Kayak Paddling Instructions: How to Paddle a Kayak

Kayaking is a recreational sport, comprising the use of specialized boats called kayaks. People don't require specialized skills to enjoy themselves. Nevertheless, they do need to remember a few instructions.
The term 'kayaking' is referred to the use of a kayak to move across the water. It is a small boat in which the paddler faces forwards and has his legs positioned in front of him. Kayaking is different from canoeing in the paddler's sitting posture and the paddle blade number.

Kayak paddles comprise double blades, whereas, canoes use single blade paddles. There's the sea or ocean kayaking, which involves taking the kayak out to the ocean or open water (lake). Taking the kayak down the rapids is called whitewater kayaking. It is popular among adventure enthusiasts, divers, etc.

Kayak Paddling Instructions

Before entering a kayak, it's better to be aware of some basics. The first important point to note is that the power in paddling is generated from the torso (trunk) and then channeled through the arms. The control of the kayak comes from the application of the right strike in the right direction, at the right time. Thus, application of brute force is useless. One must also choose the right kayak paddle. The correct way to determine the right paddle, is by checking if the bottom blade is just completely submerged as it passes the knee while paddling, while the hand is around eye height. The length of the paddle must be correctly chosen as longer paddles can cause injuries. Moreover, it won't allow the paddler to perform the right paddling technique. The local AC National Training Provider, guides, coaches or AC Instructors, can help figure out the appropriate length for each person.

How to Paddle a Kayak
  • One can start by putting the kayak into the water (near the shore, but afloat). The paddles can be placed across the deck, behind the cockpit and the blade of the paddle on the shore. This will act as a stabilizer. By sitting astride behind the cockpit, one can sit comfortably and slide one's feet into the cockpit. The paddler must sit straight, all the way back in his seat. His knees must be bent, and must not touch the kayak's deck.
  • For the right hand placement, hold the paddle horizontally above the head, such that the elbows are at right angles (surrender position). The paddler must make sure the hands are symmetrically placed and equal hand to paddle blade distance is maintained on each side. One could place some electrical tape to help maintain position on a regular basis.
  • The paddler should extend his arms in front of him, with the paddle being tilted towards the right of the boat. The stroke begins when the shoulders are slightly rotated to bring the bottom arm forward. The bottom arm is extended (not straight) and the top hand's elbow is bent, arm relaxed, and eye height.
  • The blade is to be dipped into the water near the paddler's ankles and pulled back along the boat's side. As the paddler pulls the blade back, he is to twist his torso to the right for power, while paddling, and relieved pressure off the arm muscles. The hips should be kept straight and the back and shoulder muscles should be used to power the stroke.
  • When the paddle has been brought back to the torso, the blade is to be lifted out of the water and the same procedure is to be repeated on the boat's left side. The paddler must keep the hips from twisting while changing sides, as it will make the kayak change directions. To turn the boat, a sweep stroke is used, whose effectiveness is governed by power and leverage. The blade must describe a wide arc for greatest leverage, and for power, the body must twist at the torso.
  • For reverse strokes, the paddler's torso is to be rotated completely, with the blade being completely submerged. Bottom arm is not straight, but is extended. The stroke ends when the rotation finishes. The elbow should be kept in front of the line of shoulder and not behind, to protect the shoulder joint during reverse strokes.
  • Gentle landings will minimize the stress on the boat structure as well as the abrasion of gel coat. To exit, keep the knees straight and place weight on the hands. Slide aft and out, and the kayak paddle can again be used for stability.
  • Capsizing is quite common, and paddlers must be able to exit the boat calmly. When the kayak capsizes, the head gets immersed into the water, and paddlers instinctively lift their heads. This results in scratches and bruises as paddlers twist in the cockpit. Instead of panicking and twisting, the paddler should leave the cockpit correctly and move to the surface.
These were some basics regarding kayaking, however, if you haven't tried it out before, make sure you have a guide or a partner who has good kayaking experience to accompany you. All the best!
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