Thursday, 12 March 2015

Rob Mercer - The EK Big Foot Footplate System

If you look at your foot and then at the size of the standard commercial foot peg or peg-pedal combo you will probably notice three things. First, the peg is a lot smaller than the area of your foot and second, because the right and left units are fixed to the sides of the boat somewhere near the deck to hull join, they are wider apart than most paddlers would choose for a comfortable paddling posture. Finally, if you look closer you will notice that the peg is almost vertical even though most of us prefer to angle our foot about 30 degrees forward. Comfort isn’t the only issue here; a larger plate and pedal area makes it easier to engage your legs for more power and control. One solution is to have your boat supplied with a custom bulkhead but this requires forward planning, extra expense and limits possible future buyers and borrowers.

After some frustrating experiences with a few composite aftermarket plate systems that always required fiddly spacer bolts or customized tapered spacer blocks I decided to make an expanding footplate that allowed the tracks to be fitted parallel on the sides of the boat.

After making a very clunky first prototype that seemed to work OK and gave me some key dimensions and angles for further development, I headed off to my mate Greg Davis who owns and runs an immaculately maintained metal-work and tool making workshop. It helps that Greg is an avid sea kayaker and bay surf aficionado, so all of my theorising and bad pencil sketches were accepted in good grace by Greg as he worked his magic; bending, drilling, grinding and punching out some tricky shapes from alloy and stainless. As we closed in on the final product Greg displayed the uncanny knack of dealing with every challenge by making the product simpler and neater.

Rob's bow goes airborne during testing of the prototype Big Foot in 2014.
Two more prototypes were made and fitted to Tarans and Paces and these were tested with full footplates and half footplates. We very early decided that to make the system easy to fit we would design it to replace existing side-track assemblies without resorting to any spacers or other tricky parts. We also decided to avoid potential stress points along the keel line or floor of the boat by avoiding any fasteners glassed to the hull or any system that involved localised downward pressure to be applied to the hull by the plate.

The current design has been tweaked repeatedly in response to testing across a number of boats with a range of paddlers for almost a year. Although everyone who took part in the testing speculated that they would enjoy a full heel foot-plate before the comparative trials, the angle and height of the standard half plate made it the overwhelming winner.

The half plate allows your heel to move a few centimetres forward and under the plate and for many paddlers this provides a leg stretch with the leg completely straight. Many of us appreciate this leg stretch to ease the strain during a long paddle, but personally I also found that allowing the leg to straighten completely facilitates better hip rotation for kayak-specific body movements like edging, sculling, sweeping and rolling techniques, which a full heel plate designed more for racing, can actually inhibit.

Ultimately there will be those who still want a full length angled plate and for them, a custom overlay cut from plywood, sheet plastic or aluminium can easily be screwed on to the existing half plate using the width adjustor screws to fix to the existing threaded backing plate. This allows an individual to customise their own extension to fit individual hull profiles.

Key Features of the System:

  1. Easily field serviceable. Uses standard Marine Stainless for all screws, nuts, washers and hinges. No tricky springs or special clips.
  2. Durable. Made from tough 5504 Marine Grade Aluminium. We recognize that these plates will be used under demanding conditions on the ocean, they were tested to the limit under these very same conditions, and are built to perform.
  3. Easy to maintain. No hidden voids to clog with sand and grit, no tight tolerance parts to jam. Easy removal for occasional cleaning
  4. Lightweight. Simplicity means that despite the robust construction it weighs only 120gms more than the most common toe pedal system used in large-scale manufacture.
  5. Pedals adjust for width fit around a glovebox. For those using the shorter leg position in boats with glovebox hatches the pedals can be set to clear these and other-under deck obstacles.
  6. Four way Adjustable. Width, length, toe-pedal angle, pedal spacing.
  7. Easy to modify. Provides a sturdy base for custom fitting of full plates to suit your needs.
  8. No need to drill. These tracks use the same hole spacing as most popular factory fitted foot peg systems.
  9. Designed by us, manufactured by Greg in his factory a stone's throw from our Miranda warehouse. Made by sea kayakers for real kayaking conditions.
We’re very pleased with the performance and build quality of this custom designed product, and look forward to seeing how it will be received in the sea kayaking world. All of our extensive testing in the past 12 months has been positive and feedback from users has been a significant driving force in the final design. We thank everyone who took the time to offer generous feedback, knowing they were assisting us in the development of a new product.

We have plenty of stock, and the Big Foot plate system is available now to order through our online store for $320 including delivery nationally. Note also, a simpler plate without gas pedals will also shortly be available for non-ruddered boats, for $250

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