Kayaking-Basic Paddling Techniques

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 30,321
    L.L.Bean kayaking expert and registered Maine Sea Kayak Guide Kevin Hinds goes over basic paddling techniques for kayaking.

    Kevin Hinds: I am Kevin Hinds, a Maine registered sea kayak guide with LL Bean's Outdoor Discovery School. I want to talk today about getting into your recreational kayak. I am going to show you a few simple steps to make that nice and easy. First step is the boat floats; put the boat parallel to the shore line so that the hull is out in the water. Next step, hands are in command. One hand is going to hang on to the cockpit combing and also to the shaft of the paddle. The other hand will be out here, pushing the back face of the paddle down to the shore. Alright, and the third step is you're going to lean it like you mean it. Alright, now we are ready to get going; I'll show you some strokes. Alright, now that we are on the water, we are going to talk about a couple of things. One of the things is first of all the length of the paddle. The length of the paddle that you get is dependent more on the width of the kayak. So since we are in a recreational kayak, it's probably about 26-32 inches wide. If you want a longer paddle, this is a 230 centimeter paddle so that I can easily get from side to side. I figure out how to hold on to the paddle, I find the center seam of the paddle; these are actually take apart which is convenient when you travel. I find that center seam, carefully put it on top of my head, workout my arms until I can make just about right angles with my arms. I then bring the paddle down in front of me. That's about the width of the grip. Then I just make sure that my upper set of knuckles or last set of knuckles is lined up with the top edge of the blade and for the tightness of the grip, it's a light grip; first finger on each hand, lightly grips the paddle, the rest just rest on the shaft.

    Now, when you kayak, you want to make sure to use torso rotation when you're paddling. What I mean by that is I form what I call a paddler's box; my elbows are down and relaxed by my sides, and I keep the shaft of the paddle a little bit away from my body. I picture I have a beach ball from my chest to the shaft of the paddle. So this is about as far I can hold the paddle in. Then when I rotate, this is called the torso rotation, using my body instead of just my arms when I paddle.

    Alright, it's time to learn some basic strokes. The forward stroke; three parts I think about. First off, first thing is the shaft angle is 45 degrees off the surface of the water. Dipping at the toe, unwind to the hip for a super-short stroke using good torso rotation. The next stroke I am going to teach you guys is a forward and a reverse sweep; it's to turn the kayak, because I don't always go straight. So let's break down the parts of the forward sweep stroke. We are going to use the power face of our paddle and keep a low shaft angle, almost parallel to the surface of the water, dipping at our toe, unwind our torso, carving a shallow smiley face all the way to the back edge of the boat and we cover the blade. For the reverse sweep, we're going to use the back face of the paddle; I am going to torso rotate towards the stern of the kayak, dip the back face flat next to the kayak, unwind my torso, keeping a low shaft angle, and probably a big smiling face on the surface of the water all the way to the front of the boat.

    Next, I am going to teach you the reverse stroke, sometimes you need to back out of an area. So, the piece of the reverse stroke are this; first you torso rotate towards the stern, look over your shoulder to see where you're going each time. Dip the back face of the paddle, just pass the hip, and unwind to the knee with the climbing blade in shaft angle for a short stroke. What I mean by blade in shaft angle? It starts out flat, for a little bit of support out here, but it ends up at your knee vertical. So what that's going to look like is this. It's also important to know how to stop a kayak. When we're going forward to stop a kayak, we'll use the back face of the paddle, dipping the paddle back and forth on each side a little bit at a time; no emergency breaks when we are out here. Let me show you what that looks like. Just like that. So now that we've learned a few of the basic strokes, let's teach you how to get back out of a kayak.

    Now that we've had chance to kayak, we're now going to talk about how to properly get out of a kayak. If you have a nice gradual sandy beach, you can actually run the kayak right up on to it but if it's not so gradual or a little bit rocky, you may want to be able to reverse the steps that we did to get in. So if you bring the kayak parallel to the shoreline right along the edge, with the boat still floating, you can use your paddle again as an outrigger, our hands are going to be in command, one on to the boat, one on to the paddle, pushing the back face down towards the shallow side and then lean it like we mean it.

    Alright, now you have the basics to safely get in and out of your kayak and some strikes to move it around. So now let's go have some fun.