saw
  • Utility Knife
  • Ban saw (if possible)


  • Full boat control without use of straps
  • Minimal foam in order to keep weight of boat less than 8kg
  • Accurate dimension measurements for recreating the outfitting

The Laws of Outfitting

  • Cut a little, then sand/rasp; you can always cut more.
  • Sit in your boat and check the fit often
  • Record the process as you go in a notebook (dimensions, techniques, anything you feel necessary)

Upper Knee Block

Block 1: Upper knee support


W: 9cm   H: 8cm   L: 9.5cm

Purpose: Simply hold your knees in place and prevent them from rising up when pulling up on your legs.

Notes: It is particularly difficult to carve these pieces to fit the roof of the boat so do your best, set them in with contact cement, and finally use gorilla glue afterwards to fill the gaps and hold them permanently.

Outside Knee Block

Block 2: Outside knee support


W: Varies   H: 9.5cm    L: 9.5cm

Purpose: Secure knees from the outside of the boat. Provide boat sense and edge control.

Notes: Carve a general tapered curve on these pieces so that as your knees push further forward they become tighter. As they come back

Under Knee & Calf Block

Block 3: Under knee support

Dimensions: Custom to your outfitting. Fill the space between the bulkhead and the calf support to avoid the sandpaper effect of carbon Kevlar.

Purpose: General Comfort.

Notes: The foam will dimple slightly so be sure to cut a thick enough piece so that when compressed your knee isn’t pressing against the bottom of the boat.

Block 4: Calf support


W: 8cm     H: 15cm     L: 15cm

Purpose: Adds contact surface area between your legs and the boat. Improves edge control.

Notes: Very helpful in giving you better boat sense. Often there can be a large gap between the contact at your bulkhead and your hips, this allows you to feel more of the boat during turns.


Block 5: Bulkhead


W: 34cm    H: 14cm    L: 15cm

Purpose: Place your knees to the outside walls of the boat. To be squeezed and pushed on with your knees to push yourself foraward in a forward s

Notes: Often made by gluing two large piece of foam together and then carve from there. Be careful not to make this piece too big as it will add weight quickly. Also be sure to carve the bottom of the bulkhead so that it matches the contour of the boat otherwise it will peel off quite quickly.


Block 6: Seat


W: 18cm    H: 15cm    L: 5cm

Purpose: Sit on it! Should be comfortable and position your hips in the center of the boat.

Notes: Some paddlers prefer to have a lower seat (usually more balanced less comfortable), and some prefer to have a higher seat (usually less balanced and more comfortable). I like to be in the very center of the boat which has often directed me to a very low seat.

Back Support

Block 7: Back support


W: 15cm    H: Varies   L: 4.5cm

Purpose: Supports your back for good posture and aligns your center of gravity over your seat.

Notes: Very necessary piece in positioning yourself in the boat. Ask the boat manufacturer when you receive your boat to see where is best to sit in the boat. For the “One”  Vajda suggested I sit at least 5cm in front of the back of the cockpit.

Hip Pads

Block 8: Hip pads (Left & Right)


W: 4cm     H: Varies     L: 15cm

Purpose: Keep your hips stationary.

Notes: Blue Styrofoam is used for these pieces. Regular mini-cell foam compresses over time and you become loose in your boat around the hips. The hip pads then have to be replaced; However, this blue Styrofoam I found in my basement hasn’t compressed at all over a month of use which makes it much more ideal if you can find some.

Ankle support & blocks

Block 9:  Ankle support


W: 8cm     H: Varies   L: 16cm

Purpose: Incline ankle joint slightly to create a more comfortable position.

Notes: Your feet will likely still become numb at some point but best to be comfortable in your boat when they aren’t numb.

Block 10: Ankle blocks

Dimensions: Vary

Purpose: Keep ankles / feet on the ankle supports and avoid slipping in big pivot turns.

Notes: sometimes you have to really crank the boat around in a pivot turn and your feet can slip off the ankle supports, and mess you up mentally. Avoid the scenario altogether by adding these little blocks.

Toe Blocks + Protection

Block 11: Toe supports


W: 14cm    H: Varies   L: 4.5cm

Purpose: Support toes / feet from slipping backwards in upstream gates and allows paddler to hold their knees solid as they pull in a forward stroke.

Notes: Encourages good posture by offering less movement of legs inside the boat. Can create cramping in feet but when placed well the cramps can be avoided entirely.

Block 12: Toe protection

Dimensions: Custom to your outfitting. Simply fill in the space between your seat, ankle support, and toe supports.

Purpose: Protect the top of your feet / toes from rubbing against the carbon fiber which works like sand paper.

Notes: Feet + carbon fiber = bloody feet. Make yourself as comfortable as possible so that you can train longer, and race harder.

Additional Notes

  • The caribou canoe was designed to use as little paint as possible in order to minimize added weight of paint.
  • Contact cement was used for all adhesive surfaces
    • Gorilla glue will be used as well in the future for securing the upper knee pieces
  • Outfitting design may need to be adjusted for a circular cockpit shape / wider boat design.
  • All dimensions are given to create a block of foam that is the perfect size to begin carving.
    • If a particular dimension is given as “varies” then it must be adjusted to the paddler.

Happy Foam Carving,


author: Liam Smedley

Loves photography, outdoors tripping, crafting coffee & brewing kombucha. Frequently found in his hammock by the river.


Leave a reply