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Canoeing 101


IQ Owner's Manual


Welcome to one of the most innovative developments to come to canoeing in years, the Mad River IQ Modular Gunwale System. The benefits of the IQ are many.  All seats can be moved and positioned for optimum trim no matter the size of the paddlers.  Seats are not permanently positioned so that they can be moved for best trim as your paddling partners change, from trip to trip or even from morning to afternoon. Seats can also be positioned to best respond to the changing conditions encountered while paddling.  Position for level trim when paddling calm waters, move seats to stern to lighten bow and enhance the canoe’s performance on rivers or when paddling downwind. Move seats forward to lower the bow for upwind work; it’s all possible and easy to do with the IQ. 

Additionally, the IQ System will be complemented by a growing range of interchangeable modular accessories that can be added when needed or desired and removed when type of paddling changes. You can rig the boat for whitewater paddling one day, bring it home and set it up for a week long camping trip the next. The beauty of it all is that nothing is permanently installed, no longer do you have to haul permanent whitewater outfitting along on casual outings or annual canoe trips. Want a boat that can be paddled solo or tandem? Before IQ, the only way to go was to have three seats in the boat, adding weight and clutter.  With the IQ, you remove one seat and slide the other to center; the result is a lighter, more responsive canoe that can be retrofitted for tandem use in less than 5 minutes. 


History of a concept that’s been two years in development is perhaps a bit grandiose but a little insight into where the IQ came from helps with perspective.  The IQ is truly the result of a group effort, no one individual came up with the idea and brought it full fleshed to the point you see it now. There’s a certain beauty in it being a group effort.  Paddlers with whitewater play backgrounds joined with expedition trippers, with recreational day paddlers, with sportsmen, and even non-paddlers to create a system that offers significant advantages to however you choose to use your canoe. 

The canoe is undoubtedly the most versatile watercraft afloat.  The IQ exploits that inherent versatility and allows you to tailor outfitting to use or conditions.  Another exciting part of the system is that it’s so open ended. We’ve just begun rolling out accessory modules to complement the gunwale system.  For everyone we bring to market, another two or three ideas come to mind.  The nice thing about it all is that your IQ canoe will be able to accept and use all those accessory modules that have yet to get off the drawing board. It won’t become obsolete. 

So, welcome aboard. The purpose of this manual is to help you make the most of your IQ canoe. As we’ve come to say around the shop, “The IQ, just think about it.” The possibilities are nearly endless. We’re not too proud to think we’re the only ones capable of coming up with new modular concepts.  Feel free to get in touch with us with your ideas.  It’s that exciting and intriguing. 


At first glance, the IQ may look like any other vinyl or aluminum gunwale system.  Take a few moments to learn why it’s so different and the potentials it offers. 

The elaborate internal structure of the IQ gunwale provides the strength necessary for use in whitewater or expeditionary paddling unlike most aluminum gunwales. 
Feel along the lower parts of the inwale and outwale and locate the slots that are the heart of the system.  They run end to end, from deck to deck. Each channel is independent of the other, you can insert one module in the internal channel and another in the exterior. 


The gunwale is fastened to the hull via hidden self-tapping square drive screws. A cover sleeve runs along the outside of the gunwales concealing the fasteners and also providing a softer bumper to minimize bumps or dents as well as providing a clean look to the system. 


As you run your hands along the slots you’ll encounter a number of spaced openings or “feeders.” These feeders are placed to allow you to add or remove components or modules. Along the inwale slot you’ll find pairs of feeders behind the bow deck, on either side of the center thwart, and in front of the stern deck. On boats with a second or “tripping” thwart, you’ll find additional feeders on the stern side of that thwart. Along the outwale slot, you’ll find feeders behind the bow deck and in front of the stern deck. All told there are 6 to 10 feeders on the inwale and 4 feeders on the outwale. 

Once you have used your IQ for while, you may find you’d like additional slots installed for particular purposes.  We have available a Spreader Tool that will allow you to customize your system. Contact your local dealer or log on to to find out how best to acquire a Spreader. 

NOTE:  The center thwart and carry handles are also slotted. However, these slots cannot be opened as a more rigid aluminum was chosen for the cross pieces for added strength and rigidity.  Do not attempt to bend a slot into cross members as this can result in fracturing edges of the slot. The slot in the thwart was designed to accommodate the Adjustable Tie Downs (#62-02290) and future modules. 

The thwart(s) or carry handles are not designed to be movable as this could distort the hull and cause damage.  Movement of any thwart or carry handle will void your Lifetime Warranty. 

While the IQ System is relatively “tool free,” having both a Phillips head and a flat head screwdriver and pliers handy will be helpful. 


The IQ seats are buckets to provide maximum security of position and comfort. Not only are they adjustable fore and aft but can be positioned for height, from side to side or centered, and for rake (angle of seat front to back).  Proper trim not only improves the efficiency of your canoe and the ease of paddling but provides a much safer, more stable boat as well. Trimming a canoe towards level places maximum hull in the water for added stability. 


One of the subtle advantages built into the IQ is the ability to adjust your seat height. Higher positions enhance paddling efficiency and are favored by experienced paddlers or in exceptionally stable canoes.  Lower positions improve stability, security, and parent’s peace of mind as children can be settled deeper in the canoe and less likely to tumble overboard. Lower seat height is often an advantage when paddling whitewater or in turbulent conditions. A nice thing about the IQ is you can have the best of both worlds by adjusting seat height to suit impending conditions, however quickly they may change. You’re not stuck with one position that can become increasingly uncomfortable as you pile up the hours paddling. 

Start with the seats in the lowest position. Sit in the canoe and get a feel for this position. Given the ease with which you can change seat height, it makes sense to take the canoe out and paddle for a real test before making any further adjustments.  Bear in mind with the IQ, nothing is permanent, it can all be changed, shifted, moved, added, removed, etc., etc., etc. 
To change seat height, locate the two wingnuts securing the straps looping around the crossbar behind the seat. Loosen the wingnuts and remove wingnut, washer, and spacer and set carefully aside. Remove bolt through seatback. Raise or lower seat to desired position, aligning holes in seat back with holes in ends of straps looping over cross bar. There are four alternative heights. Insert bolt through seat back and through holes in both ends of strap. Push spacer and then washer over end of bolt and secure with wingnut. When IQ is new, the straps may be quite stiff and pinching ends together with pliers may making threading bolt in position easier. Tighten securely. 


The IQ also allows you to position a seat in center of canoe or to one side or another to favor a personal paddling “side.” Solo paddlers or teams with preferred sides most appreciate this feature as it allows for maximum paddling comfort and efficiency, reducing the side extension necessary to put paddle in the water efficiently. 

To adjust side to side position of seat, loosen wingnuts under stern crossbar.  Do not remove completely. Reach under bar and shake the spacer and strap to relieve tension. Lift seat slightly and slide to desired position.  Tighten wing nuts to secure and adjust front webbing tension as necessary. 


One of the most apparent advantages of the IQ system is the ability to move the seats for best trim. The ability to accommodate differing paddling teams with the IQ is unique. The IQ even makes the trial and error process of determining the best trim for your personal use a lot easier. Never before have paddlers been able to readily adjust the trim of their canoe to account for varying paddlers and gear as well as the ever changing conditions you can expect to encounter. 

To move seats towards a wider section of the canoe, first loosen webbing suspending front of seat. Pushing equally on each side of crossbar move seat towards desired position, depressing the lock button in bar as canoe widens. Position seat so that lock button extends through hole in bar. 
Adjust tension on front web straps as desired to restore rake angle of seat. 

To move seats towards a narrower section of the canoe, push equally on each side of crossbar, depressing button as needed to allow tubes to contract. Choose seat position that allows locking button to extend through hole in cross bar. It will be necessary to snug up the web straps at front of seat to adjust rake angle.   


With the IQ system, the angle of the seat front to back is adjustable.  This provides added positional security for the paddler and capability to change amount and position of thigh support, a much appreciated advantage by long distance paddlers. 

To adjust the rake of the seat, loosen the webbing strap that runs from one gunwale through seat to opposite gunwale. Sit in seat and test position.  To raise front of seat, get your weight off of seat and tighten webbing, pulling front of seat up. Test position and if satisfied, you’re done. With the IQ system, it’s easy to fine tune or re-adjust position at any time. 

Being able to adjust the rake of the seat allows the seat to double as a kneeling thwart when front is lowered. One of the biggest safety advantages offered by the IQ is the free swinging seat front.  As the seat is suspended by webbing it easily kicks up, minimizing the entrapment hazard posed by feet trapped under rigid seat frames. 

As seats are moved in the canoe, it will be sometimes necessary to also adjust tension on web strap to maintain desired rake angle as seat moves to a narrower or wider section of canoe. 


In most cases, the paddler’s weight is sufficient to hold the seat in selected position.  However, if you’re anticipating some very active paddling such as working your way down a stretch of whitewater or twisting your way down a swamp river with tight turns and blowdowns,  you may want to consider locking the seat in position. 

This is easily done using the Adjustable TieDowns (#62-02290).  Sold as a set of four, insert a TieDown in the slot behind and/or in front of the seat assembly and tighten in place.  Generally, a pair of tiedowns will secure one seat. 


An exclusive IQ advantage is the ability to add a third seat for passenger or added paddler or to remove an unneeded seat. 

The seat assembly is suspended from the inwale slot by a tube over tube crossbar behind the seat and web straps at the front of the seat. Linking these is a spindle that slides within the slot.  Each end of the spindle is shaped to receive and connect with the molded tabs securing the webbing and the brackets supporting the crossbar. The spindle keeps the seat centered side to side and limits the possibility of the seat getting crooked in the canoe. 

To add a seat, locate the feeder slots on the same side of the center thwart that you want to place the seat. For a seat forward of the center thwart, you will insert the front end of seat assembly first. For seat aft of thwart, the end of assembly with cross bar will be inserted first. 

To add a seat aft of center, examine spindle. At each end you’ll find a 3” flattened section.  This section will mate with fittings suspending the seat. Before attempting installation of seat, test fit these pieces together to understand how they work. 

Open the stern cross bar sufficiently to allow it to span the width of canoe at feeder slot. Position seat so that it is oriented properly and sitting in bottom of canoe. Mate the bracket on one side of cross bar and fitting on end of spindle and insert into one feeder slot. Push assembly back just far enough to clear the feeder slot and then repeat on other side to suspend stern of seat. 

Mate the tab holding the webbing with the fitting on other of end of spindle and feed the spindle into the slot until the tab and fitting slide up and into slot.  Repeat with other side. 

Using equal pressure on each side, slide the seat assembly towards desired position.  It may be necessary to depress the locking button in the cross tube to allow seat to move to desired position. Once in position, make sure the locking button is engaged in one of the holes of the cross tube. 

To install a seat forward of center, use the slots in front of center thwart and follow the above procedure,  starting with the tab securing the webbing and finish with the bracket holding the cross tube. 

NOTE:  When using an IQ seat, it is critical that the locking button be fully engaged in a hole on the seat cross tube.  The button must be visible. Failure to do so can create excessive seat movement or bending of the cross tube. 

When positioning a seat in the center of the canoe make sure to leave adequate room between seat and center thwart to allow for easy escape should it be necessary. Entrapment under the center thwart can occur if seat is to close to thwart. It is recommended you position seat no closer than 20 to 24” to the center thwart. 

To remove a seat, slide seat assembly towards appropriate feeder slot. Take flat head screwdriver or point of knife or similar object and use to guide end of spindle down and out the feeder slot. Left to its’ own devices the spindle is designed to stay up in the slot and will just slide by the feeder. 

Pry the head of the spindle out the feeder slot and pull out gently until the spindle and either bracket or tab can be separated and then repeat procedure on other side. Once both sides are released from slot proceed to remove the rest of spindle and assembly at opposite end. Be careful to remove spindle when removing fittings as it can be difficult to retrieve the spindle from the slot. 

It may be helpful to wiggle and lift or lower assembly to increase its’ chances of coming free of the slot.  Avoid forcing seat assembly out of slot as this can result in breakage of the connecting spindle. 


The process of developing IQ and IQ2 modular accessories is a happily never ending process. We will continually be expanding the available options or “modules.” For more information on existing modules and to keep tabs on additional modules, we suggest you log on to  


Padded and contoured and connects right into holes pre-drilled in the center thwart on IQ models and can easily be fitted to center yoke on IQ2 by drilling two ¼” holes.  A contoured aluminum frame supports a dense neoprene-covered foam pad, adding both comfort and stability to your carry. Yoke is secured by wing nuts and can easily be fitted to canoes with conventional wood yoke. Anodized aluminum frame with corrosion resistant fittings. 

