Types of Kayaking Strokes
There are many different kayaking strokes but if you are just starting out there are basically three main strokes that you want to be concerned with… the forward paddle, the reverse paddle and turning the kayak.
The Forward Paddle (front to back)
This paddle will definitely be your most commonly used stroke. Start by sitting up straight and prop your feet right up against the foot rests in your kayak. This will help you to have a more powerful stroke. Place the paddle in the water close to the kayak right around where your feet are and then make the stroke deep. Pull back towards you with a relaxed grip and watch as you glide smoothly through the water. You will use this forward paddle stroke in all different types of kayaking and it will get you to where you want to go.
The Reverse Paddle (back to front)
This stroke won’t be used as often but it is just as critical to know. For this paddle you will need to use the back of the paddle blade. Place the paddle in the water right around where your hips are. Then push the paddle toward the front of your kayak while turning your torso. To achieve a more powerful stroke you can reach further behind your hips when you place the paddle in the water. Remember to keep your elbows bent in order to avoid injury and pull the blade out of the water when it is even with your knees. Also remember to check over your shoulder to make sure that nothing is in your way behind the kayak.
Turning your Kayak
Of course everyone who kayaks needs to know how to turn the kayak properly. If you are unable to turn your kayak you may end up causing some unnecessary and embarrassing crashes. The best way to turn your kayak is to do a deep reverse stroke (back to front) on the side of the direction you want to turn. Most people tend to do the opposite and use a forward paddle on the opposite side of the direction they want to turn but this will not be nearly as effective.
Learning these three strokes will get you just about anyplace you need to go. If you are tandem kayaking you can do these strokes together in order to achieve more power and faster speeds. Remember that the power behind your kayak will always come from your torso… not your arms or your shoulders. Focus on using your core muscles when you perform these strokes for optimum performance.