How to Paddle a Kayak? [The Ultimate Guide]

There’s absolutely nothing better than waking up holiday morning, packing your gear and taking your kayak, when done in the correct way kayaking can and will replace a lot of the exercises that you may pay a hefty time at the gym.

So what would what we are going to do today is to take you through the art of kayaking step by step so that the next time you step on the waterfront, your confidence will be through the roof.

Know Your Paddle

Your paddle is your most important instrument when it comes to kayaking, so you have to choose it carefully based on several criteria. Starting with the first most basic ones you can go online and you will find a lot of charts representing the relationship between the length and width of your kayak and your own body build because you are the one supporting the paddle in the kayak you are the motor you are the brakes you are the whole package.

So you have to be extremely comfortable when it comes to handling the paddle. You must choose one that fits, talking about size now we can discuss the blade itself. There are several types of blades; each one of them is complementary to the kind of kayak that you’re going to use. But there is one stable that you have to choose, which is whether your blade will be feathered or non-feather and if it is feathered, you have to know at which angle you’re going to please vote the feathers now both of these choices are comfortable you can work with both of them.

So a piece of advice is to try both in the sea for yourself to see which one fits you best, you can search for something and then upgrade to the other and vice versa there’s really no rule to say that certain people have to choose specific types of blades. The important question here is how to hold your paddle.

You must know that this is essential to the start of your kayaking experience once holding your paddle you have to:

  1. Place your hands around 12 inches from the blade on each side to make sure that you are holding it right put your hands on the blade
  2. Raise it above your head and rest the paddle against your head
  3. Move your hands along the shaft of the pedal until they are forming a 90° angle at the exact position that you need to.
  4. Make sure that your knuckles are aligned with the tip of the blade form.
  5. With your index and some fingers hold the pedal tightly, however, some of your fingers are going to rest in a more relaxed way around it as your grip on your pedal. It has to be a strong grip but, at the same time, smooth and relaxed allowing you to move the pedal as needed.

One last thing is that you have to know which hand is your dominant and you will use it 99% of the time. So if you are a right-hand person, it will be a right hand, and if you’re left-handed person, it will be a left hand. That hand is also sometimes called the blue hand will be the one who steers and transfers most of the energy from your core to the pedal so that it may be a little bit tighter than the dominant hand.


The basic positioning of any blade pedal is that the concave surface or the power surface has to be facing towards you. To be able to move the water for you backward for you to move forward also the longer edge of the blade should be facing upward, and the shorter edge will be facing down.

As mentioned before, paddling works on several different groups of muscles, it is a non-heavy impact exercise, but at the same time, it gives you a good workout of your entire body. But that can only be achieved if your body is placed in the right position, which are the strokes which we will discuss later. It has to form the shape of a square; square dimensions will be formed by your paddle, your two arms, and your chest. So you always have to make sure that the square is intact.

Your legs are to be bent a little bit and spread a little bit to the sides, not too much, though; they have to be supported by the side of the kayak. They have to be pressed up against the footpegs and snug against them as when your body starts generating energy to try and transfer the energy through your feet to your legs all the way to your torso. It is going to do most of the work you would need to press your feet against these foot presses, so you have to make sure that they are placed in the right position.

Essential Strokes

Of course, as you move forward in the world of kayaking and gain more experience, you will start to know plenty of different strokes. You need to know the number of strokes that you’re going to make on the very shortest of trips is going; it might be something between 100 and 150 strokes. So if you’re not doing it right and if you have not positioned yourself, you will become tired instantly and may even hurt yourself.

