Tips For Kayaking Beginners

Tips For Kayaking Beginners

The kayaks were invented by the Inuit, Aleut, and Yup’ik, the indigenous people of the Arctic North American region, for hunting purposes.

These days, however, kayaking is done as a fun sports activity.

Even though it may look easy, kayaking is no child’s play. From the way you sit to how you paddle can mean the difference between successfully navigating the length of a river and capsizing right at the source.

In this post, we have gathered some of the basic tips that can help beginner kayakers overcome their fear and go out on the water.

How to Paddle the Right Way

How To Paddle The Right Way

If you know a few fundamental tips, paddling a kayak on calm water can be simple for beginners, especially if your goal is not to navigate your boat anywhere particular.

Even so, you should know how to grasp the paddle properly. If you are kayaking with the intention of hunting or fishing, it is even more vital to know the right techniques.

Here are a few tips for kayaking beginners that can help them paddle the right way.

Holding the Paddle

Holding a paddle involves these basics:

Knowing the Paddle Blades

Matched or feathered blades:

Matched blades are parallel while feathered blades are positioned at an angle to each other. For kayaking beginners, matched blades are easier to handle.

Feathered blades are designed for paddling into high winds and if your paddle has those, you should look for a push button and holes at the shaft.

The button can rotate the blades so that they are parallel to each other and you can row easily.

Symmetrical or asymmetrical blades:

If you look closely, you might see one blade is a bit shorter than the other.

This means it is an asymmetrical blade and it can help you prevent spinning in the water.

Paddles with uniform oval blades are symmetrical. You can paddle with both these kind of blades.

Concave blades:

Usually, a paddle’s blades will be slightly curved in and this shape allows you to grip more water and make a more effective stroke.

So when you hold a paddle, the concave side should face inwards towards you.

Orienting your Paddles


Once you understand how your paddle is made, you will need to know its proper orientation. For this, you need to check these things:

  • The large knuckles of your hand should be pointed up and your blade should be at right angle to the ground.
  • The shorter side of your blade should be on the bottom. This is only for asymmetrical blades.
  • The concave side of the blade should face you. This isn’t an issue if your blades have flat surfaces.

Adjusting your Hold on the Paddle

The proper holding pose for your paddle is positioning your hands a few inches further apart from your shoulders, like the way you hold a bicycle’s handlebars.

To make sure you are holding the paddle right, raise your hand to the top of your head. If your elbow makes a 90 degree angle with your arms, you are holding the paddle the correct way.

When you bring the paddle down in front of you, your arms, paddle and chest should create the “paddler’s box.” Maintaining this position will help you easily turn your torso.

Make sure your grip is relaxed and your hands are curled in an “O” shape. This will prevent your fingers, wrists, and arms from getting fatigued.

Going Forward

Going forward requires the most basic strokes and you will have to do these a lot if you want to go anywhere on your kayak.

Take note that it involves more than just your arm power; your torso needs to be engaged as well.

To pull forward, immerse the blade fully into the water near your feet. Push against the shaft with your upper hand and rotate your torso as the blade slices through the water and come up behind you.

Once your hand reaches just behind your hip, slice the blade out of the water.

  • Make sure you use your core muscles to power your strokes rather than the weaker muscles in your arm. This will prevent your arms from tiring too quickly.
  • Sit upright and maintain your balance.
  • Maintain the paddler’s box throughout the forward strokes. This will keep your body aligned for the next stroke.

Repeat the same motions with the opposite blade.

Reverse Stroke

Tips For Kayaking Beginners 1

To go backwards, you just need to do the forward stroke in reverse. Wind your torso back and plunge the paddle blade into the water in line of your hips.

Rotate your torso as you pull the blade forward in front of you. When the blade reaches in line with your feet, slice the blade out of the water.

Repeat the same motions with the opposite blade.

To stop, perform a reverse stroke and hold the battle in the water, letting the water drag over it.

Sweep Stroke

If you maintain your forward strokes on one side of the boat, you will see that your kayak will slowly list in the opposite direction. Doing a sweep stroke can help you turn your boat.

To do this stroke, extend your arms and immerse your blade in the water in line with your feet. Do this on the opposite side of the kayak from the direction you want your boat to turn.

Sweep the blade to the stern of the boat in a wide arc.

As you rotate your torso, pour more power into the sweep, particularly once the paddle goes beyond the cockpit. When the blade reaches the hull, slice it out of the water.

If you repeat the motions, your kayak will turn without much loss in speed.

Draw Stroke

Draw strokes are used to pull your boat sideways towards another boat or towards a dock. This should be done gently.

Rotate your paddle so that the blades are lying in a horizontal position. Immerse only the tip of the blade into the water two feet away from the kayak.

This will require you to angle your paddle steeply. Use your lower hand to pull the blade towards you and stop before it knocks on the side of the boat.

If the paddle hits the side of your boat, do not drag it out of the water and risk capsizing your kayak. Instead, let go of the shaft with your upper hand, relax your body, and then try again.

Typically, you will need to make several draw strokes to drag your kayak to the side.

How to Sit Properly in Your Kayak

The posture of your body and the positioning of your feet both play an important role in successfully rowing your kayak and preventing it from capsizing.

Body Posture

When you sit in a kayak, your spine should be straight and your legs should be stretched out in front of you. However, make sure you are not tensed.

Bend your feet and place them against the side of the kayak. This will help you hold on to the side of the boat with your feet and give you more stability. It will also lend you more power as you make strokes.

Generally, kayaks come with a comfortable backrest that you can adjust so that you can sit straighter and relieve the strain on your back. Make sure you do so before you set out.

Foot Position

If you have a sit-in kayak, these usually have foot pegs near the front of the kayak.

You can place the balls of your feet in these pegs in such a way that your toes are pointed outwards and your heels towards the center of the kayak.

This position will allow your knees to move outward and gently touch the side of the kayak.

If your legs are too short or too long, you can easily adjust the foot pegs to get your feet in the proper position.

How to Distribute Weight?

Kayaking beginners should know that placing weight at the very bottom of your kayak can help stabilize it, while placing weight above the water line can destabilize your craft.

If the weight distribution in your kayak is not even and balanced, it will not hold a steady course, can become difficult to steer, and will change direction unexpectedly.

In a small boat like a kayak, the paddler accounts for most of the weight. High-quality kayaks have seats that allow the boat to sit level with the water and help it go on a straight course.

So, you should also know that adjusting your seat toot forward or backward will affect the handling of your boat.

Too Much Weight Near The Bow

A kayak that has too much load at the front will keel too deeply into the water. This will also diminish the aerodynamic properties of the bow.

At the same time, the stern will rise too high and slide through the water too easily.

Although a slightly low bow can be beneficial when going windward, too much weight can make the boat turn towards the wind.

If this happens, you will constantly need to make corrective strokes so that your vessel stays on course. For beginners, this can be very tiring and frustrating.

Too Much Weight Near The Stern

On the other hand, a kayak with too much weight near the back will also exhibit control issues. The weight will make the bow ride high and the stern sit too low in the water.

Although a vessel that is stern-heavy is difficult to steer, it can be easier to manage than a bow-heavy boat.

Since the stern is too deep in and is tracking too well, it will prevent you from making tight turns. The kayak will also want to turn downwind since the bow is cutting water too easily.

Correcting the Weight Distribution in a Kayak

Simply shifting your cargo forward or backward can help you take control of your kayak. If your seating is the problem, simply adjusting it fore and aft can resolve the issue of weight distribution.

The next thing you need to add some load to a compartment of your kayak. Experts recommend keeping the kayak as light as possible and correctly position the weight when taking it out into the water.

If your boat is bow-heavy, place some weight near the stern so that your kayak evens out in water. If your boat is stern-heavy, place some weight near the bow.

By positioning the weight correctly, you can actually minimize the amount of weight needed.

Using safety gear, like a kayak repair kit, a first aid kit, dry clothing in a waterproof bag, food, and a water bottle are good options that can also add weight to your boat.

Regardless of whether your boat needs a weight adjustment, this gear should always be in your kayak.

Another way to add weight to your boat is with water. Water weight is recommended since it is dense and does not require a lot of space. Additionally, it will remain buoyant even when submerged.

How to Maintain Balance at a Higher Speed?

Maintaining a balance in a kayak going at high speed usually involves the kayaker.

Pro kayakers or racer, when choosing a kayak, place stability of the craft as last in their list of priorities, because they know that when you are going on high speed or making tight turns, it is actually the stability of the paddler that matters, rather than boat.

So, kayaker beginners should know that when they see a fast kayak going by, the paddler is working very hard on his bracing skills to keep his boat upright in the water. In fact, speed can actually help stabilize your boat more.

Another thing to keep in mind when your boat capsizes and you are cursing the manufacturer is that if you have bought the kayak from a good-quality manufacturer, it is already stabilized.

Only the flimsiest kayaks are not stable. So buy a good quality vessel and maintain your balance while on it.

Balancing Your Kayak

A kayak is a narrow vessel and it is designed so that you can easily move in the water. But it also means you need to keep it balanced. Here’s what you need to do for that:

Keep your body upright by using your core muscles and keeping your lower back and stomach to relax.

The water current will move the kayak on it own so let it move freely. Don’t jerk your vessel one way or the other.

If you feel like your kayak is tipping dangerously, slap the water surface sharply with your paddle blade.

This can give you a second to recover your balance. Keep your eyes on the horizon to get your bearings.

Do not look at the bow of the boat. If your boat is tipping, don’t panic and grab on to it. This may make your kayak roll right over.

Bottom Line

Kayaking is a fun hobby and kayaking beginners can easily learn if they pay attention to a few tips and tricks.

Hopefully, this guide will provide you with the few basic and necessary steps to get your boat out into the water.

Remember that kayaking is all about improving your physical fitness and exploring the waters.

If you follow the rules, you will definitely have an excellent kayaking experience.

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