Proper Technique for Paddling a Kayak


This episode of PaddleTV is brought to you
by the American Canoe Association Improving the paddle sports experience for over a century. Learn more and become a member today at americancanoe.org One of the great things about kayaking, is
that almost anyone can do it. But you need to understand that developing
good paddling technique is important, because not only will it let you paddle the most efficiently,
it will make you safer on the water. In particular, poor technique will tire your
body much more quickly, and leave you less prepared to deal with changing conditions
or dangerous situations. Practicing good technique will also equip
you to deal with unexpected and challenging water or weather conditions. So in this video, we’re going to look at a
few simple ways to improve your paddling technique and make you more comfortable and safer on
the water. The first things we’re going to look at, is
the proper sitting position in a kayak. One of the things that separates a very basic kayak, from a higher quality kayak, is the comfort of the seat. In fact, many kayaks have seats that are so comfortable, they make you want to lounge in them. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with lounging
in a kayak, but for the purposes of paddling, you need to sit up with good posture, because
paddling with good posture will let you paddle further, harder, and it will help you to avoid
issues like back pain. Paddling with good posture means sitting upright,
and not leaning back. Your feet should be resting comfortably and
securely against the foot pedals, and your legs should be comfortably flexed and a little
splayed out. This leg position makes sitting upright easier and reduces the strain on your hamstrings and back. Quality kayaks also come with some type of
adjustable back support, which can be loosened when you want to kick back and relax, and
tightened to provide support and encourage an upright sitting position. The second technique we’re going to look at,
is how to properly use your paddle. The first thing to know about kayak paddles,
is that some are feathered, and some are unfeathered. Unfeathered paddles have blades that are in
line with each other, while an unfeathered paddle has blades that are offset from one
another to some degree. The offset of unfeathered paddles is designed
to let the upper blade slice through the air and wind more easily when you take a forward
stroke. The trade off, is that you need to twist the
paddle when moving from one stroke to the next, and so let’s take a closer look at the
correct way to use a feathered paddle. In most cases, feathered paddles are designed
for right handed people – so your right hand will be your control hand, which means it keeps a relaxed, but firm grip on the shaft at all times. Your control hand should grip your paddle and your big knuckles should be aligned with
the edge of your paddle blade. Your other hand should be holding the paddle
an equal distance from the other blade. An easy way to check to see if your hands are in good position, is to lift your paddle onto your head. Your elbows should be bent at around 90 degrees, because this will give you the best mix of control and power. Now, after taking a stroke with the blade
by your control hand, you’ll loosen your grip with the opposite hand, which is sometimes
called the “greased” hand, so that you can rotate the shaft within it. This rotation is necessary to accommodate
the “feather,” or “twist,” of your paddle, so that your next blade can be placed
squarely in the water. This loosening of the “grease” hand, and the rotation of the shaft within it, takes place between each stroke. If you’re using an unfeathered paddle, you
won’t need to worry about rotating the shaft between strokes, which is why most people
find this more natural. A last thing to mention, is that even though
we refer to the control hand as the ‘glue’ hand, it’s important to know that your grip
on the paddle should be secure but light. A light grip will let you paddle more comfortably,
for longer, and will help you avoid overuse injuries like tendonitis in the wrist. Well I hope you found this video helpful, and that it makes your time on the water more comfortable. If you enjoyed what you’ve seen, and want
to learn more about kayaking, please subscribe to our PaddleTV YouTube channel.

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16 thoughts on “Proper Technique for Paddling a Kayak

  1. Thanks for posting. Nice video.  I will try using those techniques for my next paddling session on the water.  I've only paddled 60 miles since starting with a kayak paddle, and I think I've picked up a few bad habits of paddling form.  🙁

  2. A paddle offset to either side can be used by both left- and right-handed people. There is no correct way there. And feathered paddles isn't mainly used to reduce air-resistance, but to allow for a better technique.

  3. So pretty poor technique 🙁
    Not extending the top arm to engage trunk rotation, and "lifting water" at the end of the stroke, tiring and inefficient.

  4. I have been paddling kayaks for about 14 years. It is still always good to watch proper technique tutorial videos. These are great for experienced paddlers, and even better for beginners. Thanks for making kayaks even more fun, and safer for everyone. All of my paddles can be feathered for either left or right handed people. I'm a south paw.

  5. It took me many viewings plus a few hours on the water to realize what I was doing wrong – trying to stay dry. Once I ignored drips from my paddles, it all clicked. I doubled my range instantly and was far less tired. Synthetic clothes soaked and maybe took on a pint of water.

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