We will now discuss some of the types of strokes:

1. Front

This stroke is the primary stroke of all kayaking. It is the one that you’re going to use the most, so it has to start to come to you naturally more than any other. We will talk about how to perform it:

  1. Now you are sitting up-right holding the pedal in front of you forming the square which we have talked about what you are going to do is that you are going to lower your pedal on the side of the dominant hand into the water next to your foot and using your core to push backward.
  2. As your lower hand or the dominant hand goes back, and then you raise your other nondominant hand up when the pedal reaches your hip, raise it out or slice the water raising your pedal up.
  3. Switch sides, the other side of the pedal goes into the water and does the same thing now; that’s what you are going to keep doing if you have a non-feathered paddle.
  4. But if you have a feathered paddle, we will have to insert one more step into this process, which is after you finish the stroke using the dominant hand, you’re going to have to release your grip a little bit. The pedal has to turn over so that it will be facing the right side so that the routine will be pedal release grip twist and paddle again, and that’s how you go on.

2. Reverse

This stroke is quite the opposite of the one before. To stop your kayak or to move backward when the water that you are in will not allow you to turn your entire kayak around so. What you do is that you move the pedal using your dominant hand next to your hip and push it forward until it reaches your foot.

Then you slice through the water, raising your dominant hand up along with the paddle at the same time your nondominant hand will be going down next to your hip and following the same path. Of course, if you have a feathered blade, then the whole twisting step must just as it did in the front stroke.

3. Sweep

This stroke is for changing the direction of your route without losing your energy or your momentum. As though you are the only source of energy in this movement, so you have to be careful with it. What you can do is that if you want to go right then, you are going to place your pedal on the left side of you and vice versa. It would be best if you also leaned forward in your kayak to a comfortable extent.

That is so that you can place your pedal as far away from your kayak as you can and then with a swift stroke go a half-circle all the way from your foot to the back of the kayak, As far as it goes. Once you do that, you have to keep your eye on the pedal, so that you will go as far as you can and do not try as much as possible not to hit your kayak was doing it.

4. Draw

This stroke is the one used at the end of the exercise; you can use it to pull your kayak next to the dock. What you do is that you twist your pedal so that the blade is horizontal and stretch it as far away as you can from the kayak. Then dip the tip of your sword into the water and pull towards the kayak. Of course, one constant is to never hit the cut your kayak with your pedal.

General Tips for Paddling a Kayak:

1. Try to Anticipate Your Kayak

Although kayaking can be a great way of meditating and just being relaxed and seeing nature and all that. It would help if you never lost focus or sight of where your kayak is going. Through constant use, you will know if your kayak tends to go in a straight line or curve left or right, you always have to know.

What your kayak is doing is that it will not put you in a place where you cannot turn around, or you cannot take a direction that you need, so that will save you a lot of trouble.

2. Try to Never Hit the Boat with The Paddle

Your safety your after all out on the water in a tiny boat, so manufacturers throw as much as they can to make the boat steady and just double proof as possible. But if you keep hitting your kayak with your pedal, it will eventually tumble overthrowing you in the water and most probably causing some serious injury.

You also have to be a capable swimmer as well, so always keep your eye on your pedal and where it’s going so that you can stop it at the right time.

3. Use Equal Force on Both Sides

The force that you’re going to be pushing your kayak with comes from your core and is transmitted by your arms, so you always have to make sure that you are transmitting the same amount of energy through both arms. Yes, you have a dominant hand in the paddling action, and you will be a little bit more dependent on it, but you have to equalize the power in both arms so that your kayak will not keep turning from you.

4. Always Know What Kind of Waterfront You Will Be On

You have to know everything about the waters that you will be traversing. If it’s too shallow if it’s too deep if you are fishing. If you were just canoeing whether you’re going on a river whether it’s wide enough for a turnaround or you will just have to do a reverse stroke. Always know where you’re going so that you will be appropriately prepared to start with your kayak all the way down to your rods and accessories and all that.

Final Thoughts

Although this guide might seem a little bit complicated if you just take it down one step after the other, you will find that kayaking is pretty simple and straightforward. And it’s truly a beautiful exercise it’s a work out for your body and for your mind because the amount of relaxation and at the same time focus demanded by this sport is considerable.

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