The first thing when you learn paddling is to learn how to hold a kayak paddle. Although it may sound easy, it isn’t really.
Here are the steps you should follow to learn how to hold a paddle.
Learn the Anatomy
The first is to understand how the different parts of a paddle work. A kayak paddle has a longer shaft than a canoe paddle and it has blades on either end that deliver forward momentum and help you change its direction.
When the kayak is at rest, the paddle lays across the kayak. With each stroke, you put the paddle blade in the water and “push” the water back in order to gain forward momentum.
Direction of Paddle Blades
The paddle blades should be facing in the right direction. The face of the paddle blade itself can have different types of design. Blades can be flat, ribbed or curved. The concave side of a curved blade drives the power into the stroke. The same goes for the smooth side of a ribbed blade. This side that drives power or momentum into a stroke is known as the power face.
The side of the blade that drives the kayak forward is important. You should always keep the power face of a paddle blade facing you at the beginning of the forward stroke. The power face is supposed to pull through the water.
Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical
If you have a paddle with asymmetrical blades, then you need to learn which side to hold up and which to hold down. In an asymmetrical blade, one side is longer than the other. This design is like this on purpose – asymmetric design prevents spinning and helps with tracking of the boat.
If you have asymmetrical blades, keep the shorter side on the bottom when paddling. If your paddle blades are symmetrical, you don’t need to worry about it.
Feathered vs Unfeathered Blades
Blades can be further classified into two types: feathered and unfeathered. Feathered blades have both blades at different angles to each other. How to check if your paddle blades are feathered? Lay the paddle on the ground and see if one blade lies flat on the ground while the other rests at an angle.
If your paddle has a feathered blade, then you should hold them such that the lower blade cuts the water vertically and the upper blade cuts the air horizontally. The benefit of feathered blades is that you can paddle in winds without getting a lot of drag or air resistance on the paddle.
If you are a beginner, you can use the push button in the middle of the shaft and rotate the blades until they are parallel. This turns feathered blades into regular, matched blades. It is easier to paddle with matched blades in comparison to feathered blades.
How to Orient the Paddle
To hold the paddle correctly, first hold it in your hand with your knuckles facing up and the paddle blades perpendicular to the ground. If the blades are asymmetrical, keep the shorter side on the bottom.
Your hands should be equal distance from the center of the paddle and they should be shoulder-width apart. Make sure your grip is not too tight. When your grip is too tight, there is a bend in your wrist, which puts unnecessary pressure. When you have a balanced or relaxed grip, the wrist gets straightened out.
Also when moving the paddle, you should bring the force from your torso to move it. Don’t put all the pressure on your arms as it will get you tired too quickly.