Paddling Technique.

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Paddling Technique.

Post by Pearly » Fri Dec 25, 2009 5:14 pm

The following is taken from an article by "Inshore Fan" on

Paddling Pointers

Make The Most Of Your Stroke

The kayak-fishing craze is steadily gaining momentum throughout the country. With each passing week hundreds of new recruits enlist into the ever-growing ranks of the 'plastic navy'. A big reason that the sport of kayak-fishing is growing at such a rapid rate is the fact that it's simple and affordable. Just a few hundred bucks can get you on the water with everything you need, and a grand can have you paddling in style with top-of-the-line equipment.

There's no expensive insurance policy, no gas to buy, no fancy outboard motor or electrical equipment that needs constant maintenance - no worries.

But buyer beware. The relative simplicity of kayak-fishing can be deceiving. Many newcomers to the sport get their yak on the water only to realize the experience isn't nearly as enjoyable as they thought it'd be. Remorseful customers return to their local paddle shops with reports of back pain, neck pain, arm pain and pain in muscles they never even knew they had.

According to Scott Null, a kayak-fishing veteran and co-author of Kayak Fishing: The Ultimate guide, one of the biggest reasons many would-be kayak anglers give up the sport is because of pain, discomfort and fatigue they experience due to poor paddling technique.

Here's Null's head-to-toe rundown of how to reduce the stress on your body and make the most of your stroke.

Heads Up

Like most any activity that requires balance and coordination, a well-executed paddle stroke starts with your head.
"It seems really obvious, but you always want to have your head up and your eyes forward," Null said. "Most people start out paddling that way, but I've noticed as people start to get tired, they'll drop their head down. I've also seen when people try to paddle really hard, they'll put their head down, grit their teeth and try to dig in.

"Your head is key for maintaining your balance, and balance is a huge part of paddling a kayak. Pay attention to what your head is doing as you paddle and you may be surprised. When you're on a long paddle

it's easy to start daydreaming and you start looking down or your posture gets sloppy. Try to stay focused
and keep that head up."

Shoulders, Arms and Waist

The shoulders and arms are the two primary areas that Null identified as being most problematic in new paddlers. Contrary to how it may look, the arms play only a small role in generating power on the forward stroke. "Most people think paddling is an activity that involves pulling with your arms, but that's not it at all," he said.

"There's absolutely zero arm-pulling on a properly executed stroke. When you just glance at someone paddling, it looks like they're using their arms. But if you look closely at a well-trained paddler, you'll notice the arms don't have much to do with it."

Instead of bending at the elbows and pulling the paddle towards you, he said to pivot at the waste and rotate your shoulders to generate the back-and-forth motion of the stroke.

"The best way to think about it is to envision that you're trying to scoot your kayak across wet cement," he said. "You're not pulling water with the paddle, instead, you're inserting the paddle in the water and bringing your kayak forward to that point. That's not achieved with the arms. It's done with the waist and shoulders."

He noted that the arms should never bend beyond the 90-degree mark, neither inward nor outward. A good way to do that is to envision you're cradling a beach ball between both arms.

"Try to paddle without squishing or dropping the beach ball. The only way to do that is to keep your elbows and wrists locked. If you're extending one arm and reaching way out in front of you, the beach ball is going to fall out.

"The basic idea is to restrict movement in your arms while rotating freely at the waist and shoulders," he added. "I'm not saying to keep your arms tensed up. Staying relaxed in all your muscles is very important. But stay focused on using your waist and shoulders to move the paddle, not your arms. "It's easy to just reach out there with your arms and grab water.

That's usually what comes naturally to most people, but that's certainly not the most efficient way to do it. Your arms will wear out quickly. But if you use the big muscle groups - your abs, your shoulders and your back - you can paddle all day with less fatigue."

On the issue of fatigue, he said it's important not to lift the off hand too high during the stroke. A common mistake is for paddlers to lift their off hand high over their head and dig in with their other hand. He said the off hand should never go higher than the chin during a proper stroke.

Another important mental note is to not think of the paddling movement as single strokes on each side of the kayak, but rather one complete fluid motion, with each stroke leading into the next.

Legs and Posture

Another common misconception about paddling is that it's an activity performed strictly by the muscles of the upper-body. While the majority of the motion takes place above the waist, proper positioning of the legs and a solid posture are cornerstones of a picture-perfect stroke.

"I hear a lot of guys complaining of back pain from being in the kayak," Null said. "Part of that has to do with seating. Some kayaks come with adequate back support while others don't. I use an after-market seat on my kayak because it gives me some extra padding and great back support. Some guys prefer the factory seating. You just have to figure out what works for you.

