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Pain or discomfort in the hip area?


Jun 22, 2021
Eugene, OR
Hi All:

While doing an 8-mile, 2-hour paddle yesterday off the Oregon Coast, I noticed some muscular pain/discomfort in the area of my hips. It's not deep down (e.g. not a skeletal issue), more closer to the surface (indicating a muscular issue). It wasn't agonizing but definitely significant enough that I had to change my leg position frequently to alleviate it.

I paddle a plastic Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165. I ditched the silly stock high backrest years ago and replaced it with a good backband, and my paddling posture is very good (I sit upright, leaning forward slightly—no slouching!). I also have excellent paddling technique and use my core and rotation almost entirely with good extension on every stroke (I've been paddling for decades and used to race).

The other piece of the puzzle is leg angle, foot position, and distance between my knees. My boat has a rudder which I use often, and my feet are positioned so that my legs are comfortably raised against the knee braces under the cockpit rim—neither loose nor jammed in tight. Though not as solid as a fixed bulkhead to push against while paddling, I'm pretty good at making adjustments to the rudder (with sliding pedals) then applying pressure to both pedals so I still get a fairly solid brace.

Finally, I only experience this pain/discomfort when paddling more than 90mins without a break. I paddle at least twice a week for exercise. My typical workout paddle is around 75 minutes, paddling nonstop at a fast pace (4 knots on average), typically around 3-4 miles (but often 5-6 miles, depending on conditions).

So just curious to know if others have experienced this kind pain in the area of your hips? If so, was there anything that helped you alleviate it—particularly for longer journeys where you might be in the boat for 2+ hours at a time?


EDITED to add: I've seen videos of folks paddling Greenland-style kayaks where their legs are stretched straight out along the hull, and almost together. While this isn't my standard paddling position (mine is legs apart with knees up under the braces), I use this position to relax my legs and take breaks now and then—and it is indeed more comfortable! I'm not sure I could get used to paddling like that all the time, though—particularly in rough water. I like being able to brace my lower body firmly against the boat using my knees; I feel it better translates the side-to-side movement of my hips to the boat.
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While paddling in a Greenland style kayak, yes, legs are mostly flat, but the thigh brace is very close to the thighs with body to kayak contact almost constant. There is very little movement needed to initiate a brace. This is not so with a typical north American style kayak where the legs are positioned frog leg style with limited contact to the kayak while resting flat.
The only way I can paddle a Greenland style kayak over 90 minutes is to have an extremely good core strength with the necessary hamstring/ leg flexibility.

It sounds like you've had a lot of time on the water and good training. In regard to hip discomfort, my initial thought is that it's about your body mechanics.
When I first started to paddle Greenland style kayaks I had a lot of discomfort due to having legs straight out and flat. It seemed to affect muscles and joints around the hip. and 'feet falling asleep'. Through regular stretching, some yoga, and time on the water, (ie: training ) discomforting symptoms were relieved.
This is just my experience.
I wish you good luck towards understanding your personal obstacle with kayaking.
Scott, you haven't stated in detail where this pain is, but even if you did, diagnosis by distance (or Google) is usually flawed.

While no doctor or physical therapist, I have had a few aches over the years, some of which were major, most not.

If you are able/prepared to seek professional advice I would recommend doing so, but before you do so gather evidence that you can present as otherwise it may be difficult to get a proper diagnosis. By this I mean if the professional can't find an obvious cause or replicate the conditions that cause the issue they will be trying to eliminate possibilities.

Using the OPQRST model, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OPQRST you will be better able to communicate your symptoms.

I tolerated hip/glute issues for several years, trying all sorts of stretching and strengthening, before finally seeing my doctor. In ten seconds he diagnosed arthritis and the need for a hip replacement!

More recently I went to him with a sore lower back (on the other side) and after an x-ray he said I had arthritis in my spine and nothing could be done, except for anti-inflammatory meds. Not happy with this idea I then went to my physio (PT), who is a goddess. She looked at the x-rays and said my spine was being pulled out of alignment because my spinal-erector muscles were too tight on one side. This was caused by them engaging instead of my glutes when I walked. One session on learning to properly sequence muscle engagement and the problem was resolved, no meds needed. Maintaining that correct sequencing is an ongoing task.

I offer those examples to encourage you to self assess your symptoms, and then seek professional advice. Be prepared for those professionals to not understand the activities that you do and how loads are applied to your body. Be proactive in getting the advice that you need.

Good luck.

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I also have found a few pains in my hip joints after long days on the water. Not every time, but sometimes. I have not seen a pattern yet as to when and why. Some days I go out 4 hours and others I am out from 5:00AM until 10:00 PM and oddly, the longer sessions do not seem to give me pain any more then the sort ones. It's just arbitrary. Duration of time in the kayak seems to make no difference.

I am pretty sure I found the main cause however. Eating too much Birthday cake.

NOTE: Eating others people's cake don't hurt me at all, but my own seems to have some slow acting poison in it.
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Thanks for the good replies all! And yes, I need to try to better understand the pain in my hip. As I mentioned, it only happens beyond 90mins of continuous paddling and gets worse after 2 hours. And in truth, I'm not sure how many sea kayakers regularly paddle nonstop (e.g. literally without ever pausing or taking a short break) more than 2 hours straight? So it might be an issue I can live with (for example, if I just take a break now and then!). I tend to get into paddling mode and just never stop, LOL.

My Tsunami 165 is a big boat, with a large cockpit area (as Man in qajaq mentioned above), and I do have to sit "frog-legged" to stay snugly connected to the boat. Generally I like the larger size of this boat, as I'm a big paddler (6'0" and 230lbs).

I'll focus on it a bit more and see if I can better define exactly what is going on. :)