Kayaking Technique Tips

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How to Hold a Kayak Paddle

Holding a kayak paddle, the most basic or kayaking technique, is one of the most frequently incorrectly executed particulars of kayaking technique. It is therefore crucial to get this part right or you will lose power in your kayak stroke, cause undue stress on your joints, and worst of all, you'll look really silly out there. Here are some basic points to know in order to hold a kayak paddle properly.

First, make sure the blade is facing the correct direction. Kayak paddle blades are generally curved in nature. The "cupped" part of the curve should be facing the kayaker. Next make sure the paddle is correctly oriented as it is possible to hold the blade upside down. If there is writing on the blade, the writing should be oriented so you can read it. If not, the top of the blade is often longer than the bottom of the blade.

Now you will need to determine your control grip based on which hand is dominant. Grab the paddle with your dominant hand so that the blade on that side of the paddle is lined up properly to pull through the water. Then place your other hand on the paddle. If your kayak paddle is "feathered" then this hand will not look like it is lined up properly with the paddle blade. That is ok.

To determine the proper spacing of your hands, with both hands on the paddle, raise the paddle over your head and let the paddle come to rest on your head. Your hands should be between shoulder-width apart and with your arms at 90 degree angles.


Proper Rotation During the Forward Stroke

The proper way to take the forward stroke is to rotate the torso rather than pushing and pulling the paddle with the arms. So rather than the arms having a pedaling motion the paddle stroke is powered by rotating of hips.

One way to ensure that the torso is driving the kayak rather than the arms is to watch the top hand of each stroke. While you rotate your hips to power the paddle blade through the water your top hand should remain level as it moves across your line of sight.

Keeping a level top hand while rotating the hips will ensure that you are getting the most efficient forward stroke motion while enabling you to paddle for longer before fatiguing.


Learn the Anatomy of the Kayak Stroke

There are many different kayak strokes that paddlers can employ while kayaking. Regardless of the kayak stroke that one uses, the anatomy of the stroke are all the same. Whether you're performing a typical forward stroke, a sweep stroke, or a draw stroke they all have the same three parts.

The Catch Phase of the Kayak Stroke

The first phase of the kayak is known as "the catch." The catch phase describes the point at which the kayak paddle enters the water. When placing the kayak paddle in the water care should be taken to do so with as little disturbance to the surface as possible.

The Power Phase of the Kayak Stroke

After the catch phase comes the power phase of the kayak stroke. Once the paddle is in the water, its job is to propel the kayak opposite the direction of pull. The power phase describes this part of the stroke that pulls the kayak through the water.

The Recovery Phase of the Kayak Stroke

After the catch phase and the power phase comes the recovery phase of the kayak stroke. Toward the end of the power phase the kayak paddle needs to be pulled out of the water and setup for the next stroke. This is known as "the recovery."


The Length of the Kayak Forward Stroke

The Forward Stroke in kayaking is the main stroke that moves the kayak forward and in a straight line. Over the years there has been some discussion over how long the forward stroke should be. Some say as long as possible, maximizing the time the paddle is in the water. Others like short strokes, claiming that is the best way to keep the boat moving straight. The truth of the matter is that the kayak forward stroke should be somewhere between the two. The best way to describe it is "tip to hip." Place the paddle in as far forward as is comfortable and bring it back to about your hip, before starting the recovery phase of the stroke.

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