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Types of Kayaking Strokes

written by: micsan07 • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/30/2010

While there are many types of kayaking strokes to be learned, the three strokes contained in this article will ensure basic maneuverability of the watercraft when starting to master this sport. Practicing these strokes will assist in developing the strength and agility that this sport requires.

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    Types of Kayaking Strokes

    Learning the basic types of kayaking strokes early on can only ensure a better kayaking experience when on the water. Once basic strokes have been learned and thoroughly practiced, acquiring advanced kayaking skills would be beneficial for the safety and well being of the kayaker and his craft.

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    Forward Stroke

    The forward stroke is the most common stroke used in kayaking. It is the stroke that propels the kayak in a forward, straight motion.

    Sitting comfortably and leaning forward slightly, grasp the paddle securely with hands held about shoulder width apart. With the right elbow bent and level with the chin, extend and reach out with the right hand and slice the paddle into the water. A slice is just a term meaning the paddle enters water in a vertical position. The paddle should enter the water near your feet.

    Using the whole upper body, in one smooth motion, pull back comfortably on the paddle until the left hand is close to the body. Lift the paddle out of the water ensuring the paddle blade is still in a vertical position. The upper body will be leaning slightly to the left as the paddle is pulled through the water parallel to the watercraft.

    Once the paddle has been lifted from the water, the body balance will shift slightly to the right as the left elbow is brought up while the right arm is extended and the paddle is pulled through the water from the right side of the kayak.

    When a paddling rhythm has been established, the arms will circle naturally to accommodate the proper paddling motion.

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    Reverse Stroke

    The reverse stroke is simply a forward stroke, but going backward instead of forward.

    Body position is the same as for the forward stroke. Bend the left elbow and lower the paddle into the water. Push the paddle away from the body in a forward motion. As the left arm starts extending forward, the right elbow should bend and come close into the side of the body. The left arm needs to lift the paddle out of the water while the right arm and shoulder lower the paddle into the water on the right side of the kayak.

    Like the forward stroke, the body will shift slightly from side to side as the push motion of the paddle is being made.

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    Forward Sweep Stroke

    The forward sweep stroke is a turning stroke that will enable the kayak to turn in a complete circle or just the amount needed to maneuver the craft.

    The body position is the same as for the previous two strokes. Bending the right elbow and having the left arm extended, slice the paddle into the water near the feet. Instead of pulling the paddle back parallel to the kayak as a person would for the forward stroke, the paddle is swept outward in a semi-circle away from the kayak and brought back towards the rear of the craft. Ensure that the paddle is lifted from the water before coming too close to the kayak's rear.

    This stroke requires control instead of strength and should be practiced from a still kayak before attempting to turn with a kayak that is gliding on the water.

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    After The Basics

    Once these three basic strokes have been mastered, there are many other strokes that should be learned for maximum manueverability of your kayak. While many people have small rudders available for use in watercraft, a savvy kayaker will be able to move the craft where needed without it.

    Depending upon motorized devices to move your kayak may not be a good idea. Ensure that basic skills are learned and then move on to more advanced manuevering skills for your well being and safety.

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    Kayak Help - Kayaking Strokes:

    How Stuff Works - Paddling Strokes: