How to Paddle a Kayak: Basic Strokes

Discover the joy of kayaking! Learn how to paddle a kayak with our easy guide. Master the art of kayaking for fun adventures. Kayaking is a fun way to see nature and have adventures. You can kayak in calm water, like a bay or a lake, or in fast water, like a Best river or the sea. But to kayak, you need to know how to move your kayak with a paddle.

How to Paddle a Kayak

That’s what we at Kokopelli want to teach you! We make some of the best and coolest kayaks ever. If you want to buy a new kayak, check out our collection at Kokopelli today!

The best thing about kayaking in flat water is that you can go anywhere you want. But to do that, you need to control your kayak well. By learning some moves with your paddle, you can go faster and turn easier. We’ll show you the basic moves to paddle your kayak:

How to Paddle a Kayak the Right Way The forward move to go ahead The reverse move to slow down or go back The sweep move to turn The draw move to go sideways If your kayak has a thing that helps you steer, don’t use it when you practice. You want to learn How to Paddle a Kayak to go straight and turn with just your paddle.


Learning to paddle like a pro is easier than you think! Just follow these key tips:

  1. Twist that torso! Your power comes from rotating your body, not just your arms.
  2. Start easy. Pick a calm lake or pond with no waves or currents while learning.
  3. Know what to do if you tip. Check online for capsizing tips before you head out.
  4. Sit tall in the seat towards the back for best balance. Bend your knees slightly for comfort.
  5. Grip the paddle shoulder-width apart and relax your wrists. This gives maximum control.
  6. Take long, smooth forward strokes near the boat to move ahead steadily.
  7. Practice reverse and sweep strokes to steer and stop.
  8. Have patience! It takes time to get the hang of it and feel comfortable.

Start in easy waters and focus on form. With a little practice, you’ll be paddling like a pro in no time! Now grab a paddle and let the adventure begin!


After you get in your kayak, the next thing is to learn how to move it with a paddle. Mark Armstrong tells you how to do this in his post for Kayak Guru called “How To Paddle A Kayak – Strokes & Techniques Explained”. We will tell you the main points here. We will also tell you that not all paddles are the same, so you need to pick the right one for you.


Make Sure Your Paddle Is The Right Way (The Curved Part Should Face Behind You) Hold The Paddle Over Your Head (Your Arms Should Be Bent A Little) Keep Your Paddle Balanced Put Your Knuckles On Top Don’t Hold Your Paddle Too Tight (Use Your Fingers And Thumbs Mostly) When you want to paddle, this is what you do:

Turn your body to one side (your left or right side should face forward). Put the paddle in the water on the other side of the side that’s forward – it should be near your foot Use your stomach muscles to move yourself past the paddle Move your top hand forward and your other hand (the one in the water) back Take the paddle out of the water and do the same thing on the other side (after a while, this will feel smooth and easy). You can also think of this as three steps: “Catch, push, and exit”.

How to Sit in a Kayak

Keep your back straight and avoid slouching or leaning back. Imagine a line from your belly button to the top of your head.

Bend your knees slightly and place your feet on the footpegs. Spread your legs in a V-shape.

Push your thighs against the sides of a sit-in kayak. Use the thigh braces to control the kayak. Good posture means better balance and less strain. You’ll paddle faster and further!

If you get tired, fight the urge to lean back. Instead, lean forward and hold the front deck.

Train your core muscles at home for endurance. And get a seat with back support for long trips. With the right posture, you’ll be able to paddle all day in comfort! Just sit up tall and keep your back straight. Kayaking should feel easy on your body.

How to Hold a Kayak Paddle

Grabbing the paddle the right way is super important for comfy and injury-free kayaking. Small changes in How to Paddle a Kayak you hold can make paddling way easier. Oh, and remember to choose a paddle that matches your height and your kayak’s width.

1. Get to Know Your Paddle

Before you start kayaking, look at your paddle. There are three things to notice about your paddle: how the blades are shaped, how they are bent, and How to Paddle a Kayak when they are lined up.

Most paddles have blades that are not the same on both sides. One side is shorter than the other. This makes it easier to go straight. Also, paddle blades can be curved or flat. Most paddles have curved blades, which help you push the water better. But some paddles have more or less curves than others.

Finally, are the blades in the same direction or not? If they are, your paddle is unfeathered. If they are not, your paddle is feathered. This means you have to twist the paddle for each stroke. When you use a feathered paddle, one blade goes into the water straight, and the other goes through the air sideways.

2. Position Your Arms and Hands Correctly

To hold the paddle right, first find the middle of the paddle and put it on your head. Then, move your hands until your arms make a right angle.

Keep your hands there and bring the paddle down in front of you. Look at the shape of your body and the paddle. This is your ‘paddler’s box.’ You should keep this shape when you kayak. If you forget or stop, do it again.

3. Adjust Your Grip

Easy on the death grip! Many beginners squeeze their paddle tight like it’s a lifeline. But resist the urge to strangle your paddle shaft.

