How to Paddle a Kayak

How to Paddle a Kayak
As a beginner, learning to make your stroke efficient should be a priority in your kayaking practice. Whether you will be spending long days in the cockpit or you want to fight whitewater, learning to paddle with power and endurance is the first step to succeeding on your next trip. For now, practice perfecting your stroke in calm water with these steps.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Sit comfortably in the kayak cockpit with your back straight and knees bent. Make sure your knees are not touching the deck of the boat, but do not keep them straight.
Step 2
Hold the paddle with both hands spaced slightly wider than your shoulders. Your hands should be equal distances from either blade. The blades should be vertical when holding the paddle directly in front of you.
Step 3
Extend your arms in front of you and tilt the paddle toward the right of your boat. Dip the blade into the water near your ankles and pull the blade back along the side of the boat. Twist your torso to the right as you pull back to increase power and relieve pressure on your arm muscles. Keep your hips straight, and use your back and shoulder muscles to power the stroke.
Step 4
When you've brought the paddle back to your torso, lift the blade out of the water and repeat Step 3 on the left side of the boat. Keep your hips from twisting as you change sides, or you will make the boat change direction.
Step 5
To steer the boat, repeat Steps 1 to 4, but take your stroke wider from the boat on the side opposite where you want to turn. Your paddle blade should make an arc through the water. You can also shift your weight to the hip on the inside of the turn, making the kayak tilt to one edge and accelerating the turn.

Tips & Warnings

Read any documentation that came with your paddle. Some types have angled blades and should be held a certain way, normally with the longer edges of the blades upward.
Keep your back straight throughout the paddle stroke. If you must lean, lean from the hips.
Avoid dipping more than the blade into the water. Even if some blade is visible above the water, it is more efficient than dipping the shaft.

Article Written By Gregory Johnson

Greg's passion for the outdoors has led him in hikes across the United States and over diverse terrain. Though he currently resides in the foothills of Appalachia, Greg spends his summer months working and hiking in such places as Tucson, Arizona, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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