How to Minimizing the Aches and Pains of Flatwater Paddling is publishing an article on Minimizing the Aches and Pains of Flatwater Kayaking, based on a few years of my reading, thinking, and testing. How do these suggestions match with your own experience? What other things have you found useful for this purpose?

EDIT: Here is a link to the article: Minimizing the Aches and Pains of Flatwater Paddling |

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Link to the article?

General fitness helps the most. Next, good paddling technique means efficient paddling and less effort. An upright posture helps efficiency & stability too (I always ached after paddling when I used to slouch).

As for paddles, in general lighter is almost always better especially with Euro paddles, however the heaviest paddle I own is the least tiring - it is a Greenland paddle made of western cedar.


Get out and stretch every two hours.


I second good technique - everyone can use a “tune up” with a good forward stroke coach now and then. Light paddle for sure. And make sure that your kayak is as comfortable as possible - lots of modifications that can be made even on an already comfortable boat - different backbands, foam, foot pegs etc etc.


Don’t get old.


Find a large tandem canoe and two friends to paddle it. Lie down in bottom of boat and drink beer.


My friends would make me regret that tactic.



at this time (you know, no ‘reverse-aging’ drugs, yet), I prefer getting older to the alternative (you know, room-temperature).

I agree with many of the previous:
light paddle,
light boat,
foam seat


Bad option some friends went that route.


Regular exercise especially core exercises. Seat pad. I also wear padded fingerless gloves even in summer for added comfort on my hands. Good kneeling pad (I’m in a canoe). On rare occasions I’ll take a little Ibuprofen before a long paddle (like one the night before and one in the morning).

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I find aches and pains are seasonal - at the beginning of the season I’m better off not doing any real long days; 20 miles downstream tops. If I do, I pay the price. Same with blisters. (And that’s OK too. A little bit of ache and pain, the occasional blister, every now and then is good for the soul, I think. If you never feel that, you’re not really trying at all.) By mid spring if I get aches and pains, its from sleeping on a rock or something. (Or possibly fighting a head wind for an quite an extended period of time.) After paddling I’m usually just relaxed and pleasantly sleepy.

Of course not slouching helps, and that too is something I catch myself doing more early in the season than later. Not getting old would be great, and I think paddling helps mitigate some of that too. I know I feel older after a day’s paddling in spring than I do in mid summer by which time I certainly feel younger.
Especially in flat water, I’m not entirely convinced that any particular weight of boat or paddle causes aches and pains. I used to hurt more in the early season than later on even when I was younger and paddling clunkier boats and its the same now but with nicer boats. Seems like a wash to me.
A heavy boat is like a freight train. Once you get the train rolling and have momentum, just paddle hard enough to hang on to the momentum and use it. Its the starting,stopping, eddy turns and such that wears you down. If the paddle is heavy, don’t lift it, do underwater recoveries.

Its my belief that its the conditioning that counts most.




I’ve not had aches or pains from paddling or in general, maybe because I exercise year-round or maybe because I have peasant genes. No idea.

Am a believer in getting in 30-45+ minutes of brisk exercise daily, not just in the “off” season, plus core, strength and balance training. My Concept2 D provides the cardio work needed for endurance, plus it’s a full body workout. About once a week I’ll do a series of rotator cuff exercises. Bought an Apple watch a year ago, so now I have a personal assistant on my wrist reminding me to exercise, move, and do the training. Too bad it doesn’t do motivation, but I have a video that works every time.

Since skin cancer is a concern, in the warm months I always paddle in a long sleeved rashguard made of lightweight, fast drying, moisture wicking material. Even when wet it certainly will never add weight to my arms and strain my shoulders as the article claims. It’s also cooler, even on the rare hot days we have.

My boats have minicell foam footrests so leg position is not a problem.

For those who do experience chronic pain, this article may be of interest: Pain Relief From Exercise? Brisk Walks Can Make A Difference : Shots - Health News : NPR


When low pressure moves in , my joints start talking. Rain moved in last night and getting out of bed was a chore. But , who wants to get up on a rainy, 50° morning if they don’t have to. I had my coffee at 10 am and have half hibernated with a book most of the day.


Somehow the author missed a prime tip…Use good technique. Actually the arms have not much to do with a long day… the abdominals should do the work and by pushing on one side of the paddle while pulling on the other side makes long days quite doable without a lot of fatigue.
Same goes for canoe. Arms are just fulcrums not generators of power.


General fitness, starting with the core muscle groups. Good technique uses the trunk and lower back muscles a lot. Arm paddlers slow down during the day. I like a rowing machine for rafting and drift boat handling of the oars.

I had a landscape company specializing in native plants for my last career. I found that using a large rake or a shovel moving dirt all the time could be used to replicate paddling strokes. Draws and prys and pull strokes are similar. Over time I developed great lats and still have them today.


Morphine :laughing: