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How to Kayak Faster

The sport of kayaking utilizes many skills including balance, core strength and coordination. Kayaking is an activity performed on any body of water including fast- and slow-moving rivers, oceans and lakes. Regardless of the water’s surface, paddle strokes and the technique used by kayakers to become faster and more efficient, are the same.

  1. Sit correctly in the kayak. Sit upright with the balls of your feet pressed against the foot pegs, or braces. The knees should be bent in a diamond shape with your thighs pressed against the thigh braces for a cockpit-style kayak or brace your calves and thighs against the kayak for a sit-on-top style of boat. Sitting correctly allows mobility in the upper torso, decreases risk of injury in the shoulder and increases your points of contact with the kayak.

  2. Rotate your torso. Efficient and effective paddling comes when a kayaker relies on core power rather than arm strength to propel the boat forward. The muscles that comprise the torso are stronger than the arm muscles, or biceps and triceps, and are less likely to fatigue.

  3. Push against the foot pegs with the balls of your feet as you paddle. Pushing with your legs provides the torque necessary for effective torso rotation and paddling.

  4. Push and pull the paddle. During a paddle stroke, you should use your upper hand to push the blade forward as you pull with the hand closest to the water’s surface. When you've pulled the paddle just past your hip, extend the forward paddle and get ready to plant it in the water. Quickly lift the back paddle when it's level with your waist and simultaneously plant the forward paddle in the water. Keeping the paddle in the water too long only creates drag and actually slows your paddling pace.

  5. Increase paddle angle. Holding the paddle at a high angle, or more vertical to the water, allows the blade of the paddle to move through the water closer to the boat. Paddle strokes closer to the hull of the boat allow you to exert more forward power with less turning. Tracking the boat in a straight line will increase your paddling speed.

  6. Relax grip. A tight grip can cause the muscles of the forearms to fatigue faster. To hold your paddle correctly, lightly wrap your fingers around the paddle shaft, using your thumb to hold it in place. While pulling, pressure your thumb against the paddle and push using the flat part of the hand, or your palm.

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Things Needed

  • Kayak
  • Paddle

About the Author

Cathleen Calkins specializes in writing about travel, adventure, lifestyle, health, fitness and brand identity. She is a regular contributor to Snowshoemag.com and her work has appeared in "Backcountry," "Telemark Skier," "The Rotarian," "LA Weekly" and "Las Vegas Review Journal" as well as on a number of online adventure travel websites. She holds a Bachelor of Science in hospitality management from Rochester Institute of Technology.

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