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How to Paddle a Kayak Like a Pro

A lot of anglers buy their first fishing kayak and buy all the neat little accessories, but never give one thought as to how to paddle a kayak. It's not until they venture out for the first time that they realize that it's a little trickier than what they initially thought. Not to mention, that paddling can really wear you out if you don't know what you're doing.

I know because I was one of those people! My first day on the water was not at all what I was expecting! I must have looked like a clown trying to navigate my way from the boat ramp to where I planned on fishing. Did you notice that I said “planned on fishing?” That's because I never made it to where I was wanting to fish! I was too tired from paddling around in circles.

Lucky for me, I quickly did some research and learned how to properly paddle my kayak. I took everything that I learned and wrote them in this article, so that you don't have to experience the same frustrations and embarrassment as I did.

Check out this video for even more tips on "how to paddle a kayak."

Proper Posture When Paddling Your Kayak

No one wants a backache while out on the water, so proper posture is a must while sitting and paddling your kayak.

Make sure that you're sitting all the way back in your seat, so that your torso is at a 90 degree angle with your legs extended, but slightly bent at the knees. If your kayak has foot pegs, you'll need to adjust them accordingly.

Keep in mind that paddling a kayak is a total body effort, meaning that you never want to try and man handle your strokes with just your arms. With each stroke you should be using your arms, torso, legs, back and shoulders.

In fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to adopt some type of strength training program that targets all these muscle groups. I'm not a personal trainer, but something as simple as push ups and body squats could really make a difference.

Choosing The Right Kayak Paddle

kayak paddle chart

When it comes to kayak paddles, size really does matter! Newbies tend to make the mistake of choosing a kayak paddle that is either too short or too long for their size.

There are several ways in finding the right size kayak paddle. First, you can refer to a chart that uses industry standard measurements for measuring most recreational and fishing kayaks. It takes into consideration your height and the width of your kayak and gives you the recommended paddle length in centimeters.

Another way, is to find a paddle that feels comfortable and hold it above your head. Your hands should be gripping the paddle shoulder width apart and both of your elbows should be at about a 90 degree angle.

Of course if you're buying your paddle from your local kayak shop or sporting goods store, they should have someone there that can help you find the right size paddle.

Learn The Right Strokes

Some people prefer to buy a kayak paddle that comes with feathered (offset) blades. Some argue that a paddle with a feathered blade is easier to use because it presents less surface for the wind to catch. I myself, think that the stroke technique required for this type of paddle is awkward and not worth the time it takes to master it.

I prefer a traditional kayak paddle and a basic forward power stroke. For this style, the blades should enter the water near where your toes are. Next, pull the paddle through the water until it's parallell with your waist.

The blade should be fully submerged before lifting the blade out of the water and repeating with the other side. This will ensure that you are getting the maximum benefits with each stroke.

To turn your kayak, you simply lower the blades in the water. If you want to turn right, lower the right blade. To turn left, lower the left blade.

If you want to stop your kayak on a dime, lower the blades in the water, alternating the right and left several times.

For backing up your kayak, simply do the forward paddle in reverse.

Final Thoughts

With some practice, learning how to paddle a kayak is not that difficult. Just remember the proper strokes, posture, and to use your entire body with each stroke and you'll be paddling like a pro in no time at all.

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