How to Paddle a Kayak? Proper Kayaking Technique

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Want to explore the amazingly calm waterways? Buy a kayak and plan a kayaking trip right away. Indeed! But, hold on. Do you know how to paddle a kayak? If not, no worries. You don’t have to rush to any instructor as we will guide you here. 

Kayaking is the best way to explore nature and to grasp the world from a different viewpoint. Paddling all the way can make a person confident and courageous. It’s a great way to spend quality time with friends and family as well. 

You can enjoy the freedom in open water only when you can paddle efficiently and route to where you wanted to go. It’s all about skill and practice. While kayaking, think of yourself as a motor. 

At this point, paddle helps to transfer your energy into motion that takes your kayak in any direction. However, learning how to paddle a kayak is easy when you focus on proper technique. 

It actually fun and exciting once you’ve mastered using the paddle. Hence, know the details below, so you don’t get stuck and enjoy your adventure in the water.

Get the Right Kayak

The priority of padding has the best-quality kayak. Take some time to choose the right kayak for your trip. Make sure to consider the size, types, quality, and other features. Before purchasing a kayak, determine where you are going to use it for. You can take a test drive to see how it fits and performs. 

You should also know how to sit on a kayak properly. It is better to sit up tall and straight while slightly bending the knees. Make sure your nose is over your belly button. You can adjust the seat and feet to sit straight. 

Do not try to sit by leaning back, instead sit straight only. You can hinge forward to give your back a rest. 

Know Your Kayak Paddle

Kayakers have to take thousands of strokes each hour with the paddle. So, you must have the best kayak paddle. Kayak paddles come in different types. Such as wing-shaped paddle, high-angle paddle, low-angle paddle, Greenland paddle, euro paddle, and so on. Know each type and choose carefully.

Kayak paddle has five-part in general, including blade, throat, shaft, grip, and tip. The shape of the paddle blade determines how your paddle will interact with the water. Check the following things in your paddle, whether;

  • The paddle blades are matched or feathered. Matched blades (parallel) are suitable for beginners. In the case of the feathered blade, you may want to make them parallel by pressing and rotating two shaft halves. 
  • The blades are asymmetrical. If so, then they are perfect for paddling straight. Elsewise, symmetrical blades also provide potent strokes.
  • The blades are somewhat curved. In case of curved blades, check where the curved side faces. These blades allow you to make powerful strokes by grabbing more water.

How to Hold Kayak Paddle Properly?

Holding a kayak paddle ensures powerful and non-fatiguing stroke. Here is how to hold the kayak paddle;

  • Hold the paddle with two hands at about 40cm distance.
  • Keep the paddle face in the right direction.
  • Put the paddle on top of your head.  
  • With this paddle position, set your elbows at a 90-degree angle. 
  • Make sure your knuckles are in line with the paddle blade.
  • If you are right-handed, keep your control grip in your right hand. 

This paddle holding technique makes sure that you get power and comfort. Now, you have done all the research; it’s time to learn how to paddle!

How to Paddle a Kayak?

Paddling is all about making strokes. If you know how to make each stroke properly, you will get more control over your kayak. There are four kayaks paddling techniques including;

  • Forward strokes
  • Reverse strokes
  • Sweep strokes
  • Draw strokes

Forward Strokes

Among all methods, forward strokes are the most fundamental that you will want to master. Here you need to engage your core and back muscles to do most of the work. 

  • To make a forward stroke, at first, put your paddle in the water near your toes. 
  • Now pull the paddle along the side of the kayak and release it when the paddle reaches your hips. 
  • Repeat the same on the other side. The closer the blade is to the side of the kayak, the straighter your kayak will move on. 

Reverse Strokes

This is just opposite to the forward strokes. You can do this stroke to brake a moving kayak or to go backward. This stroke is also helpful for exploring a bay that is too small to turn around. 

  • Here you need to start by putting the blade near your hips. 
  • Then push the blade toward your toes. 
  • Once the paddle blade reaches your toes, release it. 
  • Similarly, do the same on the opposite side to move backward. 

Sweep Strokes

When you do forward strokes on the same site repeatedly, your kayak may turn slightly in the opposite direction. That is where you need to perform sweep strokes to turn the kayak. 

  • Extend your arm forward and bent slightly. Now put the paddle blade near your toes.
  • Draw a C pattern from this point until your paddle reaches the back of the kayak. Now release the paddle blade from this point.
  • Make sure to keep your arms as straight as possible and put maximum power during the rotation.

Draw Strokes

When you need to pull your kayak near to another boat, you may want to perform draw strokes. It helps to move your kayak sideways. 

  • Hold your paddle blade in the horizontal position. Place one side down on the side of your kayak.
  • Now touch the water about two feet away with the tip of the blade. 
  • Pull the blade straight toward you with your lower hand. Make sure the blade is dipped entirely in the water.
  • Release the blade once it hits the side of your kayak.



Now that you better know how to paddle a kayak. See! We told you, kayaking is fun and exciting. Once you become a master in handling strokes, you can enjoy the nature around you, instead of struggling with the paddle.

However, make sure you sit on the kayak properly and wear a life jacket before starting. We would suggest going to kayaking water is calm, and there is no wind. Hopefully, you are all set now, so start paddling!

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