Articles - How To Paddle Your Sit-on-Top Kayak Forwards

Paddle Your Sit On Top Kayak in a Straight Line
Paddle Your Sit On Top Kayak in a Straight Line
Canoe & Kayak UK Editorial - Posted on 11 Apr 2014
Paddling round in ever decreasing circles is a common occurrence for those taking to the water for the first time. Effective forward paddling is the elusive goal of many Sit-On-Top kayak paddlers when they start out! Despite many modern Sit-On-Top designs having built in skegs, when you first jump aboard you may still find that your Sit-On-Top kayak has a mind of its own and it can seem very hard to go in a straight line.

To help you get the most out of your Sit-On-Top kayak this summer, we’ve put together some handy pointers to keep you How to Paddle your Sit On Top Kayak Forwardson the straight and narrow and have you forward paddling like a pro!

• Before you set off make sure you’ve got your hands set up correctly on your paddle shaft. They should be about shoulder width apart on the shaft and an equal distance from each blade.

• We all naturally have a slightly more dominant side (left handed/right handed) but forward paddle strokes should have the same power on each side. A good way to control this is to be aware of where your paddle enters the water, ideally it should be entering the water around your feet and starting to leave the water once the blade is level with your hips. Here’s a tip to help you get into the rhythm when you’re starting. Place a bit of tape where your stroke starts and finishes and use these as references to make sure the paddle blade enters and leaves at the correct place. Just use this technique while you get the feel, ultimately you need to keep your focus/vision on where you’re going and not staring at the tape. If you leave the blade in too far beyond your hips, then the stroke will stop providing forward power, and will start to have a turning effect on your Sit-On-Top. To get the blade forward to start the stroke means that you will need to extend your lower arm and rotate the trunk of your body.
  
• Your strokes should run as close down the side of your Sit-On-Top as possible. If you accidentally sweep the blade out to far to the side of your kayak it will act as a turning stroke and again your boat will turn. (Top Tip – another quick sweep on the other side of the boat may correct the stroke, but it is easy to simply spin out of control.
  
• Make sure you are sitting evenly on the seat of your Sit-On-Tops and that your feet are evenly spaced on the footrests.

• OK, that’s it you’re paddling in a straight line and keeping your boat on course, but now it’s time to turn up that power to find second gear. The power for forward paddling shouldn't just come from your arm, as the top arms, it needs to come from the core muscles in your trunk as well. If you can get the hang of this technique then you’ll be able to produce real forward power and keep paddling for a lot longer as well! Trunk rotation is the key to efficient and effective forward paddling, as the paddle blade slices through the water on one side of the boat your body should turn that way as well, so engaging the major muscles in your back, stomach and chest. When you are rotating try to disengage your upper body from your lower.  If you rotate your hips as well it will have a turning effect on your boat. Push with your legs to transfer the power. Your head should also be still and your eyes focused on where you are going, not on the bow of your craft, or your paddle blades.

• During the forward stroke your top arm shouldn't really come across you’re the centre of your body. For instance if it’s travelling past your nose on each stroke, it’s going to far and will mean that you’re bringing the blade too far back beyond your hips. 

• Good posture on your kayak is also really important, slouching forward, or leaning back, a common position for beginners, is a bad habit that you should avoid at all costs. You need be sitting upright and slightly forward when paddling. A good backrest fitted to your Sit-On-Top could really help here and adjust your footrests, or foot position into a position where you can brace against them. To increase the power that you transfer through your stroke and trunk rotation push with your feet against the foot rests, so when you put a stroke in on your right hand side, push with your right foot and vice versa. The final part of the forward paddling puzzle is the concept that rather than pulling the paddle past you. You are planting the paddle firmly in the water and pulling you and your Sit-On-Top past it! Another great key is lining yourself up with a reference point, on the seashore or lake or riverbank for instance, so that you can monitor your course.

So there it is, with a little practice you should be flying over the water with ease with your boat going exactly where you tell it to go.

Check out our latest Sit-On-Top Kayak Reviews HERE

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