First time out in a long time

I went kayaking for the first time in my very first kayak - a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125. I have kayak before; however, those times I used my aunt/uncle’s current design kayaks.

While paddling, I was trying my best to maintain a straight path by looking forward; however, I kept going to the right - forcing me to have a few extra paddles on my right side. Also, I kept hitting the left side of the boat with the left side of my paddle. What is going wrong? Does anyone else on here have the same boat? If so, what paddle (brand, size) do you have? Also, what is the best hand placement, my hands kept slipping in and gave me a blister(guess I should have worn my wetsuit gloves)?

Finally, when seated in my kayak, how are my legs/feet supposed to sit? Am I supposed to lean back, upward, or lean forward to better the strength of my paddles? My legs were flat and me feet you flat out the side touch the interior walls; yet it seemed like, if I were to push the foot pegs back more (If that is even possible, we shall see…) having my feet on them would feel more comfortable, safe, and natural.

Not sure if this is enough info to go on. But I appreciate your attention and advice. Thank you very much.

Lots going on there
A screwed up kayak is relatively rare, so you may be going to the right because of weathercocking (tendency for many kayaks to turn into the wind), or you may be paddling harder or more effectively on one side. Your blisters may be from gripping the paddle shaft too tightly, or a matter of the surface finish of the paddle and whether or not your hands are wet. There is no simple easy answer, but for a new paddler, it is likely that you are gripping the paddle more tightly than you need to. As far as to where you hands are on the paddle shaft, let comfort be your guide. You can also extend the paddle a little further out to the side in which you are inadvertently turning(in your case to the right), to give you more purchase on that side.

As far as legs, that is personal preference. Mine go on and off the foot pegs for variety. In rough water, or sprinting, they usually stay on the pegs for more control of the kayak. In my Greenland s-o-f there are no pegs and my legs are flat out in front of me, but my thighs are packed tightly under the masik (wood running from side to side behind my knees).

I have never used a backband, and never lean back against my backrest, unless I am sitting still and resting. When paddling, you should be using your stomach muscles to sit up straight, or lean a little forward. Also, rotating your torso while paddling will keep you using your back muscles instead of your arm muscles and will keep your paddle further away from the side of your kayak.

Taking a class might be good, or at least watching some video of good stroke technique might be helpful. Joining a club in your area where other, more experienced paddlers can help you learn is often helpful.

One other thing to try is to paddle quietly. That will help you orient your paddle into a good position. Also, remember the torso rotation, it is key to a good stroke.

Have fun with your new kayak. Things will fall into place.

The boat may have been weather cocking, but if you kept hitting one side of the boat you should probably have someone help you with your forward stroke. You are probably not rotating well, the hands sliding may be an attempt to make up for that by messing with the paddle - so get someone to look at what you are doing and find the place to start.

As to seated position, you should be sitting straight up. You should have three points of contact - thighs up into the thigh brace, or at least just under them, your butt in the seat and your feet on the pedals. What you want is the position which best allows you to rotate your torso for the stroke. Being behind or forward of center generally restricts rotation.

You can drop your thighs down to rest - without seeing you in the boat it’s hard to figure out what angles result from getting your thighs up into those braces - but for boat control like edging or turning you’ll want them there. So even if your legs lay down flat to rest, those thigh braces should still be pretty much above them to get up and into them quickly.

Don’t blame the boat or paddle
It’s unlikely that the boat or paddle were causing you to turn. It’s much more likely that you had an asymmetrical stroke, a bit of quartering breeze, or perhaps you were leaning the boat a bit to one side.

Many hulls will tend to turn away from the side to which you are leaned. Hard-chine, Greenland style hulls are especially known for this. That can be very useful, though when dealing with a wind from one quarter which tends to turn you toward one side. Often, a slight lean to the appropriate side will compensate for the wind’s turning effect, and allow you to paddle without compensation.

As a general rule, grip your paddle shaft so that your hands are at shoulder width. Do you have a feathered or unfeathered paddle? If your blades are offset, you need to allow the paddle shaft to rotate a little in one hand to allow the blade to be square to the water. Look at your blade to make sure you don’t have it partially feathered in the water during your forward stroke. This would be another possible reason for you to unintentionally turn to one side.

