Kayaking is like many other sports--you can get by just knowing the basics, but you'll probably enjoy it more (and be safer) as your knowledge and skills expand. First, here are four brief tips I learned from watching a demonstration at the New England Paddlesports Show:
- Sit up straight and tall in your kayak
- Use your entire upper body, not just your arms and shoulders
- Watch the hand doing the work; This means your shoulders move with your hands
- Your paddle should be vertical as it's going into the water
Paddling Instructions for Left-Brainers
Some folks will find this helpful, so I'm adding this link to GORP's article on River Basics: Strokes and Strategies. It describes forward strokes, the stern draw, and forward sweep, among other things. I'm quite sure the author know's what he's talking about, but not being a left-brained person, most of his instruction is lost on me.
Paddling Video for Right-Brainers
And for the rest of us, national champion paddler Lloyd Reeves has produced some short instructional videos available on a site called expert village. There are actually 13 short videos in the series. Topics range from how to get in a kayak safely, the correct way to hold a paddle, and basic strokes.
Take a Lesson
All this being said, I think the best way to learn paddling technique is to take an in-person lesson. Many rental and touring places offer them; check out some of the links in our sidebar under Kayak Rentals and Tours. The "grand-daddy" of outdoor instruction in our area seems to be the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools. I love that they offer a choice of long (more expensive) instruction and shorter (less expensive) "walk-on adventures." You can get a full course meal or just the appetizer!
Confession Time...This is our third season on the water and we've yet to take a lesson. Up until now, we've had fun just playing. But I'm ready to learn how to get more efficient at paddling so we can take longer trips. How about you?