How To Hold A Kayak Paddle? Kayak Paddling Technique

How to hold a kayak paddle

The popularity of kayaking has grown over the past few years. It’s enjoyable, soothing, and challenging. But how to hold a kayak paddle?

This article will show you the proper way to hold a kayak paddle. This will increase your enjoyment of kayaking and ensure your safety while paddling.

How To Hold A Kayak Paddle?

Maintaining the correct hand position while holding the paddle is crucial to playing paddleball properly. The injury could result if you don’t follow these instructions.

To begin with, check to see that you are holding the paddle properly. The paddle should be held with the long edge facing up and parallel to your body. To make it simpler to swing and hit the ball, ensure the blade points straight up.

Study the paddle you are holding next. Search for any markings or logos that might be useful in guiding your choice of grip. For instance, some paddles have grips made especially for left-handed people.

Lastly, pay close attention to the paddle itself. Are any inscriptions or patterns on the paddle blades suggesting using one hand or the other to hold it?

Correct hand placement

It would help if you held a kayak paddle with the proper hand position to paddle with the appropriate technique. The ideal hand position for kayaking has the paddle at a distance equal to the shaft’s length. The fingers of the paddle should be just inside your elbow, and the post should be parallel to the palms of your hands.

The same hand position as a paddle fisherman is ideal for paddling a kayak. The palm of your hand serves as the paddle’s face, and the back of your writing serves as the paddle’s shaft. The paddle should have its face toward the water. Due to less wrist stress, the paddler can control the angle of his blades.

Paddlers must hold the paddle in the proper hand position regardless of the type of paddle they use. The elbows should bend 90 degrees, and the palms should be flush with the shaft. The paddler will be able to paddle more effectively due to more lift.

A kayak paddle is not difficult to hold. The key to mastering this skill is learning how to hold the paddle properly. You’ll get the most out of your kayaking experience if you hold the paddle correctly. You can enroll in a class to learn the proper hand position for paddling or how to hold a kayak paddle.

Maintaining the paddle in the proper hand position will help you increase the force of your stroke. The paddle’s shaft shouldn’t be excessively long or short. Too much bend in the paddle blade will irritate the user. Avoid holding the kayak paddle with a too-short shaft if you find this uncomfortable.

Kayak paddles come in a wide variety of styles and designs. The sport can be more enjoyable if you hold the paddle properly. You can enjoy paddling for the rest of your life if you learn the proper hand position.

Aligning the grip

Your grip must be centered to paddle with strength and control while using a kayak paddle. You shouldn’t squeeze it and should maintain a loose grip. Further caution is to avoid bending your wrists. The result could be a bent blade. Hold the paddle with the concave side facing you and your big knuckles pointing to center your grip.

The proper grip is necessary for holding a kayak paddle. The paddle should be angled for right-handed kayakers to use the right paddle during the upstroke. The easiest thing you can do is hold a paddle properly. Ensure that the distance between your elbows and shoulders is the same. The paddle blades ought to be spaced equally apart. A paddle that is too long may become difficult to hold if you use it.

Another vital grip technique is the T-Grip. By releasing the force of the other arm, it aids paddlers in controlling the boat’s direction. It can also be applied to change direction.

You can start paddling when you are in the correct position and grip. Begin the forward stroke when using the paddle as the stern. The blade needs to be perpendicular to the kayak. The paddle can then be angled toward the kayak. The blade’s angle determines the direction of the kayak. As you paddle, be sure to hold this angle.

It would be best if you then executed a sweep stroke. This movement is more effective than the backstroke. In a sweep stroke, the kayak is turned in a broad arc. Always try to get to the timer numbers. The blade should remain submerged in the water for the entire stroke.

Try to keep the paddle almost vertical as you paddle. This sail-like effect will control the movement of the boat. Just behind the body, the leading edge of the paddle should be submerged. It will slip if you don’t keep the boat in this position.

Maintain a parallel grip with the blades

When holding a kayak paddle, proper technique is crucial. This entails maintaining the elbows at a 90-degree angle and keeping the paddle blades parallel to the paddler’s head. Additionally, the paddler must hold it with both his knuckles in line with the edges. This can lessen blade feathering, which is challenging for beginners to correct.

Paddles can vary in size and shape. Some paddles are curved, while others are flat. The amount of power you produce depends on the body of the paddle blade. A flat paddle will generate more energy than a curved blade.

