Paddling Skills

The focus of this website is everything you need to padde safely.  While not generally thought of as safety skills, it is important not to overlook the quality of your basic strokes for propelling and maneuvering your kayak.  The better your boat control skills are, the less likely you are to get into trouble in the first place.  Having an effective and efficient forward stroke can allow you to get to shore quickly as soon as you notice that the weather is deteriorating.  Being able to turn your kayak in the wind will prevent you from being blown around and into places that you don’t want to be.  Learning to edge your sea/touring or whitewater kayak means that you can avoid a capsize when crossing an eddyline of getting hit by a small breaking wave.

In order to improve your current paddling skills, the best thing you can do is to seek out the guidance of a certified instructor in your chosen paddling discipline.  If you’re just getting started, get instruction as soon as possible, even before you buy your boat.

In the United States, most paddle sports instructors are certified by the American Canoe Association (ACA).  The ACA certifies instructors in a variety of disciplines including Coastal Kayaking, River/Whitewater Kayaking, Touring Canoe, River Canoe, Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP), Rafting, and in the near future, Surf Ski.  In Canada, instructors are certified by Paddle Canada.  In many parts of the world, the British Canoe Union (BCU) has certified instructors.  All three of these organizations are recognized as being the leaders in the training and certification of paddle sports instructors.  You should be aware that in most places, there are no laws or regulations that require someone to have certification in order to offer their services as a professional instructor.  As a result, potential students need to ask some questions about the qualifications and certifications of the instructors they will be hiring.

Regardless of the type of craft you will be paddling, the list of basic strokes and maneuvers that you need to be able to perform is pretty similar.

  • Forward stroke
  • Reverse stroke
  • Stopping
  • Turning strokes (forward & reverse sweeps)
  • Turn on the move
  • Spin in place
  • Draw strokes to move the craft sideways
  • Rudder strokes
  • Bracing (to maintain stability and prevent capsize)

Providing complete descriptions of how all these strokes should be performed is beyond the scope of this website.  The important thing to take away from this list is that you want to learn how to perform these strokes and maneuvers efficiently, effectively, and safely in your chosen boat.