A footbrace is very desirable as it keeps you with multiple points of contact with the boat. Moreover you are not trying to stay on the seat with each paddle stroke..Without a brace each paddle plant and power stroke tends to pull you forward..and you have to do adjustments to get back on the seat.
Size thirteen feet..you do have to watch what you wear on your feet if the seat is low. Hiking boots are usually a no no..simply because they catch. When you capsize the tendency is for the feet to angle sideways as you leave the boat, so entrapment, while it should be considered, is less of an actual risk than you might think.
Its important for you to be secure in the back, because the bow paddler can not see what you are doing if you move and the boat lurches. What the boat does is a total surprise to them. Also the paddling station is quite a bit narrower in the bow and David Yost has studied some capsize scenarios. Almost all of the time capsizes are due to bow paddler ejection. Their head can get over the rail a lot easier, and the foot room forces legs and feet together. There is seldom much flat area in the bow floor.
In a perfect world, the power person should be in the bow. However many men who try it are not afraid to say that the bow station is unnerving. If they have been stern for a while, they are used to seeing lots of boat. Up front,, there is water here water there water over there and almost no boat. Plus while in the stern they could spread their feet or knees for stability, in the bow the room to do that is gone.
Each paddlers psychological comfort level varies in various paddling stations so you have to pick what works best for you.
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