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How to use a kayak paddle

Kayak Paddling

MASTER YOUR KAYAKING TECHNIQUE (3): PADDLING

by Hevina Kaur

Holding a kayak paddle the right way is perhaps the most basic skill that requires mastering before one can pick up the sport. There were many different parts to a kayak paddle and how you hold one could mean sink or swim when you’re out in the open seas. 

That’s why it’s of absolute importance that you learn the proper technique to holding a kayak paddle before you get into your kayak. Here are 5 easy steps that show you the right technique to use when kayaking.

1. Know the different parts of the kayak paddle

This way when your instructor gives you pieces of information while you’re out kayaking you’re not going to think he’s speaking in a made up language. Here’s a diagram to help clear any confusion.

2. Learn how to hold the paddle correctly

Depending on which side of the paddle you’re using, you could be pulling far less water than you should be. Make sure the part of the blade that is concave and smooth, also known as the power face, is the part of the paddle that is facing you.

A quick way of finding out how far to apart to have your hands is to raise your paddle up in a “I Surrender” position. If done correctly, your elbows should each make a 90 degree right-angle. In fact, you may notice waterproof duct tape around some paddle shafts, and this marks the points you're supposed to hold!

3. Learn the proper grip for your paddle

This part is a bit tricky. Ever notice how the 2 blades are slightly asymmetrical and turned to different degrees? The best way to describe this is if you lay the paddle on the ground, one blade would be flat on the ground but the other would be facing up. Because of this you need to find a proper grip, called the control grip. 

Your dominant hand will be the one controlling it so when you take a stroke, you need to reposition the looser hand such that when you turn to take another stroke, the blade hits the water correctly. It all sounds a bit confusing now, which is why practice is really important.

4. Learn the correct motion – Push and Pull

To move forward, you have to dip your paddle blade into the water with your lower hand, and pull back the paddle shaft. But at the same time, your upper hand should be pushing forward, exerting leverage on the shaft. It essentially makes your lower hand become the pivot point, generating even greater power. Be sure to use the help of your rotating torso and not just your arm strength for the push and pull.

Kayakers refer to this technique as the "push-pull", and mastering it will allow you to paddle faster, for a longer duration and with less fatigue.

5. Relax your grip

Hold the shaft of the paddle just a bit more than shoulder width apart. But bear in mind not to grip the paddle too tight! One easy way to tell is if your knuckles go white, in that situation, you’re definitely holding on too tight. You want to make sure you don’t loose grip on your paddle, but you still want to have blood circulation to your hands!

There you have it, now you the correct way of holding on and using a kayak paddle, one of the first things you should master. You can now look at kayaking moves such as how to turn and how to stop while kayaking.

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