How to Use a Kayak Paddle
Your kayak paddle is the single most important piece of kayaking equipment you have. Using it effectively will keep you from capsizing, swamping your boat, drifting and beaching. You need to take ownership of your kayak paddle with a firm grip and good command of the basic strokes. It's a good idea to practice paddling in a pool or other body of calm, standing water before attempting open water boating.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Things You’ll Need:
Execute a proper grip by holding your paddle firmly with both elbows forming 90 degree angles. Choose your control hand based on which hand you favor in day-to-day activities. This hand keeps a constant grip on the paddle while your other hand allows the paddle shaft to slip back and forth so the feathered blades can enter the water at an effective angle. Practice this on dry land.
Use the "paddler's box" to maximize your power and avoid shoulder injury. Hold your paddle in both hands at shoulder height and extend your arms as far as they will reach. Lower your arms to your waist and bring them back towards your body. Your paddle should rarely leave the box you just outlined. Turn your torso with each stroke to ensure your paddle stays safely in the paddler's box.
Practice your power stroke by reaching in front of you with the paddle, digging down until the paddle is almost perpendicular to the surface and digging through the water until you reach the mid-line of your body. This stroke propels you forward. Practice on both sides, trying to keep an even push from the right and the left.
Learn to turn using sweep strokes. Keep your paddle at a 45-degree angle relative to the surface of the water and sweep the paddle away from, and then back towards, your boat in a half circle. You will turn to the side opposite of the side the stroke is taken on.
Pull yourself sideways through the water with pry strokes and draw strokes. Hold the paddle at your mid-line, stick it into the water almost perpendicular to the surface and push or pull the water, depending on which direction you need to go. A draw stroke draws water towards your boat and you towards your paddle; a pry stroke pushes water away from the boat and you away from your paddle.
Increase your balance in choppy water by using your paddle to brace. Adjust your paddle so the broad side of the blade is parallel to the water's surface. Push against the water's surface and scull by angling your paddle blade slightly and moving it back and forth. This stroke keeps you upright at extreme tilts and angles by using the steady strength of the water to support your body weight.
Tips & Warnings
Pull hard during the first half of any stroke to generate power. Once your paddle crosses your mid-line you lose 90% of your potential for power.
Article Written By Caroline Schley
Based in New York City, Caroline Schley has been writing articles on fitness, social interaction and politics since 2008. Her articles have appeared in "The Tahoe Weekly," "Second Line News" and websites, including Eatthestate.org. Schley graduated from CU Boulder in 2005 with a degree in environmental science.
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