Kayak Paddling Techniques : 6 Ways To Paddle Out on the Water


New adventures are the most exciting part of life, especially adventures in the wild outdoors. These new adventures, however, should not be undertaken without preparation. By arming yourself with as many nuggets of information possible, you will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable journey.

This logic applies to a new kayaking adventure. If you are readily equipped with your new kayak, you are likely getting ready to set out on the open waters. Whether you are a novice or have a few more kayaking trips under your belt, there are tons of kayak paddling techniques that will help you out on the water. Here are just a few to make sure you get the most out of your aquatic experience!

Kayak Paddling Techniques

Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is one of the most commonly used and important kayak paddling techniques. It is the stroke that sends you on a straight, forward path through the water.

Turn your torso and plunge one of the blades into the water. The blade should enter the water near the tip of your toes. Next, straighten your torso. Use this motion to drag the blade up to your hip. Repeat this motion on the other side of your kayak.

While doing this, make sure your hands do not drop when plunging the blade into the water. The alternating hands should stay on the same level, passing in front of your nose each time.

By repeating these steps and focusing on these few technical tips, your kayak will propel forward in the water with ease!

Reverse Stroke

The reverse stroke, as you may have expected, sends the kayak backward. If you found making the kayak move forward to be easy work, then you are in luck! The reverse stroke is practically the same thing except reversed!

Begin by turning your torso again, but, this time, the blade of the paddle should be put into the water closer to your hip. When you straighten your torso, drag the blade towards the tips of your toes. Alternate from side to side, keeping your shoulders square during the stroke.

Your feet and your core will help you move the boat in the direction you want it to go even though you are going backwards! Make sure that the stroke runs straight along the side of the kayak. This will help to ensure that you go in a straight line backwards.

Sweep Stroke

There is more to kayaking paddling techniques than gracefully moving forward and back through the water. Well, there is more to moving forward and back if you can master the art of the sweep stroke. The sweep stroke allows you to turn your kayak in the water. It will turn the tip of the boat thereby allowing you to change trajectories.

To begin this stroke, face your torso and hold the paddle horizontally towards one side. Put the paddle in the water on the opposite side of the boat without rotating your torso. As you drag the paddle vertically along the side of your boat, allow the water to twist your torso to the side the paddle is drifting in the water. This stroke will help to reorient your kayak to go down a different straight path.


Kayaks can move in almost every possible direction. While it may not seem likely given the obviously pointed shape of a kayak, it is actually possible to move a kayak sideways with one of the horizontal sides of the boat leading the way. You can move the kayak this way through a stroke called sculling.

Sculling begins by turning your torso towards the direction that you want to the kayak to move. Plunge the blade into the water in front of your torso. Move the paddle back and forth parallel to the edge of the boat.

After moving the paddle this way for a while, begin to move the paddle forward and back. This second motion will start pulling your kayak sideways in this direction.


In any athletic, adventurous mission you undertake, it is important to know how to catch yourself when you fall. The kayaking version of this is called bracing. High bracing and low bracing are the two types of movements designed to help you avoid capsizing.

High bracing is used when the situation is dire. Lean your body towards the direction that the kayak is trying to capsize. Keep your paddle above the water until your body hits the surface of the water. Then bring the paddle down, and drag it under the water, thereby pushing you upright.

A low brace is used to save yourself from more mild moments when you are off-balance. Again, lean to the side that you feel the kayak beginning to lean towards. Plunge your paddle on that side into the water and drag the blade towards the boat. This should propel you upright again.


Even if you practice bracing until you are blue in the face, sometimes you cannot catch yourself. The water and the weather can both be unpredictable. Sometimes you will not be able to get your bearings about you that quickly and your kayak will capsize. Do not fear! It is okay if your kayak capsizes just so long as you understand how to roll.

If you are in a capsized kayak position, bring your arms and paddle up horizontally just above the edge of the kayak. Turn the paddle down vertically, plunging one blade into the water. Continue to drag the blade through the water in this same direction. With the pressure that is created by this movement, you will be able to successfully turn the boat right side up and continue on your voyage.

Paddling Techniques Conclusion

Kayaking is one of the most widely enjoyed water sports in the world. Whether it be the beginning of a new adventure or just a weekend activity, kayaking provides something fun for everyone. If you are able to master the various different kayak paddling techniques, the activity will be all the more fun and successful for you!

See our homepage for a list of great kayaks to buy.