It may seem like kayaking is a fairly easy sport to get the hang of, and it is, as long as you can master your balance and perfect your paddle strokes. If you want the freedom to explore bodies of water all over the globe, then you’re going to need to be able to control your craft and control it efficiently.
The strokes we have included today in this article are the most basic kayaking strokes that you can use to move your kayak forwards and backwards and for turning or scooting your kayak to the side. So, if you’re after all the kayak paddle strokes and how to do them, keep on reading!
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Before we even get into the paddle strokes, it is crucial that you know how to properly hold your paddle. By holding your paddle in the correct way, you will limit the amount of fatigue each stroke will have on your body, and you’ll find that your strokes are more efficient and powerful.
We have an entire article regarding How to Choose a Kayak Paddle so you can ensure that you’re set up for success from the very start of your paddling journey.
The paddle blades may seem insignificant, but understanding them and the way they work is extremely important. You’ll find that kayak paddle blades come in a range of shapes, sizes, and configurations, all designed for different styles of paddling.
Most kayak paddles will have adjustable blades that you can set to a parallel or feathered position. To do this, there should be a button down the paddle shaft that you can press to readjust the blades. A parallel position, which is the best setup for beginner paddlers, means that the blades are pointed in the exact same direction. Feathered paddle blades, on the other hand, will be pointing in slightly different directions.
Blades will sometimes have symmetrical sides, where both are exactly the same length, or they will have asymmetrical sides, where one is slightly shorter than the other. Asymmetrical sides help the paddle track straight, but you can learn to paddle with either shape, just as long as you know which one you have.
Most blades will be slightly curved in one direction as this helps them grab more water in order to enhance the power in the stroke.
The position of your paddle blades is going to determine how efficient each of your paddle strokes will be. Follow these steps for the perfect paddle blade position:
The best way to position your hands on the shaft is by resting the paddle shaft on the center point of your head and moving your hands down the shaft, so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Once you bring the paddle down in front of you, your arms, chest, and the paddle shaft will form what’s known as the paddler’s box.
By maintaining this box shape as you paddle the basic strokes, you will rotate your torso correctly, which in turn aids in good kayak paddling techniques.
If your upper body is stiff, you’ll find that your wrists, arms, and hands will become fatigued fairly quickly. A relaxed grip is key when it comes to the perfect paddle stroke, so allow all the power to come from your torso.
The first stroke which you’ll be spending most of your time doing is the forward stroke. And, as it is the fundamental stroke of kayaking, it’s crucial that you get it right to prevent injury to your muscles so you can paddle the most efficiently through the water.
When performing the forward stroke, be sure to engage your back and core, allowing these muscles to do the majority of the work.
The next stroke is the reverse stroke, which, you guessed it, is going to make your kayak reverse. As well as being a way to edge yourself backwards in the water, you can also use the reverse stroke as a brake to stop your kayak.
Now that you’ve mastered the forward and reverse strokes, it’s time to learn how to turn the kayak. If you paddle the forward stroke repeating on one side of the kayak, you’ll notice that the kayak will begin to turn in the opposite direction. The sweep stroke not only keeps your kayak moving in a straight line but also allows you to paddle over to objects or land more efficiently.
The final stroke that every kayaker should know is the draw stroke. Draw strokes are a great way to hoist yourself sideways if you need to pull up close to a dock or another kayak.
If you’ve mastered your paddling technique but you’re still finding that you’re getting fatigued fairly quickly, it may be because your paddle is of poor quality. Kayak paddles come in a range of different materials, with the three most popular being aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.
Aluminum paddles are the cheapest of the three, and although they’re the most budget-friendly, they’re also the heaviest. Having a heavy paddle makes it more difficult to paddle and requires more power from your muscles. If you’re getting serious about kayaking, then it may be time to upgrade.
The next paddle up from an aluminum paddle is a fiberglass paddle which is considerably lighter and also more expensive. And finally, the best of the best are carbon fiber paddles.
Carbon fiber paddles are extremely lightweight and easy to use in the water. If you purchase a carbon fiber paddle, you’ll see a huge difference in your paddling technique, and the length of time you can paddle, and although carbon fiber paddles are the most expensive of the bunch, in our opinion, they’re worth it.
If you’re ready to upgrade your paddle, then check out our article on the Top 8 Carbon Fiber Kayak Paddles.
There are four common kayak paddling strokes that are all used for different purposes. The first is the forward stroke which you use to propel your kayak in a forward direction. Next is the reverse stroke, which you can use to slow down the kayak or have it reverse in a backward direction.
Then you have the sweep stroke, which turns the kayak left and right, and finally, the draw stroke, which helps you edge the kayak towards docks or other boats.
The best type of kayak paddle is a carbon fiber paddle. These paddles are extremely lightweight and easy to use on the water, allowing their paddler to cover vast stretches of water without getting fatigued. The only downfall to a carbon fiber paddle is its price, but many paddlers will agree that the price is totally worth it.
Kayaking is extremely easy to learn, and people of all ages and abilities can get the hang of paddling if they follow some simple paddling techniques. Balance is the first thing to master, followed by the four main paddle strokes: the forward stroke, the reverse stroke, the sweep stroke, and the draw stroke.
Kayak strokes and paddle board strokes are extremely similar, with the main difference being that on a paddle board, you’re powering your strokes from a standing position. Here's 5 things you need to know before buying a paddle board. We have gone into detail about paddle board strokes over on The Ultimate Guide to Paddle Board Strokes.
Kayaking is an excellent form of exercise that burns more calories than you’d think. The amount of calories you’d burn kayaking comes down to a few different factors such as your weight, age, the speed you’re paddling, and the amount of time you spend paddling.
For a person who weighs around 200 pounds and paddles at a moderate speed, you can look at burning as much as 476 calories per hour.
For more information on kayaking and calories, check out How Many Calories Do You Burn Kayaking?
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