Improving Balance

Any advice on improving my balance in a kayak. I’ve gone from the wider (Solstice GT) to narrower, longer, faster boats (CD Extreme and the CD Expedition). Where I was comfortable in most conditions in the Solstice, I’m finding I get “unnerved” paddling in rough conditions in the other two boats. Especially quartering downwind!!!

Paddle more
and be sure of your ability to get back up if you go over. Balance comes with seat time and not fearing the boat.

“Balance comes with seat time and not fearing the boat.”

Onseason and Offseason
Onseason, paddle, paddle, paddle. Also if you don’t have a roll, get one, it will REALLY help you improve your balance and paddling overall. When you are not afraid of tipping, you push what you think are the limits more readily.

Offseason I would recomend picking up a set of Nordic (Cross Country) ski’s. I have found the improved core strength and coordination and balance I have developed from skiing have translated into better paddling overall.

The key to balance…

– Last Updated: Sep-09-05 5:51 PM EST –

The key to balance is loose hips.

You want to get into the habit of keeping your upper body over the boat regardless of what the boat is doing.

A help towards this is to edge your boat when making turns.

The CD Extreme is a nice boat and likes to edge.

I'm assuming you are using a skirt all the time. (If not, start.)

Homebuilt balance trainer.
If I go a week or two without paddling I jump on my balance board:

Don’t just paddle , swim with your boat. take it to a small warm inland lake and do like any kid would. tip it over, climb on it paddle it while you sit on the back deck with your feet hanging in the water on both sides. Then paddle it with your feet in the cockpit while you are sitting on the back deck. try standing up in it. Get it and you wet . sit on the boat with it upside down. All the things that any kid would do with a new toy. after you do all that and of course several wet exits and entrys. Then you are ready to start rolling. Do all of the above, then take a class, but go swimming with your boat first.

Best wishes


great advice roy
kayak the most intimate water connection beyond swimming


– Last Updated: Sep-09-05 7:25 PM EST –

I like to think of Kayaking as "SWIMMING, with a boat"

best wishes in all things


That sounds alot like “'Yak foreplay” to me…


Seriously though, it is much like kicking the tires on your new truck, or just taking a swim in your drysuit prior to paddling. Gets you loosened up, not afraid of getting wet, and knowing how your boat is going to feel in various circumstances…(like when you blow that roll and have to climb on top cause you are too tired to R&R… ;^)

There’s times I just lay back in the water with my foot hooked in the cockpit – imagining what it might feel like someday to do a static brace!!

Its all about fun, relaxing, and getting water in your ears!

agree with Roy
Playing in your boat is such an important exercise to do regularly. I was at a symposium earlier this year in Michigan and that particular class was among the most well liked during the whole symposium. When playing in your boat, try popping your skirt off and really edging the boat hard and see how much water you can fill in your cockpit.

Stand in your boat, try standing on the rear deck…etc. After you have fun in your kayak trying different things, the little everyday paddles will seem much more controllable/less tippy for you in the boat.

Become one with your boat!

Any chance of getting basic dimensions on your balance board, especially radius and width of the “rockers”? Looks really useful!

Pete in Atlanta

No prob
The board itself is a piece of scrap 5/8" plywood, 36" x 11".

The rockers are made from a 10" diameter wooden circle cut in half. (It was the top of one of my wife’s plant stands that mysteriously went “missing”…)

I used a couple of half-circles cut out of a 2x6 for the first build, but they were a large radius and quickly got boring. the tighter the radius, the more fun.

tip the boat till it flips!
That’s the first thing that came to my mind!

But others had already offered more specific advices. Try them all. The bottom line is, you need to try to flip the boat a few times. You’ll probably find the boat doesn’t flip as easily as you fear.

Take that fear of flipping away, you will not find the rough water nearly as “unnerving” any more. After all, you haven’t flip in rough water yet, have you? So the fear was just that, fear of the unknown i.e. flipping. Once the “flip” is known, gone are the fears.

I’ve been thinking about making something similar. How did you make the rockers/roller on the bottom?

Time & more time!
Time in the boat, paddle with feet on deck, backwards, practice leaning when you finish paddling. You will be more stable & have more control under power than trying to brace in waves, especially if you have a wing. It will become more fun to power ahead than “nanny out”. Good luck & remember with technique comes stability & more stable under power!

USK artical
Check this by Wayne Horodowich. On the USK website, click the “Reflections” tab, and the September artical is “Is the Kayak Afraid?” Deals with your question directly.


outfitting and skills
A tippy kayak can actually feel very comfortable in rough conditions if it is padded out in the cockpit to give you good contact with the kayak. This will give you instant feedback to your brain and allow you to react properly. Less stable kayaks can also be kept upright with a light brace of the paddle when needed. When I paddle in rough rear quartering seas I use my low brace when a wave catches me unexpectedly. It is a quite effective brace while the kayak is moving. Learning to roll will open up a large area of bracing skills that will give you the comfort and confidense to paddle in rough conditions.

Balance is over rated…
…I’ve been fighting with being balanced for 56 years and I’ve finally glad to say that I won out over it.

same boat
At the the beginning of summer, I was always afraid of leaning my canoe too far and flipping over. Keep swinging your hips back and forth to get use to the balence of your boat. Try slowly leaning your boat as far as possible to the edge, you can use your paddle to do a sculling brace. Practice purposely trying to tip your boat over and using brace to right yourself. This helped a little bit. Also, paddling in lake Michigan, we practiced wave blocking by tilting the bottom of boat towards wave as we went over them. This is actually quite fun in itself by accelerating boat and going over wave.

When my arms needed a break, I placed boat paralell to the waves and just sat in one spot. As the waves were breaking, I would again lean boat into the wave. Once you feel comfortable, try doing this using only lower body and no paddle. All of a sudden I didn’t fear my boat anymore. In fact, I got into my wifes GT for the first time and found the yak to be much easier to balence and brace then my Outrage. Also, surfing waves back in to the beach is a real blast. I probably wouldnt do these things without others around you for safety, and you might consider wearing a helmet to protect yourself in shallow water.

Hope this helps.