How to Operate a Kayak

How to Operate a Kayak
A kayak is a more slender version of a canoe that is built for solo rides through rough and potentially hazardous water. Kayaks can be used on the ocean and can be taken out on rivers and streams for white-water kayaking. Operating a kayak is easy to learn, even if you are using a rudder to help steer it, but takes practice to master. Practice in calm bodies of water, such as ponds and lakes, and always wear your life jacket.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Sit down in the kayak with your butt firmly placed at the back of the seat and your legs slightly bent inside the open cavity of the kayak. If you have a rudder on your kayak, make sure the pedals are aligned with one another to start. Hold the paddle in front of you with both hands slightly larger than shoulder-width apart.
Step 2
Shove off from the dock or shore into the water.
Step 3
Extend your right arm fully and dip the blade of the paddle into the water on the right side of your kayak. The flat side of the paddle blade should be pointing directly in front of you and behind you. Pull the blade in the water along the kayak until it passes your torso, then remove it from the water and extend your left arm and put the left side of the paddle into the water, repeating this process on the other side.
Step 4
Continue this alternating paddle process as your progress through the water.
Step 5
Use the kayak rudder to help steer the kayak as you maintain this paddling motion. Press your foot onto the pedal on the side of the kayak you want to turn toward. This will move the rudder to create drag on that side and slowly turn the kayak. Straighten out the rudder by returning the pedals to the middle so that they are aligned with one another.

Tips & Warnings

Always wear a helmet when white-water kayaking.

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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