Proper Kayak Strokes

Proper Kayak Strokes
Kayaks are efficiently built water vessels that are perfect for cutting through rough and turbulent water. The key to utilizing this efficiency depends on how well you use your paddle in the water. A lot of focus is placed on effective paddling technique not only because it determines your speed and how much wasted motion your kayak endures, but also because good technique lends itself to energy conservation. But proper stroke form is something that's easy to learn and hard to master.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Kayak
  • Paddle
Step 1
Seat yourself so that your butt is planted in the cockpit and your knees are slightly bent inside the kayak in front of you. Keep your back straight. Take your double-ended paddle in both hands, placing them slightly shoulder-width apart on the paddle handle.
Step 2
Begin a forward paddle by fully extending your arms and dipping the right side of the paddle into the water. Make sure the blade enters the water so that the flat sides are facing directly ahead of and behind you. The blade should enter the water parallel to where your feet are inside the kayak.
Step 3
Pull the paddle toward the back of the kayak, keeping the blade flat against the water the entire time. Use your torso muscles to turn and pull the paddle, reducing the strain on your arms--this will go a long way toward conserving energy over the course of the trip. As you move the paddle toward the back of the kayak, lean into the stroke with your shoulders to provide extra power and strength.
Step 4
Pull the paddle from the water once it passes your body. Direct the other end of the paddle forward and into the water parallel to your feet and repeat the process. Minimize your hips' movement as you paddle--the kayak is light and sensitive enough that this can slightly turn the kayak, throwing it off course.
Step 5
Turn your kayak by taking wide strokes on the outside of the kayak--instead of pulling the paddle in the water parallel to the kayak, pull it in an arching form away from the kayak. Do this on the side opposite of the direction you want your kayak to turn.

Tips & Warnings

Always wear a helmet when kayaking in rough and whitewater areas.

Article Written By Jonathan Croswell

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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