Kayak paddling methods are more about technique than upper body strength. When you learn how to properly paddle a kayak the payoff is a huge increase in enjoyment of the sport. You will be able to spend more time on the water, go farther, see and experience more. Practice the paddling methods here on a quiet body of water to get the feel for them. At first you will need to focus on each step, but with practice moving through the water with ease and grace will be second nature.
The forward stroke is the most basic kayak paddling method. It is used to propel the kayak forward in a straight line. To properly perform the forward stroke. Rotate your torso so the shoulder on the side your paddling is forward as you plant the paddle blade forward near your feet keeping the angle of the paddle high. Pull the kayak to the paddle instead of pulling the paddle backward. Use both arms, pull with the arm on the side you are paddling and push with the other arm. As you perform the stroke rotate your torso to follow the paddle. Keep the paddle blade perpendicular to the kayak. Push/pull the paddle straight back. Lift the blade out of the water when it gets to the area near your hip. You should be set up to perform the same action on the other side. Minimizing lag time between strokes will improve efficiency and reduce fatigue.
You can turn a kayak by putting the paddle into the water on the side you want to turn. However, this will rob you of your momentum. The sweep stroke is a kayak paddling method that will let you keep your forward motion while turning. Kayaks unlike cars turn in the back. Therefore it is important with that you complete the full stroke to execute a better turn. Set up the sweep as you do for the forward stroke only reach farther forward. Angle the paddle to get as far forward as you can. Pull the paddle to the rear of the kayak sweeping out in an arch. Stop the stroke when the paddle blade is at the back of the kayak. When learning it may help to tap the back of the kayak with the paddle blade.
The kayak will turn on the side opposite the side you sweep. To turn left sweep on the right side.
The draw is a simple kayak paddling method that will pull the kayak sideways through the water. Plant the paddle in the water at your side with the blade parallel to the kayak. The paddle should be at a steep angle, almost straight up and down. Pull the paddle toward the kayak. If you pull the paddle too far back it will get drawn under the kayak. If this happens do not pry the paddle out of the water, you can easily capsize yourself. Let go of the paddle with one hand and take the paddle out of the water.
Reverse stroke and stopping
To back up in a kayak use the reverse stroke. This stroke is awkward at first and does require a lot of practice. Once you master it you will find it an easy and intuitive stroke to use. Rotate your torso to face the side you will be paddling on. Hold the paddle so it is parallel with the kayak. The rear blade lower than the front blade. Push down on the rear blade while raising the front blade until it is eye level. Rotate your torso forward to push the paddle toward the front of the kayak. Your arms are used to position the paddle. The rotation of your torso provides the power. Stop when the paddle is straight up and down. To stop quickly perform a quick series of short reverse strokes. To keep from becoming disoriented while backing up always look over the same shoulder.