One of, if not the most critical skills you need as a kayaker is paddling. Using your paddle efficiently allows you to move more quickly in the water
without exerting an incredible amount of energy. Paddle incorrectly and you might make it harder for yourself, requiring more work and slow movement.
Luckily learning the basics of paddling a kayak can take place the first first time you kayak. By teaching yourself the right way to paddle from the
very beginning you’ll build muscle memory that will make the process even easier going forward. To get started, let’s run through the basics of paddling
Sitting in the Kayak
The first step in the overall kayaking process is sitting comfortably in the kayak. The biggest problem beginners have is wondering where to put their feet. With so many
different places to put your feet it can be a bit confusing. The best way to optimize your leg position is to stretch out your legs completely, then take the
foot well one closer to you.
It is important to have your legs stretched-out far enough but not too far. If your legs are stretched too far you could put more strain on your lower back.
At the same time, having your legs curled-up could hurt your knees or your back. Now that you’re comfortably seated in your kayak we can get-into the
kayak paddle itself.
The Kayak Paddle
A kayak paddle is light, easy to grip, and contains blades on both sides. The first step to paddling a kayak is holding the paddle itself the right way. There’s
an easy way to make sure your hands are separated the correct distance on the paddle:
- Start by holding the paddle with your hands shoulder width apart
- Now try bringing the middle of the paddle to the top of your head
- Your elbows should form close to a 90 degree angle
- Make sure the distance between your hands and blade is the same on both sides
Now that your hands positioned correctly on the paddle it’s time to orient the paddle the right direction. If you look at a kayak paddle you will see that the
blades curve in a particular direction. You want to make sure that the paddle enters the water with the blades pointing in the opposite direction
of boat movement.
Kayak Paddling Motion
The most basic kayak paddling motion is called the forward power stroke. This stroke begins by putting the paddle in the water where your toes are. Then pull
the paddle back in the water to your hips. Then repeat this motion on the opposite side of your kayak. Keep doing this and the kayak will move forward. If at
any point in time you start to drift in one direction you can always paddle twice or three times on one side.
Paddle size does play a role in kayaking. Long paddles can allow you to make long even strokes almost pulling your kayak along in the water. Shorter kayak
paddles allow kayakers to make short quick strokes, akin to the feeling of propelling yourself across the water. A shorter paddle will require more energy but
you have a better chance of going fast for a short period of time. Longer paddles are much more ideal for longer trips or leasurely paddling.
Kayak Paddling Videos
Talking about how to paddle a kayak can only help so much. There is no replacement for actually seeing the motion done correctly. We have selected three movies
below that we felt did a great job of showing the kayak paddling motion. Watch one, two, or all three of these and you’ll perfect your kayak paddling stroke
in no time.
Kayaking.org highly recommends Bending Branches Kayak Paddles