A kayak paddle with a wide grip will have a shorter stroke and more power, but if you make a false grip, it will be less efficient and more likely to yawl. Keep your knuckles parallel to the shoulder blades to lessen shoulder pain.

A kayak paddle’s top edge is longer than its bottom edge. Ensure the logo is facing up if your blade has a long leading edge. This will lessen air resistance and increase the toughness of your paddle.

A kayak paddle blade’s angle is typically between 30 and 45 degrees. The material used to make the paddle affects the blades’ angle. It will be simpler to change between strokes and require less effort with a lighter paddle. You can paddle more quickly if you have a more lightweight paddle because it will allow you to increase your cadence.

Paddle rotation

The paddle technique is crucially dependent on how a kayak paddle is rotated. Your kayak should be entirely under your control. To start, you must have the necessary skills. You can turn your body to the right while holding the paddle in your left hand. Roll your right wrist back next as if you were revving a motorcycle. Your left hand should be pulled forward to rotate the blade.

The paddle comes in two varieties. Both symmetrical and asymmetrical varieties exist. Asymmetrical paddles have flat blades, while flat paddles are oval. Beginners can use both types of blades. When holding the shaft, pay close attention to the concave side. Water will be simpler to grab as a result.

A robust composite fiber is used to create the paddle shaft. After that, the male end is split into two parts, and a ferrule is attached. A spring is then used to lock these two parts together. The paddle is firmly locked in place by the spring lock. A cinch lock system lets you change the paddle’s length.

A kayak paddle can also be rotated by allowing the handles. You won’t have to twist your wrists when paddling as a result. With this technique, you can exert more force for a more extended period. Additionally, it aids in preventing water from flowing down the shaft. The paddle rotates more effectively using this technique.

Your range of motion can be expanded by rotating your torso. This will give your paddle more strength. As you practice, this will be incorporated into your kayaking technique. Make sure your hips and knees are in the same position when you sit.

Alternately, you can feather your paddle to change the angle. This will lessen wind resistance and enable you to make a more effective stroke. You can experiment with various grades based on your preferences.

Amplifying the joy of kayak fishing is the art of hand-selecting the paddle that aligns perfectly with your experience. In this endeavor, the paddle plays an orchestra of roles beyond mere locomotion—it becomes the companion of efficiency and the bedrock of comfort during those extended fishing sojourns. Contemplating the best kayak fishing paddles, a symphony of considerations comes to light.

The length of the paddle, the materials that compose it, the shape of its blades, and the intricate dance of its grip design all intermingle in this decision. Imagine a paddle as adaptable as the chameleon, offering adjustable feather angles, tailored to harmonize with diverse water conditions. Envision a paddle not just for rowing, but an instrument of finesse and power—a conduit that propels you seamlessly to your coveted fishing haunts, while judiciously reserving your vigor for the exhilarating moments of hauling in your aquatic triumphs.

Why Is Proper Paddle Holding Important?

If you’ve ever paddled a kayak, you are likely aware of how crucial it is to hold your paddle correctly. The reason it matters, even if you don’t, is as follows.

Correct paddle holding will help you avoid becoming fatigued. You use all of your body’s muscles when you paddle. As you move, some areas of your body tire more quickly than others. For instance, your arms wear out before your legs do. This is particularly valid if you paddle for a considerable amount of time. In fact, by holding your paddle correctly, you can keep your legs rested and your arms in good shape.

The blade of your paddle will align with your body if you hold it correctly. Paddling is made more straightforward, and boat control is improved with proper alignment. Additionally, it keeps you from getting hurt. You risk losing balance and falling out of your kayak if your blade is not aligned with your body.

Finally, knowing how to hold your paddle correctly enables you to take more pleasure in your journey. Like a car, a good paddle gets you where you’re going quickly and safely. However, a good paddle won’t work well unless you hold it correctly, just like a car doesn’t run well without gas.

Kayak Paddling Technique

Understand Your Paddle Blades

When you first start paddleboarding, it may seem like there is no end to the mistakes you could make. But once you understand how to pick the ideal paddle blades for your requirements, you’ll feel comfortable paddling everywhere.

Point the Blades of Your Paddle

One of my favorite tips when teaching paddling classes is how to orient your paddle blades correctly. Both beginners and experts can use this trick.

The paddle should be held in front of you with the long sides facing away from you. The paddle should now be turned upside down so that the short edges meet you. The paddle should now face you after being rotated 90 degrees clockwise.

By default, most people hold their paddles in this manner, so this trick makes sense. But when you do this, you’re rotating the other way. Turn the paddle 90 degrees counterclockwise by flipping it over.

Consider spinning a bike wheel counterclockwise if you’re unsure what “counterclockwise” means. A bicycle wheel will simply spin in circles if you turn it backward. In the same way, paddling in the wrong direction will result in circles.

This trick not only prevents injuries but is also simpler to learn. You aren’t exerting pressure on your wrists or elbows because the blades point outward, not inward, toward your body. Additionally, you’re less likely to accidentally slice yourself while attempting to cut through water because you’re rotating the paddle in the right direction.

Where to Hold the Paddle and How to Do It

Correctly holding the paddle is the next step. Paddles can be stored in various ways, but there are three main types. A “paddle hug” is a particular hold where you wrap your hand around the paddle’s shaft and hold it like a baseball bat.

A “fanny paddle” is a different technique because you hold the paddle in front of you while crossing your legs. Thirdly, you can hold the shaft with one arm straight down and the blade parallel to the water, known as the “dolphin style.” You direct the blade with your free hand.

Change the location of your shaft grip.

When learning to paddleboard, holding the paddle shaft too high on the body is the most frequent error I observe. They experience shoulder inversion, which makes it more challenging to ride the board in proper form.

Try changing the position of your paddle shaft grip so that your elbows rest at a 90-degree angle, just above your waist.

The paddler’s box is formed naturally by your arms as you lower the paddle, allowing you to maintain proper upper body alignment. Doing this will reduce your risk of injury and enhance your balance on the board.

Making Use of a Feathered Paddle

If you have a matched paddle with parallel blades that you can use if your paddle breaks apart, you should probably do that first. This will allow you to accurately gauge the amount of force you are applying to each stroke.

It is simpler to transition to feathering the blades once you have mastered the fundamentals and are at ease with the idea. The amount of drag produced by the paddle is decreased by feathering the blades, which reduces the paddle’s ability to push water backward.

Feathering has several benefits in racing situations where the boat speed is high, and the wind is strong. In those circumstances, a paddle with less drag enables the paddler to move more quickly.

However, the differences in wind resistance aren’t apparent for recreational and touring kayakers. Unless you try to make your paddle lighter, there’s no reason to alter its shape.

Let go of the reins

The most skilled paddlers don’t simply launch their paddles into the water and begin moving. They work on their technique and refine it. Your grip is where you should start if you want to increase your performance. Here are four quick suggestions to help you loosen your hold.

1. Use two fingers to hold the paddle.

Your wrist and forearm muscle tense up when you use one hand to hold onto the paddle’s shaft. Try holding the paddle with two fingers as an alternative. Your arm can remain free and relaxed as a result.

2. Flex Your Wrist Continually

While holding the paddle, keeping your wrist bent makes your forearm work harder. Maintaining a straight wrist enables your forearm to absorb energy from the strokes like a spring.

3. Utilize Just One Hand

When you hold the paddle with both hands, your body must compensate for it by tucking its head forward over the handle. You can prevent this by placing your paddle against your hip or thigh.

4. Avoid pushing yourself.

You might believe that to advance, you must paddle vigorously. But if you put too much pressure on yourself to succeed, you’ll find it challenging to keep up with others. Take a few deep breaths and have fun.

Verify That the Paddle Is Upside Down

Paddlers hold their paddles incorrectly the majority of the time. There is no “correct way,” despite what many people believe. The paddle should not face up.

Because you don’t need to be aware of the proper orientation, asymmetrical paddles are frequently simpler to learn. However, practicing still benefits you if you’re using a symmetrical paddle.

It is beneficial to consider the flow of water over the blade in addition to being able to use a paddle properly. The water flows uniformly down the length of the blade when the blade is held vertically, resulting in a smooth, continuous stroke.

The water moves more quickly toward one end of the blade and slowly toward the other as the blade’s angle increases. This produces a choppy, splashing motion that makes controlling the boat more difficult.

Proper paddle placement in the water.

