How to Hold a Kayak Paddle Correctly

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If you’re new to kayaking or want to learn more about this thrilling sport, you’ll want to learn about good kayak paddling techniques. After all, the paddling skills you know will allow you to manage your kayak, and you won’t be able to accomplish what you want or go where you want if you don’t have adequate control. 
Before you start, we recommend you to go through the Kayaking Checklist of what are the recommended items to bring on your trip.

We’ll go over the basics of How to Hold a Kayak Paddle Correctly in this beginner’s guide so you can paddle for longer and not ache as much the next day.

Table of Contents

The Correct Way To Sit On A Kayak

Paddling becomes easier, and movement becomes more effective when you have proper kayaking posture. You’ll be able to go quicker and further with much less effort as well as less danger of injury when you get your sitting position perfect.

To maintain proper kayaking posture, you must sit upright in your kayak seat. Your legs should be moderately apart in a V-shape, with your knees slightly bent and each foot resting on a footpeg. In a sit-in kayak, your thighs must be propped up against the kayak’s sides. When paddling, you may utilize your kayak’s thigh braces to pull against the kayak and control it.

Falling backwards in the kayak seat as you would on a sofa at home is a typical error. Leaning back when kayaking can cause lower back pain and throw off your balance, especially when making quick turns.

As you become fatigued, you may notice that you lean back in your seat reflexively. That’s a good indication that you should take a break. If you can’t get out of your kayak, try leaning forward rather than backward. While resting your back, you can grab the front of the cockpit or the deck lines. [ Read here for Safety Tips For Kayaking ]

Kayak Paddle Types

Just like reviewing different types of kayaks, it’s important to highlight that there are many different varieties of kayak paddles before we get into how to hold your paddle. Paddles for kayaks feature blades on both sides of a central shaft. 

Some novice or rental paddles are symmetrical and flat, but most paddles have cupped blades. Many paddles are made up of two pieces, although some are made entirely of one piece. Aluminum, plastic, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a mix of materials can be used to make paddles. 

The greatest kayak paddles are, in general, the lightest ones you can purchase. The single best purchase you can make to help your kayaking excursions is a quality, lightweight paddle.
We previously reviewed kayak paddles. Discover the best kayak paddles to boost your paddling experience.


Sizing of Paddles

Choosing the correct paddle and correctly using it is the first step to having fun on the water, regardless of what style of paddling you do. The proper kayak paddle size for you is determined by two variables. 

To begin, you must obtain a paddle suitable for your size. Taller people require a longer paddle due to the increased space between their shoulders and elbows. Ensure your paddle is broad enough to clear the edges of your kayak without requiring you to bend your waist awkwardly. Paddle shafts in kayaks are measured in millimeters.

The majority of kayak paddle manufacturers give an exact size chart. Make sure you verify it thoroughly to ensure you receive the appropriate one. It’ll most likely be determined by your height or torso length.

Paddle shafts are also available in various diameters. This is especially useful for persons with tiny hands since holding a normal width shaft for long periods of time can be exhausting.

Get more tips


Step 1 – Make Sure You’re Holding The Paddle Correctly

Check that you’re holding the paddle in the proper position. Examine the paddle you’re using. The majority of paddles include two characteristics that indicate how to grip them. To begin with, the blades are most commonly asymmetrical, with long and short edges. This design enables you to generate greater force throughout your stroke. Make sure the long edge is facing upward.

Paddle blades are frequently cupped as well. The paddle blade is cupped to generate greater force, similar to how you cup your hands to seek a better bite in the water while swimming. You must also point the cups toward the water you’re pushing on, exactly like a swimmer. The cups in this example are pointing towards the back of the boat.

There are paddle blades that are fully smooth and symmetrical, of course. Don’t worry if that’s the case. It’s unlikely to make a difference whatever way you hold it.

For easier paddling, you may want to consider checking out:

[ Our detailed guide on : Tides to plan your kayaking trips for easier paddling ]
[ Our detailed guide on : Ocean Currents, so you know when is the best time to paddle out ]
[ Our detailed guide on : Rapids Category, so you are alert on the river conditions ]

Step 2 – How to Grip the Paddle and Where to Put It

The most important thing to remember while holding a kayak paddle is that it should be comfortable. You’re likely not as comfortable as you should be if your arms are extended out at an odd angle or you’re white-knuckling the paddle with all your strength.

Begin by hanging your arms at your sides and bending your elbows up. Grip the paddle with your hands a little wider than your shoulders, or around the same distance apart as your elbows. You may need to position your hands a little more apart if you have a broader boat. Then ensure you’re holding the paddle about centered in your hands, with both blades around the same distance apart from your hands.

Also, ensure you don’t have a strong grasp on the paddle. When you drag yourself through the water, the strength should come from your body and waist. The fewer arm movements you make, the better. Your arm should be extended when using the paddle. The weight is evenly distributed between your two hands, so moving it shouldn’t be difficult.

All of these suggestions are meant to help you feel less tired. You’ll probably start with shorter paddling adventures. You’ll find small things that will aid you as you gain expertise and grow more confident. We have also compiled some safety tips that you can go through before you embark on your kayaking adventure.

Step 3 – Making Use of a Feathered Paddle

If your paddle falls apart and can be reassembled as a matching paddle with the blades parallel, that’s where you’ll start. It’s easy to shift to utilizing a feathery paddle once you’ve mastered the basics.

The primary concept behind utilizing a feathered paddle is that one hand remains stationary whereas the other moves. What exactly is the benefit of feathering the blades? It’s mostly utilized by racers and professional paddlers who seek to lessen the aerodynamic drag of the upper blade. The variation in wind resistance between recreational and touring kayakers is typically insignificant.

However, some people like the feel and handle of a feathered paddle; move to a feathered paddle after you’ve learned the basics with a matched paddle and see how you like it. It may take a few minutes to smooth up your stroke, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it feels quite natural and balanced.

What’s Next

You’re ready to handle the water now that you’ve learned a bit more about kayak paddles and how to grip them. Don’t be overwhelmed by the various paddle types and strokes—the important thing is to get out on the lake and try it out. 

You don’t have to be a pro to move the boat, but gripping the paddle correctly provides the framework for a lifetime of enjoyable outings on the lake.

Picture of Jules and Ken

Jules and Ken

We are outdoor lovers, travellers, and writers all rolled into one. You have seen our posts here reviewing lots of different types of outdoor gear, camping equipment, RV equipment, kayaking, to cycling. Our reviews are guided by our years of experience being outdoors. We are happy to share our knowledge with you to make a better choice when you are outdoors.

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