"However, a lot of kayakers have back pain because of poor paddling posture," he noted. "A kayak is not a lounge chair. It's ok to take a break and kick back if you get tired, but when you're paddling, you need to be upright with your back straight and your rear end planted firmly against the back of the seat."

He also stressed the importance of being "locked in" to your kayak. That's achieved by keeping a slight bend in the knees so that you can use your leg muscles to stay braced and avoid sliding on the seat. Most kayaks come with adjustable footpegs, while others come with molded-in rest points. Either way, it's important not to over-extend the legs.

"I often hear people asking about leg room when purchasing their first kayak," he said. "What you have to keep in mind is that you don't need to be able to fully stretch out your legs. If you're not able to brace your feet on something, then every time you paddle you're going to be sliding and moving in the seat.

"That's just like spinning your wheels. You have to use your legs to keep yourself pushed into the seat. Think of it as you and the kayak being welded together. That way every stroke you make with the paddle is converted into forward motion. If you're not braced well in the kayak, you're losing a lot of that energy."

Here's a couple of vids shared elsewhere on this forum..

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Post by trev007 » Fri Dec 25, 2009 8:41 pm

Many thanks for the tips in the post Ian, I am guilty of amost all of the not to do things listed here, but hopefullt time will improve that. I am gald though that although I got tired after my first couple of goes, I never got sore, so thats a bonus... :)

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Post by padonaire » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:01 pm

Thanks for the great tips. I'm just starting to get into kayaking and anymore great tips like this would be great for me.

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Post by Snook » Mon Mar 07, 2011 5:56 pm

"If you're not able to brace your feet on something, then every time you paddle you're going to be sliding and moving in the seat."

My question is: How you can brace your feet in an AE kayak?

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Post by lakejumper » Mon Mar 07, 2011 9:16 pm

I can see how the technique will help me, especially being a novice kayaker. I watched all of the video clips on how to get in and out, water exit and getting back in while on the water as well. I'm curious if any modifications to those techniques are needed for an inflatable, especially since you are pushing the paddle against a soft surface of the kayak to get in and out of it?

Thanks for sharing the video site.

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Post by Snook » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:16 am

Yeah, the videos are very good ... But my question remains ...

How can you support your feet in the AE kayak to avoid sliding in the seat?

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Post by JCOOLEY » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:57 am

If you are a bit shorter and have a hard time reaching the front of the tube with your feet, AE does offer and inflatable foot brace that wedges into the front of the kayak and provides a flat surface topush up against. Model AE2012.

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Post by Snook » Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:04 am

Thanks JCOOLEY, Actually I am 6'1". But next time in my kayak I will figure out how many space left between my feet and the tube.

Or may be I will need to set up the seat a little bit forward.

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Post by JCOOLEY » Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:19 am

I'm 6'2" and I just wedge my size 14 feet against the front and push back into the seat. The key is to make sure that when you get in, the seat back is straight up behind your PFD. Sometimes it catches the bottom of the PFD so make sure to adjust. Then push back into the seat. A lot of people lean back which will cause the seat to slide under you. Try not to lean back and sit up as straight as possible.

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Post by Snook » Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:26 am

Thanks again JCOOLEY. Next time, I will adjust the back of my seat as straight as possible. I think this is the problem because I used to lean back.

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Post by PJohanson » Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:59 pm

For a foot brace, you can use a drybag stuffed in the front end of the kayak. These drybags are a great way to carry a little emergency gear -- snack, t-shirt & shorts, big orange garbage bag, etc.
Also, re: getting in and out of the kayak -- I'm pretty short, just over 5 feet tall. I don't lean on a paddle to get into an inflatable kayak or a hardshell kayak. If the kayak is floating at a dock, I get a friend to hold it against the dock while I slither in. The slithering move gets easier with practise. The first couple times my slithering kinda pushed the kayak away from the dock. Now I seem to slide in fine with one hand holding on to the dock.
It's a good idea to practise getting in and out of a kayak in lots of conditions such as floating at a beach, floating at a dock or in a pool. My friends and I recommend practising falling out and getting back in, in safe conditions. We do this safety practise together for fun at a lake and end by towing each other around for a bit.

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Post by ToAdventure » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:04 am

I'm terribly sorry for responding so late, but I appreciate the Kayak fishing advice. I'm an extreme novice when it comes to this kind of stuff. In fact, one of my biggest worries is that I'll throw my back out or hurt myself badly. If I happen to hurt myself, I'll need to find myself a good masseuse or chiropractor. Anyone know of the best charlotte massage therapist? Let's just hope that everyone goes according to plan.

Thanks, everybody! =)
Last edited by ToAdventure on Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by sonar » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:13 am

Hi ToAdventure.

welcome to the forum.
you find a lot of help and good advice by looking though the posts and from other forum members.

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