The Evolution of Boat Helm Chairs

Not so long ago, a leaning post, perhaps with a backrest, represented the height of luxury in helm seating on a center console boat, despite minimal padding and no lumbar or lateral support.

Thankfully, helm seats are changing for the better. While on Fish Trials aboard a wide range of new center consoles, I’ve been able to enjoy helm seating that comforts, cradles and supports my aging frame. Yes, some boat models still include leaning posts as standard equipment, yet an increasing number feature more-luxurious seating as an option — one that is worth the extra cost.

Suffer No More

“Just because you’re on a fishing boat doesn’t mean you have to suffer,” says Alex Leva of HydraSports Custom Boats in Islamorada, Florida. HydraSports builds each of its boats — including the vaunted 53-foot Sueños center console — to customer specifications, and this invariably includes high-end helm seats. Yet HydraSports is not alone: Even smaller center console boats such as the Barker 26 Open now offer posh perches for captains at the wheel.

“The leaning post just isn’t flying anymore,” says Bryan Corbell, president and CEO of the Llebroc Industries, based in Fort Worth, Texas. “Customers are insisting on better helm seats.”

Spurring demand is the advent of high-horsepower center consoles that can reach speeds in the 60 or even 70 mph range. “The duty rating is higher, and it’s just plain hard on your back,” Corbell points out.

Macroeconomics are in play as well. “An aging population is also driving the market for better seats,” says Mike Kushner, vice president of sales for Taco Marine. Brands such as Llebroc and Taco are leading the development of state-of-the-art systems to soften the ride. These companies equip many new boats but also supply the aftermarket — boat owners who want to upgrade the seats on existing craft.

Luxury Grade

The comfort level and styling of helm seats today often match that found in luxury automobiles, except these boat seats are even better because they’re built with greater durability for life at sea, Corbell contends.

“Our proprietary-design profile, selection of special foams, and our construction system build in supportive comfort for the lumbar, upper back, seat and legs,” he says. Llebroc also works closely with each boatbuilder to ensure proper spatial planning and ergonomics when it comes to reaching the controls, grab handles and footrests.

You might think that a deluxe seat is built to match the boat design, but it’s the other way…

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