First Day in a Kayak--A little Pain

I’m 54 years old, a road bike rider and runner and not overweight…in pretty good shape.

My wife and I rented a tandem kayak today and went out on Lake Lanier in N. GA for about ninety minutes. I really enjoyed it but now really want to try a solo kayak before deciding what to buy.

Question: Should my hands and wrists hurt this much? My thumbs and the tendons in my wrists are quite sore. Did I find a part of my body that was particularly out of shape or am I doing something terribly wrong?

Thanks guys, I’ve found this site very helpful and can’t wait to get a boat of my own.

Could be that you
were simply gripping the paddle too hard? In a tandem, I could see where one might try to “overpaddle” to manuver the boat. Proper paddling is not at all stressful on the arms or hands- forceful paddling is.

It’s like drilling with a hand drill- don’t force it, let the tool do the work.

Lessons …

– Last Updated: Sep-05-05 10:04 PM EST –

I would suggest you seek some paddling lessons from a qualified (experienced) instructor. With a good instructor early on you would not have to unlearn bad habits and poor technique down the road.

Your arms should not provide the drive in your paddle stroke, but rather guide the placement of the paddle. You plant the paddle in the water and use torso muscles to pull the boat past the paddle (at least in theory). I am still trying to unlearn my bad habits, so do as I say not as I do! This is why I recommend finding a competent instructor.

You hands and wrists should not hurt. I would guess you are gripping the paddle much too strongly. You don't want to grip your paddle like you might grip your handlebars on a long, steep descent, but rather hold it very lightly - maybe only gripping with the index finger and thumb.

Some people prefer to paddle with gloves to help prevent blisters. I only use them now when paddling in cold weather to help keep my hands warm.

There are some great paddling videos on the market as well. I haven't seen most of them, but I particularly like the Nigel Foster "Forward Paddling" video.

Hope this helps!

As indicated above…
Correct paddling technique should avoid that. One other thing that it’ll teach you is how to release the tension on the non-wet side with each stroke, which both relieves the death grip and encourages blood flow to the muscles in the hand and thru the wrist.

It also teaches you to keep your
wrists in alignment with your forearm. The Reitz paddling tape offered here is well worth the bucks. It can help you avoid all sorts of arm and shoulder problems .

Wrist Position
I agree that lessons on proper forward stroke technique is the way to go, the sooner the better.

Two excellent forward stroke videos are available, one by Greg Barton (, email, the other by Brent Reitz (, email

Barton and Reitz are pros who teach the forward stroke.

A quick observation: it’s possible that your sore wrist resulted from cocking the wrist during the push phase. With proper technique your hand and forearm should be in the same plane as you push - as if you were throwing a punch.

With proper technique the problems you cite should quickly disappear.

Good luck.

My wife and I paddled our tandem
for about 8 hours over this holiday weekend. Including small waves on Lake Huron. No problem.

However, until I learned to paddle correctly, I was often sore, as you are. So, it’s probably technique and unused muscles.

Once you buy a kayak, spend a little money and get a decent set of paddles. Your wrists and shoulders will thank you. We use Aquabound Seacludes. They are about $130 each, I believe. You can spend a lot more for lighter ones, but these have served me well so far, and have taken a LOT of abuse. Scrimp with $40 Wal-mart paddles and you will probably continue to be sore.

Regarding tandems, many call them a divorce boat. Most people will find two singles more suitable. On the other hand, my wife loves the option of laying back when tired, and we paddle in synch well. For us, a tandem is well suited.

Good luck!

My thoughts are same
You are most likely squeezing, gripping and pulling more than you need to.

Consult the internet, books or local pro’s for better in depth advice.

Think okay (OK) sign with hands, only enough grip in your lower hand to control the paddle direction and flutter and you can actually push with an open upper hand. No need to get all tensed up.