How To Paddle A Kayak
If you’re looking for a brand new perspective of life on the water—without a sail or engine—you’ll want to spend some time learning how to paddle a kayak! Go for it: shell out a few greenbacks to purchase that ocean kayak, load it onto your truck, and drive to the nearest boat ramp to launch into a whole new world of wonders. But first, you’ll want to work on your brain-to-paddle communications! Here are a few tips to help you learn how to paddle a kayak.
- Starting position. Before learning how to paddle a kayak, you must learn how to hold the paddle. Grasp the paddle with both hands positioned equally from the center point, slightly wider than shoulder-width and comfortably in front of your body. Hold it chest-high with slightly-bent elbows.
- Paddling forward. As you paddle, your kayak will track—or veer—forward and into the opposite direction of whichever paddle tip is in the water. To paddle forward, place the left paddle tip into the water at your left side and push your right hand forward while pulling your left hand down and backward. Swing the left paddle up and out of the water and back into starting position. Without stopping, reverse this procedure, dipping the right paddle into the water and pulling your right hand down and backward, while your left hand pushes forward. Think figure-eight. Practice long, fluid strokes to ensure a smooth forward motion, and try to avoid twisting your torso too much, as this can result in some downtime with an ice pack later on. And with each stroke, try to focus on pushing with the alternate hand, instead of pulling toward your body with each stroke. Your biceps will thank you later.
- Turning. To turn the kayak while moving forward, paddle on the opposite side. So, to turn right, paddle on the left. To turn left, paddle on the right.
- Stopping. To stop your forward motion, place your paddle tip into the water and hold firm, repeating quickly with the opposite side. Your kayak will track left and right, eventually slowing to a stop—or as close as it can come to a stop in a moving current.
- Paddling backward. There are some moments when the most experienced kayakers overshoot their target and need to back-paddle. (We usually blame it on the current.) This is the exact opposite procedure as paddling forward. To paddle backward, dip your left paddle into the water and push your left hand forward while pulling your right hand toward your chest. (Your kayak will track to the left.) When the paddle has reached its forward-most point, lift it out of the water and lower the right paddle into the water, pushing your right hand forward and pulling your left hand toward your chest. (Your kayak will now track to the right.) Even though your kayak tracks left and right, you will begin moving backward. Everyone learning how to paddle a kayak should practice paddling backward.
- Correcting direction. There are times your kayak will seem to have a mind of its own. This is due to a number of factors—not including the quantity of beer you’ve consumed while watching the sun set—and can include current, wind, and kayak form. If you’re tracking too far to the right, correct with one or more right-forward paddles in a row. Tracking too far to the left? Left-paddle repeatedly to correct.
- Paddle-dragging. As you excel at learning how to paddle your kayak, you can try slowing your speed with a paddle-drag in the water. To correct right tracking, rest your left paddle tip into the water and hold it firmly. The same goes for the opposite side.
Remember, don’t drop your paddle while learning how to paddle a kayak! You may wish to invest in a paddle leash or bungee accessory to secure your paddle to your kayak, just in case your hands get too busy with your bottle opener. You don’t want to get caught up a creek without, well, you know…