Having issues keeping my kayak going straight

No matter what I try to do, my kayak always turns. I know it is a cheap kayak Pelican Boost 100, but I thought it would be easier than it is to at least go where I want to go. I am contemplating just buying a better kayak or even trying a canoe paddle, I am limited to 10’ for a Kayak as I have repurposed a motorcycle trailer to transport the kayaks and 10’ kayaks fit on it very nicely. My wife has the same kayak and doesn’t seem to have the same issues as I do. I think the majority of my issue has to do with the fact that I cannot rotate my torso as well as she can due to fracturing 8 vertebrae a few years ago, but I still want to this and will take any suggestions to help me figure out how to continue.

Turns while paddling or after your last stroke during glide? Always same direction?
Your last stoke may be a semi- sweep with the blade not close to the boat?. Your last stroke may always be on the same side.?
Most 10 ft boats do not glide straight but with good technique should go pretty straight while paddling with a forward stroke.

Do you find you are going right, left, right, left zig zagging. Or are you finding you tend to turn in a right or left arc?

Huge list
Paddle too long and your doing a sweep instead of a forward paddle stroke.
Paddle to short, your leaning over every paddle stroke, leaning helps the boat turn.
Not holding the paddle centered, more power on one side then the other.
Feathered paddle, different blade angles

Take a video of yourself, it will help


As I paddle it tends to stray to the right, but if I stop paddling it turns hard to the right no matter which side I last paddle on.

Do you have the same issue in another boat?
If not your leaning or have greater weight on the left side of your boat.
There is also the possibility of an asymmetrical hull which would cause it

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Try holding the paddle off center a few inches. Are you centered in the seat, does it lean to the side. Rare that the kayak is warped or deformed. Brand new, returnable?

The only other boat I have tried is a rental and it didn’t seem to have that issue

Or look at the seat and make sure it’s centered, if your off center it will cause issues

Next time I go out, I will switch kayaks with my wife and see if the issue follows the kayak or me


Put a couple of jugs of water in the boat and just push it and watch how it tracks.

The seat looks centered, as it is mostly molded into the kayak

Maybe it is a leaning issue, as I have noticed that my motorcycle will also track right if I take my hands off the handlebar since my accident as well

So now the question is how do I correct this?

Make a determined effort to lift your right knee and see if that helps.
Having someone video you going away and coming towards helps a lot to see if the boat is level to water and if your square to the center line.

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I am guessing you may be heavier and/or taller than your wife so the boat will have a different water line than when she is in hers. I’ve helped folks in too-short for their size rec kayaks that want to wander in circles by having them put some weight (5 to 10 pounds to start) in the stern of the boat. In a boat with too much weight ahead of the centerline, the stern may be too light and want to “pass” the bow between strokes when the boat is not being powered forward.

Save several half gallon plastic milk or juice bottles (the square profile ones don’t roll around), take with you and fill with lake water to put inside the stern, and, if that doesn’t work, try various weights in the bow – play with different ballasting arrangements and you may tune in a straighter tracking.

It will be at least a few weeks before I can take my kayak out again, but I will have my wife record me when we do.


I will try that as the kayak does have a storage area back there with bungees to hold cargo down

I will paraphrase something I saw on this board a few months ago, you can only have two: cheap, kayak, tracking. It’s what makes the smaller less expensive boats easier to handle and more stable and inherent to their design.

That said the best way to minimize the effect of your strokes turning the boat is bring the paddle closer to you by increasing the angle. Even if you cannot rotate your torso well you will lose power and get tired sooner by just ‘pulling with your arms’ and not using all your body but even then a high angle paddling will increase efficiency.

Because you are paddling with the paddle angled down as opposed to out the force is closer to you and will act with less leverage on your direction.

Another thing you can try is edging the kayak, like swing your butt to one side and paddle with the boat slightly rolled in the opposite direction you want to go. If you find you are turning right too much then roll the kayak right and it will want to turn left at least somewhat. Basically it’s the opposite of a motorcycle of bicycle: lean in the OPPOSITE direction you want to go. This may not totally compensate but will reduce the effect of wind and wave.

If you’re out in BIG conditions (probably not the kind of conditions you can face with a 10 foot boat) sometimes it’s the paddle catching the wind so you might want to angle the paddle. I don’t like angling the paddle as I don’t go in big conditions and it’s counter intuitive to paddle as I like both blades in the same direction but yes it can act like a sail sometimes.

That said even if you use a very low angle paddling technique that is way out the force should mostly cancel out. One side is always stronger but it shouldn’t be that bad so while you will probably be zig-zagging if your boat is predominantly going one way then you’re being affected by conditions and it’s probably not what you’re doing.

Also try not to power through the middle of your paddling stroke. Don’t “push” the paddle through the water as it approaches your hip, ease up and just let it glide. It will still propel you but you will not be forcing the boat out of line. Many novice paddler overdrive their paddles, exerting more effort than they need to and then having to compensate when they are zigzagging with each stroke. Try a slightly faster cadence with a lighter touch. An overly large paddle blade can also contribute to the tracking problems.