How to make your kayak go

How to make your kayak go

The easiest techniques but how to do it properly and dont hurt your shoulders or running out of energy so quickly is an issue to learn.

(The 3 Golden Rules of Recreational Kayaking video credits to Paddle TV)

One can rightly wonder if instruction is necessary for something that seems so simple. After all, all you do is dip the paddle in the water and pull, right? Well, sort of. But remember that you will perform this motion once every second, 60 times in a minute, 3,600 times in an hour and up to 36,000 times in a long day. There are advantages to doing it in the most effective and efficient way.

The forward power stroke

The forward stroke is the most common of all strokes and everybody needs to do it in order to go anywhere. It is the stroke that you will use most.

  • Grasp your paddle and sit comfortably erect and lean forward slightly. Hold the paddle well in front of your body with your arm slightly bent.
  • Twist your torso so the shoulder on the stroke side moves forward. The forward blade of the paddle should make most of its forward movement due to this rotation.
  • Extend the arm on the stroke side until the arm is almost fully extended but do not lock the elbow. The rotation of the torso and the extension of the arm will occur simultaneously as the stroke becomes more familiar, but when starting out it is a good idea to emphasize the torso rotation by performing it first and then extending the arm.
  • Rotate your torso not only at the shoulders but also down at the base of your spine and hips where you power is located. This involves more of the muscles of the abdomen, hips and legs. Keep the elbow of the upper arm at the same height as your hand.
  • Slip the blade into the water close to the side of the boat and as far forward as possible, without leaning any farther forward. This will require that your opposite arm be raised to the level of your shoulder and the paddle will be at an angle less than 45 degrees to the vertical. This is the most powerful blade placement called the power stroke. When inserting the blade into the water, think of poking the paddle into the water with your upper hand instead of placing it in the water with your lower hand.
  • Do not begin pulling on the paddle with your lower hand until the paddle is fully inserted in the water. This keeps you from unwinding your torso until maximum power can be achieved with the blade.

Draw the kayak through the water by pulling the power face (the concave side of asymmetric paddles) with the stroke side arm by turning your torso back to the neutral position you started from. During this rotation your lower arm should remain nearly extended. Push with your upper hand with your elbow bent. Keep the paddle blade close to the side of the kayak and move the blade parallel to the center line of the kayak.

Maintaining the stroke in the most efficient direction, directly in line with your course, will require your upper hand to cross the center line of the kayak. It should feel like you are throwing a crossing punch. This is when the power of the unwinding torso rotation is delivered to the paddle blade. When your torso rotation nears the neutral position, your stroke side arm will begin to bend. Never lock out the elbow on your upper arm.

Now your torso is beginning to rotate in the other direction as the start of the power stroke on the other side. Your arm will continue to bend as your hand continues back. Remove the blade from the water as it passes your hip by lifting straight up on the blade as your torso completes its rotation to the other side. The other hand will be high at the start of the lift. As the blade comes out of the water, the blade on the opposite side will be lowering for the power stroke on that side.


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