Like a kayak miniskirt the Sprayshield extends over bow (or stern) of canoe, protecting paddlers from spray or wave and can serve to protect bow paddler’s legs from sun as well. Keys into outwale slot and cone-like profile deflects water overboard rather than into paddler’s lap. Multiple stays hold shape and keep it from draping down onto paddler’s legs.  Semi-collapsible so it can be pushed out of way when not needed. Side zipper makes for easy installation or removal and lets you open cover to access gear without having to remove cover. Great way to paddle dry when crossing a lake with the chop kicking up. Not intended for use in Class III or above whitewater. 36” long x 33” wide. 

Designed for shorter tandem canoes such as Adventure 14 or for stern of 15’ or longer canoes. Similar construction to Tandem Sprayshield in a more compact length. Side zipper makes for easy installation or removal and lets you open cover to access gear without having to remove cover.Not intended for use in Class III or above whitewater. 28” long x 32” wide. 


We’ve taken the tandem sprayshield and extended it for center-seated solo use.  Long enough to cover gear and reduce windage, making paddling easier and more efficient. Can be installed on bow or stern of solo canoes.  Side zipper makes for easy installation or removal and lets you open cover to access gear without having to remove cover. 46” long x 33” wide. 
Fits:  Royalex Freedom Solo, Horizon 15                    


Covers center of tandem boats, protecting from waves, spray, and sun. Hoop stays elevate cover to keep from pooling water, also provides a shady nook for napping pre-school paddlers.  Can be slid forward or back as needed, providing some sun protection for stern paddlers and protecting valuable gear wherever it might be stowed.  Side zipper makes for easy installation or removal and lets you open cover to access gear without having to remove cover. Not intended for Class III or above whitewater. 


Keys into inwale slot and provides protected enclosed storage and lash-in for flotation bags and/or dry bags. Nylon oxford deck is smooth and snag-free – no lashing to catch on obstacles. Mesh sides, base, and back allow easy drainage.  Eliminates necessity of installing permanent lash systems in canoe or drilling holes in gunwales or hull. Zippered rear entry provides easy access.  Internal mesh pocket keeps gear like throw bags, water bottles, etc. secure yet readily available.  Does a great job protecting float bags from hazards of highway travel too. Yellow deck with black mesh. Specific bag for each model Outrage. 


Two piece zippered installation goes in and out easy. Long axis zipper allows for insertion of up to 36” end bag or for assorted gear and equipment. Coated top deck resists splash and spray, mesh sides and base won’t collect water. External mesh pocket keeps often needed items close at hand. Great way to use often ignored storage space. Overbag and contents are integrated securely into boat, can’t wash out should something go wrong. Fits in bow or stern of IQ boats. Black deck with black mesh. 


Inspired by the old rigid Wanigan canoe boxes, the Center Overbag slots into IQ gunwales at center of hull. Adjustable rope rail system allows use in boats of varying widths and ability to keep bag tensioned to avoid pooling of water. Half-moon zipper allows easy in and out of bulky gear from mini split center float bags to a weekend or more worth of gear. Lash straps secure bag to center thwart and combined with IQ attachment make it virtually impossible to have Overbag separate from canoe unless you want it to, then it’s fast and easy. Overbags can be offset to allow doubling up, one bag on each side of thwart. External mesh pocket for easy access to frequently needed items. Coated fabric deck resists spray and splash, mesh base and sides won’t trap water. Linked side carry handles make it easy to haul loaded bag from vehicle to canoe or canoe to campsite and in one easy trip to boot. Black deck with black mesh.


Spaced web loops sewn to slot-fitting “rope” make it easy to secure float bags or gear in your canoe. Each 56” length has 6 tie-in sewn loops.  Can fit in center of boat or in bow or stern.  Can be trimmed to length for smaller areas.  Sold in pairs.            


Dry bag sewn to slot-fitting “rope” with waterproof zipper provides bomb-proof dry and secure storage for valued gear.  Keeps equipment much more accessible than when tumbled in a pile in center of canoe.  Long zipper on a 40” long x 6.5” tall bag easily swallows long awkward items. Rope rail keeps bag secure in canoe and prevents loss.  External lashing points to secure bulky items like paddles or tripods.  Can be positioned or moved just about anywhere in canoe, on either side amidships or in front of paddlers for even faster access to gear.  Yellow. 

Unique accessory that provides a stable hard surface to fix lunch, organize fishing lines, tie lures or flies, study maps and plot courses. Molded box is suspended on two tube over tube poles and can be pulled towards you when needed or pushed away when not.  Can be oriented in two directions and set up in choice of two heights. Lid has molded in cup holders and slot to hold tools, pencils, markers, etc. Top is secured to base with bungee cords.  Box measures 8” deep x 12.5” x 14.25”.  Complete with suspension poles and hardware. 

