Kayak Paddling Techniques – All Kayakers Should Know

Last Updated on August 18, 2020

Kayak Paddling Techniques: Nowadays kayaking has become very popular all over the world. Kayaking refers to passing through the water with a small boat or canoe or similar object. It is a good way of fun, relaxation, or exercise. But before going for kayaking, we must acquire the basic paddling techniques. We are presenting some paddling techniques which you may find helpful for kayaking.

Kayak Paddling Techniques

Kayak Paddling Techniques

Selection of Paddles

Kayak Paddles are also available in a variety of shapes, materials, and lengths. The proper paddle depends on your height and the length, width of the boat. The shaft can be either straight or curved.

The curved shaft gives more flexibility and comfort compared to the straight one. Most of the blades are asymmetrical, which means one edge of the blade is short and the other side is long. It adds more ease to move the paddle through the water. A wide blade helps to move quicker than the narrow one.

Sitting Position

Sitting with good gesture will allow paddling better and faster. First of all, sit straight and comfortably on the kayak, make your shoulders relaxed. Avoid leaning back because it may cause you back pain.

Adjust the back brace for essential paddling support. Keep your chest slightly forward. Make the legs flexible and splay them out a little bit against the foot pedals. Keep the arms straight while paddling.

Holding the Paddle

Always make a light grip on the paddle, holding it too tight or squeezing may not result in good kayaking. Keep the knuckles in a straight line with the blades of the paddle. The shorter edge of the blades goes through the water first.

Don’t hold it in the inverted position. You can change the width of the grips frequently for the ease of paddling. Every time you are paddling in a side, looser the grip on the opposite direction of the paddle.

Paddling to Move Forward

This is the main paddling stroke and it drives the boat in the forward direction. The main paddling strength comes from your torso and its rotation. Turn your chest backward, rotate your shoulders in one direction before paddling in the opposite direction. Keep your prominent hand straight, bend the other one, and swiftly hit the surface of the water near your legs.

This action is called ‘catch.’ With the pulling force of the leading hand and the pushing force of the other hand, pass the blade vertically into the water. It is called ‘power’. In this phase, your shoulder and body move to the normal position from the rotating position. Now, rotate your shoulder in the opposite direction, rotate the paddle (known as ‘recovery’), and repeat the previous step. In this way, you will be moving forward.

Paddling to Move Backward

This paddling stroke is also called reverse paddling and it is completely opposite to forward paddling. The reverse paddling helps to go back without turning the boat around.

In the ‘catch’ phase, rotate your shoulder and upper body to the direction of paddling. The prominent hand should be bent. Hit the surface of the water near the back of the boat.

In ‘power’ phase, move the paddle forward and vertically along with the boat. Use the pushing force of the leading arm and pulling force of another arm to pass the paddle through the water.

As soon as the paddle passes through your knees, you can recover the blade from the water. Then rotate into the opposite direction and repeat the previous step.

Sweep Stroke

It is a paddling stroke use to turn the boat around. You need to rotate your torso and hold the paddle just like the forward stroke. The ‘catch’ is exactly similar to the forward paddling.

The main difference is created in the ‘power’ phase. In sweep stroke, the blade hits the surface of the water near the toes just like the forward paddling but moves horizontally instead of vertically.

The leading hand controls the blade and the other one hold another part of the paddle in a low position. Thus the blade goes far away from the boat creating a circular motion and rotates the kayak.

Side Paddling Stroke

It is also known as draw stroke and helps to move the kayak sideways. Rotate the shoulder and the upper body towards to direction you want to go.

One hand should be on the top side of the paddle and it will remain fixed when we perform paddling. Place the lower part of the paddle as far as it can reach from the boat.

Slide the kayak towards the paddle using the leading hand. Stop the blade when it is several inches away from the kayak. Repeat until you reach in the desired position.

Paddling into The Strong Wind

If you face wind while kayaking, it won’t only decrease your paddling speed, but also may lead the boat backward. To avoid such kind of situations, you need to use feathered blades where the two blades remain in different axis.

The blades can easily slice through the air. Try to use small strokes because a larger one has to undergo a longer wind effect. Try to paddle while sitting on your knees to minimize the impact of air.

Final Words

Right paddling techniques are responsible for going in the right direction as well as ensure your safety. If you are a newbie and haven’t tried kayaking before, practice before going to the final ride.

Start in a calm lake, fix a position in the shore and start paddling towards it by following these tricks. Once you adapt these, nothing can stop you from being a good kayaker.


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