What is the proper way to paddle a kayak?

William Adams
 min read

What is the proper way to paddle a kayak and how can you paddle as efficiently as possible to cover as much distance as possible with as little energy as possible?

What is the proper way to paddle a kayakVarious (professional) paddlers have already discovered and shared certain tips in the kayak community.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel, so take these suggestions on board (excuse the pun):

What is the proper way to paddle a kayak? Introduction

As a novice kayaker, it can be overwhelming to master the key paddling techniques right away.

What beginners need to know about kayaking goes much further than starting to waste energy without thought and without strategy….

That’s why we’ve taken the time to put together an overview of some helpful tips and guidelines to get fit for kayaking as efficiently as possible even as a beginner:

Think of a box in front of you

Keep your arms in front of you. That’s where the stroke begins.

Experienced paddlers motivate beginners to think of a box in front of them while paddling.

This box is as wide as your shoulders, as high as the top of your head, and extends down to the kayak top.

Any movement you make with your paddle must take place inside the box.

You may rotate your upper body to deal with one side: The box moves with you.

Avoid tension: What is the proper way to paddle a kayak?

The paddler sporting a clenched jaw and gripping the paddle so hard that their knuckles are a ridgeline of white mini-mountains is not enjoying himself.

But the paddler with a big, loopy grin certainly is! And paddling better too.

Relaxation is key.

Paddle with your arms as straight as possible

Your arms connect your upper body to your paddle and in turn, you apply power by rotating your upper body.

If your arms are straight, and you’re using your upper body, right down the line of your bones and tendons, your arm muscles of your arms remain relaxed.

Do the same with bent arms, and you’re going to burn a lot more energy.

If your arm is bent as you begin to turn and let your arm align, you’re not putting any stress or power on the paddle. And you won’t be going anywhere.

How to increase the paddle stroke rate or paddle cadence

Bring your hands into the high-gear position for a fast paddle cadence (strokes per minute).

Raise your paddle horizontally with your elbows near your sides, and bring your hands in front of your shoulders.

You’ll put less power in each stroke, but you’ll increase the strength.

You can paddle at a greater cadence if you bring your hands in a bit more, where your knuckles be would be at the top outer edge of your shoulder (if you held your paddle up to your shoulders in front of your body).

The downside to this faster cadence is that you will have less power in your stroke.

Utilize your bigger muscles: What is the proper way to paddle a kayak?

Use the larger torso and upper body muscles for paddling efficiently.

Those big muscles are way more effective than the smaller arm muscles and thus give you more power for longer.

How to apply force to your paddle

Mechanically speaking, you can apply the most force to your paddle when your hands are 3.5 to 4 inches up the shaft, starting from the meeting point of the shaft and blade (aka the throat).

If you hold the paddle over your head with your arms horizontal, your elbows would be at right angles.

If you really need more power, go into low gear.

Put your paddle over your head with your elbows bent at right angles. Your hands will then be in the power position.

What is the proper way to paddle a kayak? Final tip

Always stabilize your kayak with your lower body.

Your upper body will be engaged in producing rotating power for your paddle with a range of strokes.

But your lower body is quietly tackling the business of steering your high weight capacity kayak for plus-size people left or right, setting up a turn, or restoring your balance.

These two activities seem so separate but happen simultaneously and feed off one another.

Tip: Read our related articles that may also be of interest to you:

About William Adams

I’m an engineer and a happy plus-size individual myself. I love to blog online if I can have a positive impact on the lives of others. I help other plus-size people with in-depth product guides to make shopping for products and services less stressful in their busy lives. Read More