Handy, personal-sized storage box that slides along inwale slot and keeps often needed items such as sun screen, bug repellant, etc. close at hand.  Glove Box measures 6” deep x 4” x 6.5” and is tapered to also fit between the side arms of conventional wood/cane seats. 

In its’ own way, perhaps the most exciting of IQ Modules, the adjustable tie downs can be positioned anywhere on the inwale slots or on carry handles or thwarts to provide handy anchor points to secure gear. The Tie Downs lock into the slot with a screw controlled by a thumb knob and are milled to accept rope up to.25”/6 mm in diameter or 1”/2.5mm webbing. Will secure large or small items and can also serve as brakes to firmly secure seat positioning when actively paddling. Set of 4.


Canoeists have long envied the flexible backrests available for sit-on-top kayaks. With the IQ, you can become the envy of your paddling friends.  Low profile wraparound adjustable backrest is designed to allow for comfortable paddling in all but most arduous conditions yet provide blissful support when floating about your favorite fishing hole. Secures to seat and to inwale slot in gunwale.


Essential for those wanting to further customize their IQ system.  Slotted tool grabs edge of slot and simple bending motion opens up slot to allow accessories to be fed into place. Tool opens a smooth 3” slot in rail with no sharp edges to snag fingers or fittings. Use on slots in gunwales, not designed to open slots in carry handles or thwarts.


As there are few moving parts, there is little required maintenance on the IQ system.  As with any other piece of performance equipment, keeping it clean will enhance its’ ease of use and longevity. 

Periodically rinse both inwale and outwale slots by setting boat on side and flushing with water from center so that water and debris flow towards ends. Removal of the decks will allow greater flow. Rinse gunwales after use in salt water or whenever you find the sliders or rope binding or encountering obstructions. 

Should slot be dented or otherwise bind movement, use of spreader tool to bend slot to proper alignment will usually solve the problem.  Pliers can be used but care must be taken to bend the gunwale slowly and evenly to eliminate sharp edges. 

The IQ gunwales and cross members are anodized for protection against weather, scratches and abrasion.  No surface coating will eliminate all bumps and bangs. Touch up scratches with flat black enamel paint. 

Access to the fasteners securing the gunwales to the hull is obtained by first removing the decks. Reach under the deck and remove the clips securing through bolts. Withdraw bolts and pull decks forward to remove. With pliers grasp end of cover sleeve and pull smoothly to remove sleeve. A square drive fitting will be required to remove fasteners.


It is recommended that all modules be removed from canoe while cartopping. Certain modules such as the sprayshields, belly cover, work station, glove box will affect how your canoe fits on your rack bars and must be removed. If you choose to travel with any modules in place it is essential that you secure them in place with the Adjustable Tie Downs and recommended that they be tethered for maximum security. This is necessary to prevent them from moving due to windage and vibration and reaching a feeder slot and perhaps dropping free. Check seats to make sure that they can not reach a feeder slot.  Normal tandem positions are usually safe, as cross bar (with lock button engaged) will limit possible movement sufficiently.  If you have positioned a seat near center, it should be secured or removed or at very least, moved to position where it’s not able to match up to a slot. 

With seats positioned in any but the lowest settings the seat back extends above the gunwales.  Be aware of this when cartopping, especially if you load from the end of your vehicle rather than the side as the raised seat back may hit your roof bar. When loading from side, make sure seat backs don’t hit roof bars. Check also to make sure that adequate clearance is provided to eliminate possibility of raised seat back contacting vehicle roof. 


Like all Mad River Canoe products, the IQ Gunwale System and accessory modules are covered by our Lifetime Warranty.  Basically, if you ever experience failure attributable to defective materials or workmanship, we will repair or replace it at no charge.  Damage due to abuse, modification or improper use and wear and tear are not covered. Warranty consideration may entail shipping your boat or damaged part to Trinity, NC at your expense.  Mad River will provide return transportation. For warranty information call Mad River Customer Service (8-5 Eastern time, M-F) at 800/311-7245 or contact us by email at [email protected] 

Please call Mad River Customer Service (8-5 Eastern time, M-F) at 800/311-7245 or contact us by email at [email protected]. We welcome any feedback that contributes to improving what we think is already something special. 

the IQ……………… 
……….. think about it!