Back in the early 90s, I saw a Wing IK on the Trinity River in California. One of my biggest regrets was to listen to the person with me who told me I shouldn’t buy one because they had thigh straps, which were considered dangerous at that time.
Around 2003, I bought this boat from The Boat People in Santa Clara, CA:
The boat had already been a rental boat for a decade. When I first tried it, I was not happy with it. I felt like I was going to fall over backwards. For the first year I owned the boat, I let other people use it. I decided to try a different backrest and give it one more try or sell it. I replaced the small Wing backrest with the 12″ thwart backrest from my old Sun Runner (pre-Hyside) IK. After just 2 class III rapids, I was convinced that this would work.
I have run this boat on over 800 runs, on everything from class I to class V in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. For my size, shape, and boating style, this is the best design I could hope for.
This is obviously a newer model of the boat. When I first got it, I outfitted it for me and tried it out. I only got in 3 runs in the boat when my girlfriend (who is now my wife) decided she wanted to use this boat. She has run it for the past 3 years and she loves it!
The Older Boat – Specs and Info
The boat is 10’8″ (128″) long and 38″ wide.
The backrest is a 12″ Hyside thwart. It sits up a little high, but I sometimes run it pushed down in the boat. I like the D-ring placement – there is one in front and one in back on each side, which allows adjustment. This also allows me to remove the thwart and replace it with a rolled-up Paco Pad for self-support overnighters.
The thigh straps are made of the same fabric as the boat. Performance-wise, these are the best thigh straps I have ever used. They hold me to the tubes better than thigh straps attached to the floor. They also give better leverage for flipping the boat back over and getting back in.
They are made of 2 strips of fabric. The strips are 2″ wide, but are made of a 4″ wide strip that is folded on each side and welded in the center. The weld faces the tube so that the outside is smooth.
The rear strip, which is attached as shown in the photo above, is 30″ long, and the front strip is 20″ long, not counting the parts inside of the oval patch. They were each originally 6″ longer, but after years of wear, they broke at the attachment points and had to be removed and rebuilt.
This is he front attachment:
The oval patch that attaches the thigh straps to the boat is 8″x4″. It is 3″ above the floor channel, and the placement is ideal for me.
The extra D-rings were added for two reasons. First, they give me some additional tie points. Second, they give me an emergency thigh strap attachment point. I added them after I broke a thigh strap on an overnight self-support trip.
This shows the buckle and tightening assembly (from Strapworks NW). The boat originally came with 2″ plastic buckles, but after I broke one on Jusum Falls on the White Salmon River, I replaced them with metal.
I use a 3″ thick white foam block for a footbrace. For the first couple of years, I didn’t use a footbrace. For the first few years after I got my first footbrace, I just had it friction-fitted in the boat, but after a few incidents where I lost the foam block, I decided to attach it with camstraps. I have the camstraps running through two bail holes, run parallel to the tubes so they don’t get snagged.
In the rear of the boat, I use 3 of the bail holes to tie in a nylon webbing holder for gear. I can tie down a Watershed Colorado bag in the back of the boat for camping gear.
The Newer Boat – Specs and Info
This boat is 10′ 6″ (126″) long and 36″ wide. The tubes are slightly smaller than the other boat.
The backrest is a Sotar IK backrest, though I have also used the 11″ Vanguard thwart backrest in this boat.
This photo shows the stern of the boat. The D-ring in the floor at the rear is especially useful for holding down the shafts of the breakdown spare paddle. There is a similar set up in the other boat. These are incredibly useful.
The thigh straps are the padded add-on thigh straps that most IKers use. They aren’t branded, but I have always assumed they came from Wing. The rear attachment point is the D-ring at the backrest attachment.
This boat is not shown with the footbrace, but it uses the same attachment mechanism. I had to punch additional bail holes to make this work for my wife because she is very short.
I also punched additional bail holes in the back for attaching gear loops.