The Oursler Seat

Dr Paul Oursler rowing his Sliding Slantboard Seat
I haven't rowed a conventional rowing shell since CPR, but I've been doing a fair amount of rafting. Most of this rafting has been of the two-oar variety (as opposed to paddle rafting). The two-oar aspect is about the only thing rafting has in common with sculling (apart from the fact that both activities are in a boat on water). I have often tried to make rafting as similar to rowing as possible and have used these rafting trips to train for longer races like CPR.

A few years ago, a friend (Bill Cross) and I started rafting relatively longer distances (e.g., one-day Wild and Scenic Rogue--35-miles) and using his slant board frames to allow ourselves to slide up the board and use our legs in the rafting rowing stroke. This arrangement  is a vast improvement over conventional, stationary, tractor seats, coolers or dry boxes that many of us use. However, sliding up and down a slant board seat for hours on end will leave your butt raw. Adding vinyl to the boards and adding sunscreen as a lubricant on the vinyl made the sliding better, but did little in the way of posterior pain mitigation.

For the longest time, Bill and I have discussed potential rafting and kayak equipment improvements and on the top of our list has been a sliding seat like we have in rowing shells. Bill and I would get bogged down in the implementation details, wondering if we needed things like a firkin (sp?) (seat clip) to hold the seat down to the tracks. Bill came as close to buying an actual seat, but when I showed him my rowing seats, he returned the hefty tractor seat he had bought.

We included Paul Oursler, a rower, in our discussions and Paul decided to implement the sliding seat forthwith: no dillydallying for him. He took his slant board and routed some track grooves for his Pocock seat: simple and elegant. He added a small retention cord and that was it. He tried it on the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River this past Tuesday and it was a sensation.

Paul ran most rapids, including Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar with the sliding seat. Very impressive. He could motor backwards through the flat and mild rapid sections using the considerable added power of his legs.

I rowed with the Oursler sliding seat for a bit and loved it immediately. My experience is that it made a huge difference on flat water and wasn't a liability on most rapids. There was a slight tendency to dig deep with the blades during the drive, but that could be remedied easily with experience. I was a bit concerned about side-to-side seat action, but there was minimal, and I never came out. The extra power available from my legs because of the sliding seat was tremendous. And I didn't find the seat to be uncomfortable either.

I am sold. Now, what I want is a cataraft with a slantboard and an Oursler sliding seat. That would be fast! Yes, I know, it's not all about speed. But going fast is fun.