Using correct paddling techniques not only ensures that a kayak moves quickly and easily but also guarantees your safety during a paddling venture. Proper paddling techniques also will ensure that your hands will be less sore afterward, your trip will be smooth and your movement on water will be graceful. Here are a few steps to learning how to paddle a kayak.
Holding the paddle
To be able to execute perfect strokes, you need to hold the paddle at a good distance from your body. Ideally, the position of your hands on the paddle should be at a distance slightly more than your shoulder width. Placing your hands very close to each other will diminish the power behind your strokes while spacing the hands too wide apart on the paddle will tire you too quickly.
For an effective grip of the paddle, place your hands on the shaft so your elbows make a 90-degree angle. Also make sure to keep your grip relaxed because squeezing your hands tightly can strain your hand and arm muscles. Just hold the paddle shaft loosely with your fingers slightly open. A good grip should make an O-shape with the index finger and thumb touching the shaft.
Good posture is important if you are to apply your body effectively during paddling. Ideally, you should sit up on the kayak, maintaining a straight back and relaxing your shoulders. Your body must not lean backward. Be sure to keep your legs together and place your feet on the foot pegs. That will allow you to rotate your torso easily and make strokes with minimal effort. To achieve more balance, you can bend your knees slightly in order to spread your legs and have them pushed firmly against the kayak’s inner hull.
Remember the legs and torso do most of the work when paddling while the shoulders and arms only help to transmit power. Think of paddling as a dance where the leg and torso movements propel the kayak forward. With that in mind, stop trying to push and pull your arms as you paddle.
Making forward strokes
The forward stroke is critical in paddling because it helps to drive the kayak ahead. To make an effective forward stroke, you should start by placing the paddle blade as close to your toes as possible. Just let it be in the water closer to your feet. Then pull the paddle blade back along the kayak and up to the hip. Lift the paddle and make the same movement on the other side of the kayak. To turn a kayak, make a wide (broad) sweeping stroke on one side of the boat so that the bow can swing away from the point where the stroke is made.
Once a stroke is completed, the paddle blade must be lifted from the water, using the elbow to draw it up and away from the kayak’s hull. The wrist must follow in order to have the elbow fully below shoulder level. Perfect forward strokes typically follow in a continuous motion. When the strokes are executed properly, a greater distance can be covered quickly and with minimal effort.
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- KayakPaddling.net. (2008). Good kayak paddling technique. Retrieved from https://www.kayakpaddling.net/2-2