Depending on the type of stroke you are using, there are different ways to place your paddle in the water. For instance, when performing a straight stroke, the blade should be positioned in front of your body, just above your waist level.

The blade should be held vertically over your head while performing a sweep, just like a baseball bat. But there is one thing that every paddler should be aware of when putting their paddle in the water. You learn it from this lesson.

Determine Your Control Grip Feathering

Kayaking is an excellent activity for taking in nature, but it can also be problematic. You should understand a few things about proper kayak control if you’re a beginner. The grip is one thing that most people neglect. You might believe that you can maintain your balance by simply holding onto the side of your boat, but this is incorrect. There are numerous ways to hold your kayak, each with a unique benefit. Here are three grips to help you decide which suits you the best.

The Initial Grip

It is easy for beginners to use this grip. You are holding the kayak in both hands when you grasp the gunwale on either side. You can balance yourself better because you don’t depend on just one hand for support. This grip requires more strength to use and takes longer to learn.

Secondly Gripped

Try out this grip if you want something more stable. Put your elbows together, grab the sides of your kayak with both hands, and rest your forearms against your body by bending them inward—this aids in stabilizing your kayak and keeps you upright even in choppy water.

Second Grip

This is the best choice for people already familiar with the first two grips. Take hold of the gunwales with your fingers pointing downward and your arms bent at a 90-degree angle. You can keep your balance by doing this without having to lean too far forward.

Hold the paddle firmly

There are many different ways to hold the paddle when paddling. Some people prefer using one hand, others two, and others three. But before you begin paddling, there are a few things you must do, regardless of how many fingers you decide to use.

The most crucial thing to remember when paddling is maintaining an even distribution of body weight on both sides of the boat. In this manner, you won’t fall. So, what does this mean? You’ll want to position your right arm and your left arm above your head, respectively.

The paddle shaft should now be in your right hand, which you should do next. But because you don’t want to lose your balance, you don’t want to go too far. After grabbing the shaft, press your left palm firmly against the paddle’s blade. You are now prepared to start paddling!

Essential Things to Keep in Mind When Holding a Kayak Paddle


The paddle’s “handle” is the shaft. It joins the ends of the blades. It will be used to guide the boat. You must know the handle’s appearance and the proper way to hold it if you want to master the overhead stroke.

There are two different shaft designs. The Bent Shaft is the most popular design. Where the handle and blade meet, the center of this kind of shaft slightly bends. A bent shaft paddle naturally curves into a comfortable position when it is held correctly.

If you’d instead hold a paddle with a straight shaft, there is no center bending. On the other hand, the shaft runs directly from the handle to the blade. To become proficient at holding a straight shaft paddle, practice is necessary. When you know how to hold a straight shaft paddle properly, you can make better strokes while maintaining a relaxed posture in your shoulders and arms.

Size Does Matter

Your height will determine the ideal surfboard length for you. Paddling boards should not be longer than three times your height, according to surfing experts. If you are 5’10”, your board should be about 15 inches long; if you are taller, make your board a little shorter.

Another tip: If you don’t know your height, stand up straight, extend your arms in front of you, and, while looking down, hook your fingertips over a paddle blade of your imagination. Just to be sure, have someone measure your height for you.


There are some things you should know about paddles and blades. Blades come in many shapes and sizes, and there are some benefits and drawbacks to having blades of varying lengths and widths. They are typically attached to the shaft either directly or via a plastic piece called a grip.

Kayak Paddle Types

If you’re just starting, choose a flat paddle with a rounded tip. There are many different kayak paddles, and selecting the right one depends on what kind of kayaking you plan to do.

Because they don’t require much strength to maneuver, flat paddles are easier to learn; however, once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you’ll want to move up to a cupped paddle, which gives you better control over your boat and makes it easier to steer.

The next step is a balanced paddle, which gives you stability and speed. You’ll probably find yourself using a flat paddle for longer trips. A good balance paddle won’t weigh too much and won’t feel heavy, either.

A composite paddle, which combines lightweight materials like carbon fiber with conventional wood to create a robust and durable paddle, might be a good investment if you spend a lot of time on the water.

Tips for Holding Paddles

The Appropriate Stroke Method

A great paddleboarder needs to have a proper stroke technique; if you are having trouble gaining speed or maintaining balance, your stroke may have a problem.