If you have offset blades, you most likely have a right-hand control paddle. This means you keep a relatively firm grip with the rignt hand, and allow the paddle shaft to rotate a little bit in your left hand when taking a stroke on that side. If you haven’t been out for a while, blisters are pretty common. With time, you learn to relax your grip on the side opposite that which you are taking a stroke on, which will reduce blisters.

If you haven’t tried it, set your footpegs so that your knees are slightly bent and your lower thighs can lightly contact the deck. By tensing your feet against the pegs, you can then bring your knees and lower thighs firmly in contact with the deck which will greatly improve your ability to heel the kayak in a controlled fashion. You can always slide your feet off the pegs and straighten your legs for a break. Most people have their feet pointed outward a bit and their feet plantar flexed a bit (plantar flex is what you do with your feet and ankles when you walk on tip toes).

As was said, torso rotation is absolutely key to an efficient stroke. As such, your torso should be sitting staight upright throughout most of your stroke. You may want to learn forward a bit (not slump forward) when planting your paddle blade to allow more extension on your stroke, but then come back to an upright position.

Try this: sit staight upright and see how much you can rotate your torso from one side to the other. Now try the same thing while slouching forward or leaning backward. You will find that poor posture dramatically reduces the ease and extent to which you can rotate.

Don’t bring your stroke too far back. Ideally you want to be planting your blade around the position of your foot. Your stroke is pretty much done when the blade reaches your knee, although if the boat is moving along it may look as if you are pulling back to your hip, by the time the blade clears the water. You don’t want to continue your forward stroke beyond a 90 degree angle to your boat (unless you are doing a sweep) as this will only slow you down.

Watch your stroke to make sure you are using the same shaft angle on both sides. Some paddlers favor a high shaft angle, with the blade close to the boat and the opposite hand held fairly high. Others favor a low shaft-angle stroke with the opposite hand lower and the blade further from the boat. Either is fine, but you should be doing the same on both sides. Also, make sure your blade is entering the water and leaving the water at the same point on each side of the boat. Some people find it helpful to push against the foot brace on one side or the other during the power phase of their stroke. Try it.

Pblanc has just about covered it all
I can only add: make sure the length of your paddle is correct.

If the length is way too long or way too short that could be why you had to keep moving your hands.

Many new paddlers have to wear gloves until their hand toughen up.

Good luck, and stay with it.

Once you get it all ironed out, there is no turning back!



Most paddlers face the same problems
I’m not an expert, but I have experienced similar challenges paddling. If you face strong wind and or current, and you don’t use a rudder, the only way you have to control these variables is your paddle; you can’t escape from that (unless you are using a rudder). I don’t know if you took your new kayak to a different place where the currents and wind are stronger than where you paddled before. I believe your kayak model is only 12 feet long. At this length, the tracking of the kayak is not that good. Something I tried in my ocean kayak prowler 13 (13 feet) to avoid paddling twice on one side to compensate wind or current was to control the strength and the area where the paddle hits the water. If the wind or current was pushing my kayak to the left, I would use a strong paddle stroke on the left side, and play with the distance of the paddle compare to the kayak. In a normal stroke you would hit the water as close as possible to the kayak. When you are compensating for wind or current you might want to hit the water a little further away using a stronger stroke. On the other side of the kayak (right) you might just do it the normal way.

Regarding blisters, I found that carbon paddles will help. I used to have paddles with an aluminum shaft that gave me a lot of blisters. When I switched to carbon paddles the blisters went away. You might also want to review your paddling technique. If you are using your arms instead of your shoulders to paddle, the tendency is to grab the paddles too hard. When using your shoulders, try not to hold the paddles too firmly, especially with the hand that is in the air during the stoke. Actually, the hand and arm in the air should be relaxed at that phase of the stroke.

For seating position, ideally you will lean forward during the paddle stroke, never lean back. This will help you on your stroke, the farthest you can reach forward the better.

Leg movement during the stroke is important. You will lean on the leg where you are hitting the water, and should relax the opposite leg. If you feel too loose in the cockpit, you might consider using thigh braces to help you have more control over the kayak with your body.

thank you everyone so much! I will work on my posture, feet positioning, and paddle technique.


– Last Updated: Apr-19-09 9:40 PM EST –

I disagree with the "hands shoulder width" suggestion unless you're using a Greenland paddle. I was taught -- and have found -- that a good starting point for hand position is to hold the paddle horizontally on top of your head and move your hands to where your elbows make a 90-degree angle.

Good references: