How to Paddle a Kayak - A Comprehensive Guide for the Beginners

How to Paddle a Kayak - A Comprehensive Guide for the Beginners

Kayaking is the best way to enjoy some moments away from the stress of daily life. The sound of the water and the surrounding environment is enough reason for you to learn how to kayak. Safety comes first, and going in water without proper skills is a disaster in waiting. Learning how to paddle, however, is a simple process that requires only patience and persistence. You only need to get your preferred type of craft, a paddle, and floating equipment. After which follow this guide and paddle a kayak like a pro!

The most important thing is to choose the right kayak paddle size before going out to the shore. Proper holding of the paddle will result in smooth strokes without straining your shoulders. You need to grip at the shaft, ensuring both hands have equal distance from the blade. This provides balance, and you can try to flip it to check on your flexibility. Both arms should hold the shaft fairly straight to allow you to turn the torso properly for superb strokes.

While holding the shaft, the grip should be wide and loose. This prevents fatigue and any blister that can occur on the palm. For loose grip, use the thumb and index fingers to make an ‘O’ shape on the shaft and the rest of fingers just touching the shaft loosely.  Once you have the right grip, it is the right time to start paddling your kayak.

How to Paddle a Kayak - A Comprehensive Guide for the Beginners - Outdoor Zen

How to Paddle a Kayak in Different Directions 

Basic Strokes for Paddling Kayak in Different Directions

You will need to keep turning your kayak to go to the desired direction. There are four basic strokes that we are going to discuss below to make navigation stress-free.

1. Forward stroke

The forward stroke is the one that propels the kayak headfirst. You cannot become an expert forward stroke is a challenge. To do forward stroke, you need to put the blade far forward while leaning slightly. The edge should then be pulled along the kayak while rotating the torso to achieve enough power. The blade should be released when the arm reaches just behind the hip. 

Do the same on the other side of kayak using the out of water blade. Keep the edge closer to the kayak so as to paddle in a straight line. It might take time before you master the skill well.  But,  if you are able to propel it forward, then that is a good start. However, for excellent results power the stroke with strong core muscles while keeping leaning position. The blade should be immersed consistently in the water while maintaining a near-vertical orientation. Finally, ensure you hold the paddle well, as explained above.

2. Backward stroke

Backward stroke takes the kayak in reverse direction. It is the opposite of forward stroke, and the blade will move from right below your hips toward the toes. You do this by immersing the edge on the boat side and moving it in front of your as you rotate the torso. When the blade reaches the toes, release it and repeat the same process on the other side using the out-of-water blade. Changing the grip is not necessary as you will use the reverse side of the edge to perform rear strokes.

3. Sweep strokes

Sweep strokes are used to turn the kayak in a different direction. When doing these strokes, the blade should be kept away from the kayak. To begin the sweep, you need to immerse the edge forward next to your feet. Make a big ‘C’ until the blade reaches the back of the craft. Release the blade once it is at the end and repeat the same on the other side. If you want to turn to the right, then the sweep should be stated on the left side of the boat and vice versa. Once the craft turns to the desired direction, you can continue with forward strokes.

4. Draw stroke

Moving the boat sideways is done through draw strokes. It is one of the problematic moves that once mastered, you are considered an expert. The paddle blade should be rotated to achieve a horizontal position. While angling the shaft steeply, you should extend the tip of the blade two feet away to touch the water on the side of the boat. The edge should then be pulled straight towards the paddler using the lower hand. This should be done while the blade is still immersed in water.

The blade should be released right before it hits the side of your boat. Repeat the same process and watch your kayak move sideways. In case by mistake, the blade hit the craft do not release it; instead,  let go of the top hand and then try over again. With practice, you will eventually get it right and become a kayaking pro!

Safety Tips - Wear a life jacket!

To stay safe while learning how to paddle a kayak well, you need to wear buoyancy aids or a safety jacket. The safety gear should be approved by the coast guard and should have a whistle. The life jacket should comfortably fit you. To wear it correctly, you should start by clipping in the bottom buckle the zip up the side or front zipper. Side straps should finally be cinched in for proper fit and comfortable kayaking.

Final Thoughts on How to Paddle a Kayak

The above techniques should help you to practice paddling for a better kayaking experience. It might look simple, but you got to do it more and more before mastering all the necessary skills. Consider going on guided tours where the instructions are given so as to accelerate your learning ability.

Once you have all the equipment and the basic skills, you can take some lessons from qualified instructors to sharpen the art of kayaking. For sure, you will want to go where no one has ever been but with certainty and a lot of caution. Note that it might take time, but once the skills are mastered, you will have a better way to explore what the outside world offers!

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