How to Paddle a Kayak

The Paddle: Place your hands on the paddle shaft a little further apart than shoulder width. As a guide, hold your arms out to the sides then bend them to 90 degrees at the elbow. This is about how far your hands should be from each other as you grasp the paddle. Remember you only want to hold the paddle, not choke it. Over grip can tire your arms. You may notice some paddlers using off-set or feathered blades rather than blades that are on the same plane. Feathered blades are sometimes used to lessen wind resistance, but are largely a matter of personal preference. For beginners a straight blade arrangement is easiest.

The Paddler: Sit all the way back in the cockpit of your kayak. Careful adjustment will make your backrest a comfortable aid in maintaining proper body position. Also adjust your foot braces before you leave the shore. To properly adjust foot braces on a sit-on-top kayak, straighten your legs all the way then bring them in one foot well. On a sit-inside kayak, foot brace adjustment should provide a snug fit for your knees and thighs. The fit will depend on the paddler and the kayak bracing system. Remember if your legs are too straight, you may strain your lower back.

The Power Stroke: The basic paddle technique is a forward stroke. Place the blade in the water near your toes. Pull the blade back alongside the kayak approximately to your hip–a better way to think of it is pulling the kayak up to the blade. Lift the paddle and perform the same move on the other side. To turn the kayak, use a wide sweep stroke on one side. The bow will swing away from the stroke.

The Efficient Stroke: For greater efficiency use your torso and shoulders to paddle, not just your arms. Make sure to sit up straight to avoid straining your back. There are many paddling techniques you can use–check out books, videos, our website, Paddling TV or get kayak instruction to learn more.

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