Many people assume they know how to do it correctly, but there are some things that many people don’t realize. In this article, we’ll explain what makes a great paddle stroke and offer tips to help you improve your technique.


There are better ways to push off in a kayak—and here’s how to ensure you’re doing it correctly. Kayakers frequently sit upright in a kayak, which makes it easy to lean forward and do so.

To maintain proper body alignment while standing up in a kayak, you should sit back and use the seatback as leverage. You want your shoulders facing straight ahead, your hips level, and your feet shoulder-width apart.

Instead of leaning forward, try sitting back and pushing off with your hands with your arms extended out to each side of the cockpit, you’ll feel like you’re holding yourself up, but in fact, your center of gravity moves toward the front of the boat, making it harder to balance.

The foot pegs should be adjusted so that your knees are barely bent, allowing you to rotate your torso without losing your balance if you’re having trouble maintaining your balance.

When you’re standing up, you don’t need to hold onto anything, and you shouldn’t touch the sides of the boat unless necessary because if you do, you run the risk of getting hurt. Also, don’t put too much weight on one leg because that could make you lose your balance.

The wind-up

The wind-up in kayaking refers to the body’s position during the stroke. This technique allows the paddler to put the blade near their feet on one side of the boat while keeping the opposite hand close to their head.

The wind-up is performed by bending the knees, rolling the hips forward, and aligning the torso. Once the torso is aligned, the paddler needs to turn the elbow on the side where they want to start the stroke, place the paddle near the foot on that side, and straighten the arms. Next, the paddler rolls their hips backward, extending the legs, and sets the paddle near the head.

Paddling Reverse

Although most of the time, it makes sense to paddle forward, there are times when it makes more sense to paddle backward. For example, you might come across a space too small for your kayaks, or perhaps someone else needs assistance or wants to catch up.

The Backward Paddle or Reverse Stroke

When paddling backward, you need to raise your head slightly to see where you’re going, creating a better steering angle. When paddling forward, keep your head down and concentrate on keeping the boat straight ahead.

To balance your kayak, lean forward.

Try leaning forward to balance yourself while paddling backward if your kayak is “back heavy,” and lean over your front foot to allow the kayak’s weight to shift toward the bow.

Before making another reverse stroke, look behind you.

A few seconds’ delays before making another reverse stroke could mean the difference between being able to continue paddling backward without falling off or having to turn around and start over.

As Stern Rudder, Paddle

The most common way to move around in a kayak is by paddling forward, but sometimes it makes sense to paddle backward. You may run into areas that are too narrow for your kayaks, or you may want to help someone else catch up, or maybe you’re just sick of keeping up with the group. For whatever reason, paddling backward is more accessible than figuring out how to turn around in a small space.

The reverse stroke, also known as paddling backward, is a valuable maneuver when you want to begin moving in the opposite direction or when you want to slow down after paddling for a while. A reverse stroke is similar to a regular stroke, except that you paddle bow to stern rather than stern to bow, which creates a different feel and takes some practice to master.

Maintaining a comfortable position while paddling backward is sufficient; there is no need to lean forward; however, leaning forward provides stability and aids in preventing tipping.

Reverse Sweep Strokes

Sweep strokes also referred to as sweep turns, are a necessary skill for turning a kayak. Sweep turns involve leaning slightly in your kayak and sweeping the paddle out to the side to generate enough torque to allow you to make a 180-degree turn without losing control of the boat.

You want the blade to touch the water but not too close, so lean forward just a little bit and sweep the blade out as far as you can comfortably reach. If you don’t maintain balance, you’ll end up tipping over.

Instead of leaning toward the front of the kayak, lean toward the back while maintaining your weight in the middle of the seat. When performing a reverse sweep stroke, sweep the blade out to the sides as far as possible while maintaining contact with the water.

Read more: Parts of A Kayak Paddle


Once you’ve mastered the proper grip, you’ll want to master the effective stroke, techniques, and how to get around obstacles with your paddle.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you can take advantage of the numerous options available, including the dozens of paddle styles available. Each is created to meet particular needs and preferences and the countless ways you can modify your gear to fit your style and boost your performance.

Whatever you decide, we hope our advice and suggestions will assist you in finding the best paddle for your requirements. You may opt for a shorter blade for quick maneuvers, a longer one for stability during prolonged periods of calm weather, or you may want to add fins to help keep you balanced while skiing downwind.

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