How to Hold Kayak Paddle | A Complete Master Guide You Have to Read


Properly hold a kayak paddle can make a big difference for beginners. The false grip can cause you to get tired quickly and leave your muscles sore. It doesn’t matter what kind of paddling you do; picking the right paddle is key to having fun on the water. This post will show you how to hold a kayak paddle properly. It will help you paddle longer and less painfully the next day. Let’s get started.

Different types of kayak paddles 

Before we go into how to hold your kayak paddle, it is worth noting that there are many types of paddles for kayaking. Kayak paddles are made with a blade on either side of a central shaft. While some rental or beginner paddles are entirely flat, most kayak paddles have a cupped blade. Some paddles are two-piece, while others are one piece. Many people become confused when they go to buy kayak paddles. Before buying kayak paddles read our guide on how to choose a kayak paddle and then buy suitable ones.

Paddles are made of aluminum, plastic or fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a mixture of both. In general, the best kayak paddles are the lightest ones you can afford. A lightweight, comfortable paddle is the best way to enjoy your kayaking adventures. It is called a matched paddle if the blades are in line with each other. Feathered paddles have one paddle offset from the other. The orientation of the blades can be different for left-hand paddlers and right-handed paddlers. You can match or feather a paddle with a two-piece break-apart design.

Some paddles have straight shafts. Others have bent shafts which reduce the angle your wrists are at during the power stroke. Although they look strange, they are very comfortable once you get used to them. There are many different shapes to the blades, so that they can vary from one paddle design. Asymmetrical paddles have a longer upper edge than their lower one. They are also cupped to increase their power when they are pulled through the water.

How to hold a kayak paddle 

The first step in kayaking is to learn how to hold a kayak paddle. Kayaking can be an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors, and learn how to paddle a kayak can make it an exhilarating adventure. It is common to make a mistake when you first start kayaking. These steps will show you how to hold a kayak paddle and grasp a kayak paddle properly.

Also read: How to start white water kayaking

Learn the anatomy of a kayak paddle

The paddle is what makes kayaking different from canoeing. It is essential to understand anatomy. Unlike a canoe paddle, a kayak paddle has a long shaft with the rowing blade attached to either end. The paddle rests across the kayak. As you paddle your kayak, you rock your grip along each post to dip the blade in the water. It is essential to understand the parts and design features involved in making a kayak paddle for ergonomic and performance reasons.

Check that the paddle is right-side up

There are many styles and shapes of paddle blades. Some are symmetrical, meaning that the blade’s edges are the same shape. Others are asymmetrical. The way the water flows across the blade depends on whether there is symmetry. Symmetrical blades work well with vertical strokes, while asymmetrical blades work better with lower-angled strokes. Asymmetrical paddle doesn’t have a “right” side. You can place either of the sides on the top. However, if you have an unsymmetrical paddle, you must use it as intended.

Asymmetrical paddle blades are available in many shapes and sizes, but the top edge of an unsymmetrical kayak paddle blade will always be slightly longer than its bottom. Many blade manufacturers have placed logos on the blade. If you want to hold your paddle correctly, make sure the logo faces in the vertical direction.

Properly hold the paddle

You must ensure that the paddle is held in the proper orientation. Pay attention to the paddle you are using. Two features are common to paddles that will tell you how to hold them. The blades are likely to be asymmetrical with a long and short edge. This allows you to exert more power with each stroke. The long edge should be pointed up.

Cupping the paddle blades is a common practice. The paddle blades are cupped to produce more power, much like you do when you swim to get a better grip on the water. The cups should be pointed into the water, just as a swimmer would do. The cups should point to the back of your boat in this instance. There are paddle blades that are perfectly flat and symmetrical. Don’t worry if that’s the case. It doesn’t matter how you hold it.

How and where to grip the paddle

Comfort is vital when holding a kayak paddle. You might not be as comfortable if your arms are out of alignment or your paddle is held at an awkward angle. Begin by extending your arms straight out at your sides. Next, bend your elbows upwards. Your hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders. You might need to move your hands slightly further apart if you have a larger boat. Next, ensure that the paddle is centered and the blades are approximately equal distance apart.

Also, make sure you aren’t gripping the paddle too tightly. Your torso and waist should make the power when you pull yourself through the water. The more you can move your arms, then the better. Your arm should extend past the paddle. It shouldn’t be challenging to balance the weight between your hands.

These tips aim to reduce fatigue. You’ll be able to paddle shorter trips once you get started. You’ll learn little things as you gain experience and get more comfortable.

Use a feathered paddle

You have the option of setting up a matched paddle with blades parallel if your paddle breaks. It’s easier to move to a feathered paddle once you have the basics down. A feathered paddle allows you to keep one hand on the paddle and move the other. The benefits of feathering the blades This technique is mainly used by performance paddlers and racers who wish to decrease the blade’s wind resistance. The difference in wind resistance for recreational kayakers and touring paddlers is often negligible.

Some people prefer the feel and control of a feathered paddle. After you’ve mastered the basics of a matched paddle, you can switch to a feathered paddle and find out how you like it. Although it may take a while to get the stroke smooth, it is very natural and balanced once it’s done.

Good kayak paddling technique

It should be simple to keep your kayak paddle in a straight line if you hold it correctly. First, decide which hand is your “power hand.” This is usually your dominant hand (e.g., right-handed). The “power hand” grips the paddle more securely than the other, creating an “O” shape that allows for a loose grip.

Learn more: How to get into a kayak from the water


Some kayaks are designed to be leaned back and lounging, but a good posture can make for a more efficient paddling technique. The ideal position for kayaking involves sitting up and using any available back support as it can help you paddle longer and more consistently. Your paddling efficiency will improve if you keep your legs together. You can also spread your legs slightly so that they press against the kayak’s interior if you require extra balance. Adjust your footpegs so that your knees are bent slightly. Your legs and torso are the essential parts of paddling.

The right stroke technique

A good stroke requires fluid movements and consistency. Exaggerating your movements will reduce your efficiency and make your body work harder. Place the blade in the water near your feet and keep your lower arm straight. Next, bend your upper arm slightly and bring your upper wrist closer towards your eyes. You will “spearing” your blade into the water when you start paddling. Put more power in the beginning than the end of your stroke and press your feet against the side for extra support. Keep your elbow relaxed while you paddle. Your upper arm should be at your eye level. You want your paddle to stay vertical so your hand can move along your body. Your lower hand should be level with your stomach. You don’t need to prolong the stroke; repeat the process on the opposite side.


In kayaking, the wind-up refers to the position of your body throughout the stroke. To place the paddle on the right side, wind your torso in the same direction if your stroke is to the right. A similar procedure applies to the paddle on the right side. When doing these strokes, keep your lower arm straight, and your upper arm bent so that your upper wrist is close to your face.


Unwind your torso as your blade enters the water. This will allow the edge to pull through the water. Your feet should be on the inside of the kayak’s pegs. This will ensure your core does the majority of the work and not your arms.


Each stroke should be completed with a recovery. After you have completed the right-side stroke, raise the paddle towards your kayak’s hull (seat compartment). This will allow you to turn to the left for the next stroke. Your wrist will follow your elbow as you guide the paddle.


Now you are ready to get out on the water. Do not be intimidated by the many paddle strokes and designs. The most important thing is to get on the water and have a go. Although you don’t need to be an expert at moving the boat, correctly holding the paddle will make many enjoyable trips on the water. Once you’ve got the hang of holding your paddle, you can start learning the proper paddling technique and level up your skills.

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