Learn to Paddle with Your Feet
Kayak, Faster, Farther, Longer, Easier, or Just Simply Better
Do you want to paddle faster for longer? If your like most people I know, including myself, you do.
If you’ve ever looked down, you know the muscles in your legs are bigger than your arms. So wouldn’t it be nice if you could put those large muscles to work? You can! I’m not talking about modern pedal drive boats but something anyone can learn proper technique.
There are a lot of things that account for speed when you’re kayaking. Not least of all is the shape of your kayak. Longer thinner kayaks are faster. It’s not just the paddler, it’s physics. The maximum speed of a kayak, before it begins to plane, can be explained with the equation, 1.34 times the square root of the waterline. So for easy math lets make that waterline 16 feet. 1.34 times 4 = 5.36, so a kayak with a waterline of 16 feet will have the maximum hull speed of 5.36 knots (nautical miles) an hour. Where a kayak with a 9-foot waterline will have the hull speed of 4.02 knots. That’s a big difference when you’re paddling as hard as you can. It’s a large subject so maybe we will do a post about that later.
Let’s say your kayak is just a long as your friends but you still can’t keep up. That’s where technique takes over. Learning a proper paddling stroke will do wonders for your enjoyment on the water. You can go faster, longer without getting as tired. So let’s get back to those big muscles in your legs. A proper forward stroke should actually use your legs. It’s relatively simple but it does take some practice and paddling discipline. After all, paddling is a discipline sport. Each time you take a stroke with your paddle you should push against your footpeg with the foot on the same side your stroke is on. So if you take a stroke on your right side you should push with your right foot. Let’s break it down step by step for a stroke on your right side. Start with your torso rotated so your right hip is forward, reach out and submerge your right blade as far forward as you can next to your kayak, to ensure a longer stroke. As you push with your left hand rotate your torso to the right and push your right hip back with your right leg. This transfers energy into the kayak and elongates your paddling stroke, while simultaneously coiling your torso for the next stroke. Now repeat on your left side. The real trick here is to drive your hip back with each step.
The next time you find yourself struggling into the wind, or even just puttering around looking for birds, remember to use the large muscles in your body to give you an edge. Give it a shot and see just how much faster you go. With a little practice, you will be the one leading your
Visit Paddle NC Instruction Page. to book an kayak instruction class and learn how to do it in a real kayak (as opposed to a vertual one). We’d love to get you out on the water!