Basic Kayak Skills

Basic Kayak Skills
The versatility of kayaks has made kayaking a popular recreational activity. You can use a kayak to fish your local lake, run river rapids or ride ocean surf. It doesn't take long to learn kayak fundamentals, but you need advanced skills to ride surf or whitewater. Take lessons before venturing out on your own. The best training materials are no substitute for hands-on experience with a certified instructor.

Getting In and Out of the Kayak

It might seem easy but getting this wrong can dunk you and your gear. Before putting your kayak in the water, make sure the seat and foot pegs are in a comfortable position and the hatches are secure. With the kayak in the water, you can arrange your gear so that the load stays balanced. After turning the kayak parallel to the shore, brace one end of your paddle behind the cockpit trim with the other end on the shore. While facing the bow, squat beside the kayak and grab the paddle behind your back. Swing your nearest foot into the cockpit and slide your rear over the edge, then swing your remaining foot into the cockpit and drop down onto the seat. To get out, reverse the steps.

Gripping the Paddle

A good control grip will help you paddle efficiently without putting undue stress on your hands and arms. Start by balancing the center of the paddle on the top of your head. Move your hands along the paddle shaft until your arms and elbows form a right angle. Now bring the paddle down and adjust your grip so that your thumbs and forefingers form an OK sign around the shaft of the paddle (the rest of your fingers should be hanging loose).

Forward and Reverse Paddling

You'll be doing a lot of this so it's important to get it right. Sit up straight with your feet against the foot pegs and hold your paddle perpendicular to the direction you'll be paddling. Twist your torso and rotate your shoulder, that's on the same side as your stroke, forward. Dip your blade into the water as far as you can comfortably reach, then uncoil your torso to rotate your shoulder backward and bring the paddle even with your body. Lift your blade out of the water and repeat the same motion on the other side of the kayak with the opposite blade of your paddle. Use the same technique to paddle in reverse but start the stroke at your hips and pull the paddle blade out of the water when it has traveled as far as you can comfortably reach.

Forward and Reverse Sweep Strokes

Sweep strokes use the same basic motion as paddling, but their purpose is to turn the kayak, not to travel in a straight line. Instead of keeping your blade near the kayak, as you would when paddling, start the forward sweep stroke near your feet and pull your blade through the water in a wide arc that ends at the stern of the kayak. Reverse the process when you do the reverse sweep stroke by starting it near your hips and pushing the blade of your paddle in a wide arc that ends at the bow of the kayak.

Article Written By Dan Eash

Dan Eash began writing professionally in 1989, with articles in LaHabra's "Daily Star Progress" and the "Fullerton College Magazine." Since then, he's created scripts for doctor and dentist offices and published manuals, help files and a training video. His freelance efforts also include a book. Eash has a Fullerton College Associate of Arts in music/recording production and a Nova Institute multimedia production certificate.

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