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Old 03-20-2010   #1
travelling, around
Paddling Since: 83
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 60
Are thigh straps in IKs dangerous?

There are a few IK paddlers on this forum and I am looking for stories about drownings or near drownings or head injuries with thigh straps in IK.

If you don't have any such stories, what's your take on thigh straps in inflatable kayaks? Are they valuable? Are they dangerous? What makes them dangerous?


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Old 03-20-2010   #2
Bellevue, Washington
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 112
All of the best IKers I know use them. I've never heard a story about them being dangerous. In my own experience in IKs, on rivers up to Class IV, I've never felt at risk because of the straps. I've used AIRE thigh straps, which have huge quick release buckles on them. I'm not sure about other brands.

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Old 03-20-2010   #3
Lakewood, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 504
I had a lot more trouble keeping my NRS thigh straps on than off.
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Old 03-20-2010   #4
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Farmington, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 140
Flippin' an IK with thighstraps is no more dangerous than flippin' an enclosed kayak. If you practice self-rescue correctly, the straps aren't an issue. Just like a wet-exit from an enclosed boat, only easier (no skirt and not wedged into it like a shoe).

The straps help the paddler control the boat. If you're worried about risk vs. benefit, thigh straps win hands down (if you're hand paddling...).
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Old 03-22-2010   #5
slavetotheflyrod's Avatar
Littleton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 98
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 387
I'll echo what these guys said - I like the straps, they give you better control of the boat and aren't that tough to get out of if you turn turtle. That said, always carry a knife, I can foresee the possibility of becoming entangled in a strap, in which case a knife would be handy. I've rolled mine a few times and never had trouble getting out of the straps.
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Old 03-22-2010   #6
San Juan Islands, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 217
Originally Posted by mjpowhound View Post
I had a lot more trouble keeping my NRS thigh straps on than off.
I've had trouble with my NRS thigh straps slipping too, I ended up getting another set from Yakworks? and haven't had a problem since (I now use the NRS straps for the forward paddler in my Lynx II). , My Sotar has nice straps and I've never had issues with them slipping.

I've never heard of anyone getting stuck in thier thigh straps, No matter how tight I make mine I can always slip my knee out just by moving my foot off the foot peg or foam block.
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Old 03-22-2010   #7
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Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
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Posts: 1,768
A seatbelt can be dangerous too but generally they save your ass.
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Old 03-22-2010   #8
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Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
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They come in handy if you plan on running waterfalls

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Old 03-22-2010   #9
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 36
They can be dangerous if not used correctly. I once had a friend who often talked about how he was a guide, so I offered to let him use my IK w/ straps. Given his expressed experience with whitewater I did not not inspect him prior to putting on the rio. About a mile into our float from Mishawaka he got dumped and as he tells it he almost drowned because he could not get his legs free from the straps that he warped around his legs. Used properly I have a hard time imagining get out of the straps but beware and always inspect your users, because of my assumptions I was accused of trying to kill a friend for a long time not something you want to experience.
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Old 03-22-2010   #10
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Contrary to some of the previous responses, thigh straps certainly can be dangerous. Of course, most of the time, they would help you stay in the boat and paddle better.

I took my girlfriend in an IK with thighstraps on the ocoee. She swam at hell hole came up next to the boat and floated into the next rapid downstream while out of the boat. In the turbulence of the next rapid her arm somehow got tangled in the thigh strap and she was held under water and struggling, and got the living shit scared out of her. That was the end of whitewater for her.

Any strap can be potentially dangerous, and the best things to do to minimize the risk is to 1) be aware of the danger, and rig your boat properly, and 2) carry an easily accessible knife to cut the strap if you get tangled.

In my limited IK experience, my guess would be that I'd rather have the straps than not.

There are other examples of this type of thing... saw a clip of a raft guide who got clipped into the perimeter line on the raft. Many examples of boaters getting skirts and pfd's snagged on the river. Murphy's law pretty much states that if the shit has a potential way to hit the fan, eventually it will. Best to be prepared for the shit spraying when it happens.

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