How to Hold a Kayaking Paddle

Kayaking is a great experience for the young and old, and it doesn’t require much skill! If you want to do some homework before your Paddling Michigan experience, however, here are some paddling techniques that can ensure you are gliding across the water and in complete control of your vessel. First thing to learn, however, is how to hold your most important tool – the paddle.

Understanding the Dynamics of the Paddle

Before you start your excursion, here’s a primer on the paddle itself. Most paddles are one long pole with rubber ends called blades. Kayak paddles cup at the blade, just like a swimmers’ hands might, and that cup is called the power face because it’s the power that moves you through the water. The back of the paddle is simply called the back face.

Generally, paddles for canoes and kayaks are asymmetrical; the upper edge of the blade tends to be longer than its lower edge. Keep this in mind so that you don’t hold the paddle upside down. These paddles are also usually feathered, which means the blades will point in two directions. Similar to the propeller of an airplane, the raised blade will have less air resistance as a result.

How to Grip the Kayak’s Paddle

Place your hands about the same distance as the width between your elbows, though this depends on your comfort. In fact, it’s a good idea to change your grip occasionally to ensure you are using all your muscles effectively. If you want more control, engage with the paddle using a wide grip. For comfort and ease on a longer excursion, a narrower grip might be best.

Most paddles are created for right-handed people. Unless you plan to bring your own left-handed paddle, it’s best to use the following steps regardless of which is your dominant hand. Consider the right hand as your control. The grip should be fixed and not change during your stroke. You can also control the blade’s angle with your right hand. Grasp the paddle shaft loosely with your left hand, letting your right hand twist the paddle in the proper direction for turning, or bracing. Though your right hand grip is steady, it shouldn’t be too tight. Clenching the paddle will tire your hands too quickly.

Stay Comfortable With Your Grip

What matters most when you hold a paddle is your level of comfort. It may take some time and maneuvering to find the best gripping technique, and it may mean changing grips to find what works best for your body. However, the strategy of “fixed right hand, left one loose” is a great place to start. It’s the go-to for many kinds of strokes and recoveries.

All Skill Levels Are Welcome

These methods are quick to learn, and your Paddling Michigan guide can ensure you have the proper handle on your kayak paddle before you head off onto the Great Lake Superior. Talk to us if you have any questions, and we will ensure you are paddling at your peak!


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