How to Hold Kayak Paddle

Before you head out to have the best outdoor exploration activity on your preferable water body, you may want to equip yourself with the basics required to move around. We are going to look-see and learn how to hold kayak paddle bit by bit. 

Beyond having the right equipment and perfect kits for this flatwater sailing activity, you should be well equipped with the right basics and skills as well to enjoy moving around easily since you’ll be able to efficiently command your kayak to glide in a certain direction of your choice. 

Therefore, we are going to cover and learn the following basics of kayaking in this article: 

  • Forward stroke for forwarding movement 
  • Reverse stroke for backing up and braking 
  • Sweep stroke for turning around and bending corners 
  • Draw stroke for sideways movement. 

Remember to leave your Kayak’s rudder out of water during your practice. Your main objective when practicing kayaking is to learn how to sail straight and make turns. This skill should be established and mastered from the stroke approach. 

You’re advised to practice the stroke technique in safe and calm water so you perfectly understand it. Approach the professional coaches and instructors to learn these skills and techniques perfectly. Make sure you keep track of how many strokes you’ll be doing for a certain duration to trace progress and growth in terms of stroke skill. Let’s see how to hold kayak paddle. 

How to Hold Kayak Paddle 

Holding your kayak paddle well means having an effective and non-tiring stroke. Therefore, be careful when choosing your paddle to ensure you have the right paddle length. If you’re having a hard time deciding about your paddle length, I would recommend you to approach your kayak guide or a Kayak shop owner to advise you appropriately.  

For one to hold your paddle well, you’ll have to consider the factors below: 

  • Align the paddle blades properly 
  • Familiarise with your paddle and know the type of paddle you’re using 
  • Adjust the gripping point of your shaft 
  • Holding your paddle shaft calmly  

• Align the paddle blades properly 

Take up your paddle, grasp it forward to check if everything is the way you want it to be. This will help you be comfortable with your paddle since you’ll have it oriented to your comfort.

• Familiarise with your paddle 

Know whether your blades are matched or feathered, symmetrical or asymmetrical, and note that your blades are slightly curved to help you grab extra water for powerful strokes. Check if the blades are parallel to each other and make them face backward. You can adjust the positioning of your blades using the push-button at the center of your shaft.  

• Holding your paddle shaft calmly 

Having a relaxed grip on your shaft helps prevent your wrist, arms, and shoulders from becoming fatigued. It is also a reminder for you that you depend on your torso to generate power for the strokes.  

  1. Using your index finger and thumb, make an O-shaped grip. 
  2. Let the rest of your fingers rest on the shaft lightly. 

• Adjust the gripping point of your shaft

Put the paddle up above your head and ensure the center of your shaft is on top of your head. Readjust how you’re holding your shaft to achieve a 90° angle on your elbows. 

When you drop the shaft down to your chest, you’ll achieve a shape called the paddler’s box. This is a shape formed by your chest, arms, and the shaft. Maintain the paddler’s box to make your strokes efficient and powerful.

Kayaking Techniques and Skills 

For one to become a professional paddler, you have to master the paddling skills and techniques well so that you can stir the kayak freely with command and full control. A good paddler can now make a bigger step of participating in kayak and canoeing competitions as long as they know how to hold the kayak paddle perfectly. 

Therefore, we are going to look at the different types of paddling strokes and how they are performed. 

The forward stroke 

This is the most basic and important kayak paddling technique. This is the stroke that all paddlers get to do most of the time. It is beyond involving just your arm and shoulder power.to move glide forward on a water surface. 

You have to involve your stronger back and core power to generate enough energy for a perfect stroke. Make sure you understand how you hold your paddle before moving to the next step, the forward stroke phases: 

Catch phase 

Make a wind with your torso muscles sideways and immerse your paddle blades into the water on either side of your kayak, besides your feet. 

Power phase 

Make a rotation with your torso as the upper hand makes the push with the blades moving on your rear. Watch the blade inside the water with your eyes and focus on adding power with your upper hand as you grasp the water and your torso will follow the rhythm.  

Release phase 

As soon as your hand is positioned behind you, slice out the blade from the water and go subsequently to the first phase to complete the stroke. 

The reverse/backward stroke 

This stroke is a completely opposite one from the forward stroke. It is used when braking (making a stop) your kayak whenever you want to take a break, back up, change direction or come out of your kayak. After stopping your moving kayak, you can then back up using the stroke as well. This stroke is usually done is three phases just like the forward stroke i.e. 

Drop phase 

Make a wind with your torso muscles then fully immerse your paddle blade into the water just beside your hip.

Power phase 

Make a rotation with your torso as the blade extends in front of your chest 

Release phase 

When the blade is directly next to your feet, slice it out of water.

How to Hold Kayak Paddle – Conclusion

Doing the forward stroke recurrently multiple numbers of times will make your boat turn .i.e the ‘sweep stroke’. Doing the sweep stroke on the kayak’s side is an effective way of turning your kayak or canoe. 

Lastly, we have the ‘Draw stroke’ which is used to push your kayak side to side. You can efficiently use this stroke when pulling to the dock of the ocean. I believe you’ve mastered how to hold kayak paddle. Feel free to come back for reference.

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