Gripping too tight tires your hands and leads to blisters. Ouch! Instead, try this:

Make an OK sign with your hand. Then rest just your index finger and thumb lightly on the shaft. Let your other fingers hover above.

Once that feels natural, you can gently place your other fingers on too. But go back to the OK grip whenever you catch yourself squeezing too tight. Relaxed hands are happy hands! A loose but secure hold preserves your paddling power and saves your skin. Then you can explore for hours blister-free.

4. Orient Your Paddle Blades

Short Side Down, Long Side Up Make sure the shorter blade edges face the water below, while the longer topside edges point to the sky. This allows the curved underside to grab the water best.

Align Your Knuckles Line up your knuckles with the tops of the paddle blades. This keeps your grip and wrist position comfortable. For feathered paddles, just align one hand’s knuckles to the matching blade.

Rotate as You Paddle If using a feathered paddle, rotate the shaft with your knuckle-aligned hand as you switch paddle sides. This keeps the blades properly oriented in the water.

Curved Side In The concave part of each blade always faces toward you. This curved shape catches the water to propel you forward.

Set up your paddle position right, and you’ll be kayaking with ease in no time! Proper paddle prep prevents problems later on.

How to Paddle a Kayak Properly

Kayak Strokes & Paddling Technique

This is the first point of How to Paddle a Kayak that Starts slow. Focus on good form, not speed. You’ll wobble at first – that’s normal! Proper strokes and posture come before covering distance. Listen to your body too. Sore arms or a sore back? Take a break and adjust your position. Paddling shouldn’t hurt!

Break down each stroke into 3 steps:

  1. Wind-up phase – rotate your torso and lift the paddle out of the water.
  2. Power phase – rotate back and push the paddle blade through the water.
  3. Release phase – extract the paddle blade smoothly.

Say each step aloud at first to get the motions down.

Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is the most important one for kayaking. It helps you go faster and farther. But you need to do it right. Don’t just use your arms. Use your whole body. Your legs and core are stronger than your arms. If your legs are sore after kayaking, that’s good.

To do a forward stroke:

Look where you want to go, not at your paddle. You don’t look at the wheel when you drive or the bars when you bike. If you look at your paddle, you will go off track.

Turn your body so you can put one paddle blade near your feet and the kayak. Your top arm should be bent and your bottom arm straight. Don’t make your elbow stiff. Push your foot on the same side as the paddle.

Pull the water. Keep your bottom arm straight and your foot pushing. Turn your body and push a little with your top hand. The paddle blade should go to your hip.

Stop the stroke when the blade is at your hip. Take the paddle out of the water. Your body should be ready to do the same thing on the other side. Don’t worry if it sounds hard. The main thing is to turn your body, not just your shoulders, and keep the shape of your body and the paddle.

Reverse Stroke

The reverse stroke lets you paddle backward. Use it to turn around or give way in tight spots.

To reverse stroke:

  1. Look behind before starting. Don’t crash into anything!
  2. Wind up by placing the paddle at your hip, close to the kayak. Push your foot against the footpeg.
  3. Power the stroke by unwinding your torso so your lower arm moves from hip to feet. Lightly pull the paddle shaft with your upper arm.
  4. Release when the paddle reaches your feet.

You’ll likely lean back at first. Stay upright and keep strokes short. Stare at something still ahead to keep straight. Going backward takes practice! Be patient with yourself as you get the hang of it.

Sweep Stroke

It is the second last point of How to Paddle a Kayak. The sweep stroke is good for turning your kayak. It is better than just paddling on one side.

To do a sweep stroke:

  • Look where you want to go. Turn your body and push your foot on the same side as the paddle, like you are going forward.
  • Pull the water. Keep the paddle in the water and turn your body more, making a big curve with the paddle. Your kayak will turn too.
  • Stop when the paddle is at your hip. Take it out of the water. Do it again on the same side to keep turning or go forward.
  • You need to pull harder and make the curve bigger for this stroke. You can also bend forward and start the stroke near your feet.
  • With a sweep stroke, the kayak will turn from the front. If you want to turn from the back, do the same thing but start from your hip, like you are going backward.

Draw Stroke

This is the last point of How to Paddle a Kayak. The draw stroke moves you sideways without turning the kayak. Use it to get closer to things like docks or other boats.

In How to Paddle a Kayak it is the last point. To do a draw stroke:

  1. Look and turn towards where you want to move.
  2. Put the paddle blade in the water about 2 feet out, curved side facing you.
  3. Slowly pull the blade towards your hip using your lower hand. The upper hand stays loose at eye level.
  4. When the blade is 6 inches from the kayak, rotate it 90 degrees to slide it back out.

Repeat steps 1-3 to keep moving sideways.

Don’t draw stroke while moving – you’ll tip! Come to a complete stop first.

If the blade hits the kayak, let go with your upper hand. Trying to pull it out will make you wet!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *