Kayak Paddling Techniques and Tricks – How To Paddle A Kayak Ultimate Guide

Kayaking is an outdoor activity that is filled with excitement and adventure. It is like a condition that can be found in any geographical location. This activity has been around for centuries and it was derived from the Eskimo culture.

The most important kayaking methods for paddlers are the same for every water situation: activate the core and stabilize (abdominal) muscles, and then push your paddle back away from the body around the shoulder, while pulling back towards the body using the chest, core and arms muscles.

For paddling in rivers, however, we’ll go over several maneuvering techniques to help beginners feel more secure when paddling in rapids and currents.

Every paddle stroke requires a good grip, knuckles in, and hands shoulder-width apart and in a centered position.

In kayaking, it is important to be able to master good paddling techniques. In order to achieve the most efficient and effective paddle stroke for a kayak, you need to know how to properly utilize your body in positioning yourself in the kayak’s cockpit.

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In this article, we will see the four key positions that make up a successful kayak paddling stroke: The high brace position, reach forward, pivot and sweep. Each of these positions contributes greatly to making a strong and fast kayak paddle stroke.

Before going into detail about each one of these positions, let us first have a look at an overview image displaying them all together:
The four key positions that compose a good kayak paddling technique are:

  • High brace position
  • Reach
  • Forward
  • Pivot
  • Sweep

The high brace position is great for bracing one’s self on a kayak and it is done by leaning slightly forward. The lean-to the front of the kayak gives you more aware of what is ahead of you, allowing better assessment of potential obstacles. This lean also allows your paddle blade to enter the water closer to its midpoint, making it easier to pull into that deep catch after each stroke.

The reach forward position is used in order to stretch out over your kayak. It adds power and length to your stroke by lengthening your arm as far as possible through the entire paddling movement before starting the draw phase (the backward push).

When reaching forward, be sure not to bend at any point. A straight line should always be followed from the back of your head through your spine, tailbone and legs into your feet.

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This position is great for moving fast on flat water or choppy conditions because it allows you to put more power behind each stroke.

The pivot position is done by shifting most of your weight to one side, allowing you to maneuver quickly in tight areas or dodge obstacles with greater ease. It also gives you a wider peripheral vision, earning it the nickname ‘the eagle eye’. Be careful not to lean too far over though as that would cause you to lose balance.

The sweep position is used mostly when cornering or slowing down.

By sweeping backward through the water during the return phase of your paddle stroke (pulling backward), you will slow your kayak down and put it into a better position for navigating corners and obstacles. It also gives you more to hold on to from behind so that you can take your paddle blade out of the water if needed.

Most advanced paddlers master all four positions at some point or another without even realizing it, because by combining these postures correctly within one smooth cycle of each stroke you get a paddling movement that flows naturally and allows for fast travel.

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Kayaking is not just about going forward – there are many maneuvers involved besides just straightforward movement – but one thing at a time though. Once you have mastered how to move your kayak efficiently with good paddling technique, then be free to experiment with other maneuvers such as straight-stern and bow rudder.

When paddling, your upper body should be more or less in balance with your lower body.

Your arms are involved but they don’t do all the work! The center of mass (CoM) is the average location of weight when you stand still on an object (which makes it a “point”, even though it may not actually be a point).

For example, if you place a one-pound weight at each corner of a coaster wagon and sit in the middle, you will find that the CoM is somewhere near where you’re sitting – and if you push to one side or another, that’s because there’s more weight on that side.

A good kayaker balances his/her CoM over his/her feet to maintain balance throughout the kayak.

You’re constantly making adjustments to your body position to maintain balance – like when you’re on a motorcycle (at least, we hope you do!).

Here’s what happens with poor body position: if you lean too far forward, or even sit straight up with no back support, you will find it very tiring to paddle! If you lean too far back, suddenly your boat becomes easy to flip (tippy). See the “front, back, and center” poster below.

A good way of maintaining control is by sitting just behind the vertical line drawn through the CoM. This allows for proper balance adjustment by leaning either side-to-side or front-to- without tipping over backward or forwards.

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Kayaking is a game that can lure newbies into false feelings of safety and security. Every time you spend on the water is extremely risky due to the possibility of sudden changes in conditions.
The practice and improvement of paddling skills help you to be prepared for unexpected changes that weather and the water can slam you.

As your paddling technique improves and you gain confidence, you’ll be able to take on challenges in handling the unplanned and unexpected.

This skill can put you in the position to assist others in the event of need. There’s a good chance that someone — maybe every person in your group is a novice who’s not yet learned the art of paddling like a professional.

Here is a good instructional video for you to check out and find more about kayak paddling techniques and tricks: