Get started in Kayaking - Basic forward Stroke

The sport of kayaking utilizes many skills including balance, core strength and coordination. Kayaking is an activity performed on any body of water including fast- and slow-moving rivers, oceans and lakes. Regardless of the water’s surface, paddle strokes and the technique used by kayakers to become faster and more efficient, are the same.

You should firstly sit upright in the kayak with the balls of your feet pressed against the foot pegs, or braces. The knees should be bent with your thighs/ knees pressed against the thigh braces for a cockpit-style kayak.  Sitting correctly allows mobility in the upper torso, decreases risk of injury in the shoulder and increases your points of contact with the kayak. It also increases stability in the boat, and allows you to manoever your craft more easily.

Once you have achieved your desired sitting position, you will endeavour to move the boat forward using the paddle. In order you get an efficient forward stroke you must place the paddle blades in the water on either side of the boat - placing the catch of the blade in at the feet, and out around the hip area. Afficianados of paddling and efficiency will tell you that you also need to engage your core. Efficient and effective paddling comes when a kayaker relies on core power rather than arm strength to propel the boat forward. The muscles that comprise the torso are stronger than the arm muscles, or biceps and triceps, and are less likely to fatigue.

As you place the paddle in the water, you also push against the foot pegs with the balls of your feet as you paddle. Pushing with your legs provides the torque necessary for effective core engagement.

During a paddle stroke, your upper hand will move forward at about nose to chin height, and the opposite hand will pull the opposite blade from the front of the kayak towards the hip. At the hip, pull the paddle from the water, extend the paddle forward and get ready to plant it in the water again. Keeping the paddle in the water too long only creates drag and actually slows your paddling pace.

In addition, it is more efficient to have a high paddle angle. Holding the paddle at a high angle, or more vertical to the water, allows the blade of the paddle to move through the water closer to the boat. Paddle strokes closer to the hull of the boat allow you to exert more forward power with less turning. Tracking the boat in a straight line will increase your paddling speed.

Click here for a basic starter video ( recorded by one of our Club beginners)

See also Ian Lawler technique masterclass