Recreational kayaking: How do I stop?

kayak stop
File photo credit: wikimedia commons


by Hevina Kaur

Kayaking may look intimidating for beginners but it is actually so much fun! However, I’m not going to sugar coat things and say it is a very easy sport to master. One of the things I've always believed in is that the thrill lies in the challenge! What’s the point in doing something that doesn’t test you at all?

One of my biggest questions when I first started Kayaking was “How do you stop this thing?” Kayaks do not have brakes and it isn't like one can simply stop paddling and expect it to stop. In order to save you from the confusion I've experienced, here is a fool-proof guide to stopping your kayak!

Stopping your Kayak

The easiest way to stop your kayak is simply to do the forward stroke (GC 238) in reverse. This is called the Reverse Paddle Stroke. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Your kayak is moving forward and if you counter it with a backward stroke, you would counter the forward motion, allowing your kayak to come to a standstill. Seems simple enough, right? Not quite.

Before I give you a step by step run-down, take a minute to study the different parts of the kayak!

5 Steps to Stopping your Kayak

1. Look Behind

First things first, before you perform the backward stroke you need to make sure there’s nothing blocking your path, you really don’t want to injure anyone either. So turn around and check the stern to make sure there’s nothing there. 

2. Use the right angle 

Stick the back side of the paddle into the water. You want to make sure its near the cockpit and there needs to be a high angle, about 75 degrees from the kayak. If the angle is too low, your kayak will turn instead of just stop.

3. Grip the paddle tight 

There is going to be plenty of resistance against your paddle as your kayak slows to a stop. You don’t want to risk losing your paddle out at sea because that will guarantee even more trouble and possible danger.

4. Turn your body

You will have to turn your body toward your paddle and use this power to push your paddle forward and down towards the bow of your kayak. Try to maintain a firm grip on your paddle because you don't want to end up having your paddle just splash about in the water. 

5. Bring the paddle back

Bring your paddle back to where your hip is. Don’t bring it out any further than that because once again, your kayak will start to turn.

And that’s it! If you follow these 5 steps correctly, you should not have any issues stopping your kayak. Now just wait for that hippo or crocodile or snake to cross in front of you and you can be on your way again. Just kidding! 

Remember though, your safety and the safety of those around you are of utmost importance so make sure you practice this where it is safe in shallow water before you plunge into bigger and better adventures. Now, lets look at how to perform a proper turn in kayaking

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