Gone Outdoors

How to Paddle a Kayak Correctly

by James Wiley

Kayaking is an increasingly popular water activity that many people pursue for exercise or to relax and enjoy nature. Kayakers are found on freshwater rivers and lakes as well as saltwater bays and oceans. Learning to paddle a kayak is simple. After learning the paddling motion and finding a rhythm, you will glide through the water with ease.

Sit in the kayak seat with your feet resting comfortably on the footrests and the knees slightly bent. Hold the paddle horizontally in front of you, gripping it in the center with your hands spaced about shoulder-width apart. Use a relaxed, overhand grip and ensure that the paddle blades are in the proper direction (the curve of the blades should cup the water when stroking to the rear).

Reach slightly forward and lower one hand while raising the other to dip one of the paddle blades into the water next to the kayak.

Pull the submerged paddle toward you alongside the kayak with a smooth rowing motion. Repeat the same rowing motion on the other side. Continue alternating strokes to make the kayak track in a straight line.

Turn the kayak to the right by paddling only on the left side, and vice versa. Keep your body centered in the kayak, and do not lean too far to one side or the other.

Items you will need
  • Kayak
  • Paddle
  • Personal flotation device
  • Paddle leash (optional)


  • Beginning kayakers should stay in nonturbulent waters while practicing.
  • Tethering the paddle to the kayak or the paddler via a leash is advisable to prevent it from floating away should the paddler drop it.
  • Find a comfortable rhythm to your paddling and breathing to match the pace you want.


  • Always wear a lifejacket, preferably one with an emergency whistle sewn into a pocket, when kayaking.
  • Beginners should not paddle alone.

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