How to Properly Paddle a Kayak

Kayaking has been around for a long time, but it is quickly becoming one of the most popular river sports. A kayak is the perfect way to explore the rivers, lakes, and waterways of Southern Texas. Handling a kayak is very simple once you know how to paddle it correctly.

Kayak Paddle With Water Drops Hitting The Lake

Parts of a Kayak Paddle

A kayak paddle has a long shaft, the part of the paddle that you hold, with a blade on each end. These blades, when pulled through water, will propel your kayak. Each paddle has a front face, which is concave or curved inward, while the back side is curved outward. Unlike a canoe paddle, these sides are not interchangeable. You will want the front face to be the side that pushes against the water as you paddle. It will propel you and your kayak more efficiently, with less effort.

Holding a Kayak Paddle

First, you lay the paddle across your lap and grip with both hands, fingers wrapped downward. Your hands should be a little more than shoulder width apart firmly holding the shaft. Your preferred hand for writing will be the “control hand,” which will hold the shaft more firmly and control maneuvering. Your other hand will hold the shaft more lightly and merely help with positioning.

Mastering the Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is the most common type of kayak paddling technique. Using it correctly will allow you to effectively and safely control your kayak while sparing your arms and shoulders a great deal of unnecessary work.

Begin with a right stroke. Hold the kayak paddle shaft level and out of the water. Then rotate your entire upper body to the right so that the paddle enters the water toward the tip of the kayak, near your feet. The side of the blade should enter the water without much resistance.

Continue rotating your torso so that the paddle is pushed backward in the water until it is near the back tip of the kayak. Your upper body should control this entire movement, with your arms and shoulders only working to positive the paddle correctly. and then leaves cleanly.

At the end of this rotation, your upper body should be positioned to rotate in a similar fashion on the left side. Repeat these steps for each side, being sure to maintain good form and let your torso do much of the work. Kayaking, when performed properly, is a great exercise for the abdominal core muscles.

Turning a Kayak

Once you have mastered going forward in a straight line using the forward stroke, you can begin to learn how to turn your kayak. Hold your kayak paddle and perform a forward stroke on the side opposite of the direction in which you wish to turn. Rather than switching to paddle on the other side, paddle once again on this side. You will notice that you begin moving in the desired direction.

Common Pitfalls

There are a few common pitfalls in kayak paddling which can cause people to become tired too quickly or struggle to control their kayak. First, always make sure the forward, or concave, face of the kayak paddle is facing the rear of the kayak. Second, hold your paddle shaft firmly, but not too tightly.

You can quickly wear out your arm and hand muscles doing this, and you also will struggle to make smooth movements. Last, practice good form in the forward stroke. Sit straight, leaning slightly forward, and ensure that your torso muscles are doing all of the work of propulsion. Once you have mastered a forward stroke, the others are very intuitive.

If you take a few minutes to learn to paddle a kayak correctly, your adventures in Southern Texas waters should be fun and relaxing. Kayaking is a gentle form of exercise and a great way to explore the outdoors.