Learn Three Basic Kayak Strokes [Video]

learn three basic kayak strokes

Headwaters Kayak’s Dan Arbuckle shows us how to master the forward, sweep and edge strokes in this introductory video:

Dan covers several kayaking foundations:

Sitting Position

There’s a proper way to sit in your kayak. You don’t want to slouch or lean back when you paddle. It’ll put more strain on your back and arms than necessary, and you won’t be able to paddle as effectively.

Sit all the way back in your seat and adjust the side straps so you’re sitting upright. “The better posture you have, the more efficiently you’ll be able to propel your kayak across the water.”

If your kayak has foot pedals, use them to give your body leverage with each stroke. Adjust them so there’s a little bend in your knees.

1. Forward Stroke

Most people think of kayaking as an “arm” sport. If you only use your arms and shoulders you’ll put much more effort into it and not get as much forward motion with each stroke.

Instead, you want to rotate your whole upper body with each stroke, except your head. You’ll continue to look forward in the direction you’re paddling.

“That rotation is the #1 thing you need to learn in paddle sports. It’s the foundation for everything you’re going to learn.”

For a forward stroke, reach to catch the water up by your foot. Allow your shoulder to follow your reaching hand, which will rotate your upper body. Then pull the paddle with your reaching hand, lean with your foot on the same side, and push the paddle with your opposite hand as you bring the stroke behind you.

The majority of your power in each stroke is when the blade catches the water from your foot to your knee.

For the exit portion of the stroke, allow the blades to slice up through the water instead of lifting it up, along with a bunch of water forcing resistance.

sweep stroke in kayaking

2. Sweep Stroke

The sweep is a turning stroke to move your kayak left or right. When you reach out to catch the water, instead of drawing the blade back next to your kayak, you’ll sweep it out in an arc. Rotate your upper body and press into it with your foot on the same side to give it the power it needs.

A reserve sweep is also used in turning. You’ll start in the back and sweep forward.

3. Edge Stroke

This stroke is used for tight turns, and is especially important if you’ll paddle rivers. But even if you’ll mostly be on flatwater it’s still a good stroke to learn.

The edge is similar to the reverse sweep stroke in that you’ll start from behind and stroke in an arc forward. The difference is in the angle of the blade. Rather than vertical in the water, you’ll hold the blade at an angle and apply downward pressure as you pull it forward.

Both the edge and reserve sweeps are a great way to learn a low brace, which helps in stability and can prevent a capsize.

After watching Dan’s video, get out on the water as much as you can and practice these strokes. You’ll love the way it’ll develop you as a confident and efficient paddler!

Need help finding a kayak paddle? Get in touch with our Wisconsin-based customer service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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