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For Rental Bookings Outside of Our Listed Business Hours Please Call or Email Us At (843)491-3192 myrtlebeach@trailblazeadventure.com

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Kayak Tours & Rentals, Golf Cart Rentals, Bike Rentals, & Paddle Board Rentals

(843) 491-3192

Wednesday – Sunday

10am – 5pm

3700 S. Ocean Blvd.

N. Myrtle Beach, SC 29582

Kayak: Paddling Basics

Flatwater kayaking will give you the freedom to explore and truly enjoy any body of water that your heart desires. The key to maximizing your enjoyment and adventure time on the water, is learning how to properly and efficiently control your craft. By learning proper technique, form, and a few basic paddling strokes you can begin paddling efficiently without overexerting yourself and end up exactly where you intended.

Topics covered include:

  • How to grip your paddle for an efficient stroke
  • The Forward Stroke
  • The Reverse Stroke
  • The Sweep Stroke
  • The Draw Stroke

We recommend practicing in a calm and safe environment until you can perform each paddling technique without thinking about them.

How To Hold Your Paddle

Holding your paddle correctly is so important to having an efficient, non-fatiguing stroke. Work smarter not harder is the key.

Holding a Paddle Properly Involves 4 Things:

  • Knowing what type of paddle blades you have
  • Orienting the blades properly
  • Adjusting where you grip the shaft
  • Relaxing your hands on the paddle shaft

Know Your Paddle Blades:

  • Check your blades to see if they are matched (parallel) or feathered (at an angle to eachother).

Learning is easier using matched blades. If your blades are feathered look at the middle of the paddle’s shaft for a push button and holes going around the shaft. Press the push button and rotate the two halves of the shaft until the blades are parallel.

  • Check your blades to see if they are asymmetrical or symmetrical.

Your blades are asymmetrical if one side of each blade is a little shorter than the other side. The difference can be very subtle but you should be able to notice a difference in the two sides of each blade. Asymmetrical blades help you track straight with ease as you pull the blade through the water. Symmetrical blades are as the name implies perfectly symmetrical on each side of the blade. You can learn with either type of blade but we do recommend and prefer asymmetrical blades.

  • Check if your blades are concave or perfectly straight without any curvature in the blades.

Most blades are concaved on one side of the blade. This shape lets you grab more water with every paddle stroke and paddle more efficiently and effectively.

Orient Your Paddles:

While holding your paddle you want to check three things to ensure you are properly oriented with your paddle.

  • Check if your blades are concave or perfectly straight without any curvature in the blades.
  • You want the shorter side of each blade on the bottom. Disregard this if you have symmetrical blades.
  • You want the concave side of each blade facing you. Disregard if you have flat blades.

If you are not oriented with the paddle like this, simply rotate and or flip the paddle till you are in the proper position. 

Adjust Where You Hold The Shaft:

  • Rest the paddle shaft’s centerpoint on your head.
  • Now re-adjust your grip along the shaft so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.

When you bring the paddle down in front of you, you’ll have “the paddler’s box,” a shape formed by the shaft, your arms and chest. Maintaining that box as you stroke helps you rotate your torso correctly, another key to good technique.

Relax Your Grip:

A relaxed grip helps prevent your arms, wrists and hands from becoming fatigued as well helping prevent blisters on your hands. It also reminds you to rely on your torso instead of your arms and shoulders to power your paddle.

  • Then rest your other fingers lightly on the shaft.
  • Now readjust your grip along the shaft so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.

Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is the most fundamental stroke of kayaking. You will spend the majority of your time putting this stroke to use. The most important element of this stroke is learning to engage your core and back muscles to do most of the work; not your arms and shoulders.

  • The catch phase: Wind your torso and immerse your blade fully on one side of the boat next to your feet.
  • The power phase: Rotate your torso as the blade moves behind you. Follow the in-water blade with your eyes and your torso will follow. Focus, too, on pushing against the shaft with your upper hand as you move.
  • The release phase: When your hand reaches just behind your hip, “slice” the blade out of the water.

Then repeat with the opposite out of water blade.

Tips:

  • Focus on engaging your core and back muscles. I can not emphasize this enough. It will help with not overexerting your arm muscles and also help with avoiding shoulder injuries.
  • To assist with tracking straighter and move faster, maintain the blade in a vertical position and fully in the water during each stroke.
  • Maintain an upright seated position, no slouching in the seat.

Reverse Stroke

Slowing down, stopping, or backing up a kayak can be done with the reverse stroke. The stroke is the exact opposite of the forward stroke.

  • The drop phase: Wind your torso and immerse your blade fully on the side of the boat next to your hip.
  • The power phase: Rotate your torso as the blade moves in front of you.
  • The release phase: When your paddle blade is even with your feet, “slice” the blade out of the water.

Then repeat with the opposite out of water blade.

Sweep Stroke

Instead of repeatedly doing the forward stroke on one side of the kayak. Implement the sweep stroke into your arsenal of strokes to efficiently turn the kayak.

  • The catch phase: Extend your arms forward and immerse the blade near your feet to begin your sweep. Begin on the opposite side of the boat from the direction you want to turn
  • The turn phase: Sweep the blade in a wide arc toward the stern of the boat. Put some power into your body's rotation to optimize the stroke, especially after the paddle has passed the cockpit.
  • The release phase: When the blade approaches the hull behind your cockpit, finish the stroke by slicing the blade out of the water.

The result should be a gradual arcing turn with little loss of momentum. You can repeat the sweep stroke if needed, or resume your forward stroke.

Draw Stroke

Draw strokes are used to move your boat sideways. This stroke is useful if you need to pull close to a dock or another boat:

  • Rotate your paddle blade so it’s horizontal.
  • Reach out with the tip of the blade to touch the water about two feet away, directly on the side of your boat. (Your paddle shaft should be angled steeply.)
  • Use your lower hand to pull the blade straight toward you, keeping the tip of the blade immersed in the water during the stroke.
  • Stop before the blade hits the side of the boat.

Typically, several draw strokes are needed, so you can repeat the stroke.