New to kayaking and slowest in the tours

Hi. I’m a very new kayaker at age 69 and I’ve a question. A friend and I have been out 3 or 4 times just paddling around a lake. When we went on two tours with a reputable company I was last in the whole group. /twice. I asked the guide if I was doing something wrong; he said I was not and asked what was wrong in being slow. I am willing to be patient and practice but would love a little feedback if you have any ideas without seeing me paddle. Am I just inexperienced (yes), not strong enough in my arms (yes), doing something wrong with my paddling, all of the above? I love being on the water but I’m a wee bit discouraged although not enough.

Many thanks.

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Hi there. I think it’s fantastic that you just started kayaking at age 69! My only advice is to not let being slow deter you from your enjoyment. Your technique will improve with more time on the water. Besides, there is nothing wrong with slow paddling. You see more that way.


What boat are you paddling and any idea what the others are paddling?

Look up kayak forward stroke. Correct technique does not depend on arm strength, but done correctly is more based of torso rotation and core muscle strength.


Thank you. And it’s true I enjoy being out.

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I’m sorry; I know it shows my ignorance but the boats are provided by the tour company. Their webpage doesn’t identify them. I know I get one of the bigger ones because I’m a little on the portly side and I have a temporary hip problem that makes getting out a little challenging. I do watch the videos; I suspect my torso rotation is weak. Thanks for the suggestion.

I like the PaddleTV YouTube channel for basic techniques. If you can stomach the intro and the advertising, I think they do a good job of focusing on one skill at a time - which is not only the best way to learn, but also the best way to implement new skills in my opinion. Just focus on that one thing before moving onto the next.

In this video they address posture and hand position. Nothing else. They use the term “feathering” which just refers to the offset of the paddle blades. Don’t worry so much about that, but do focus on your posture and where you have your hands on the paddle next time you go out. Once you are good with those, move onto strokes.

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I also want to add that instruction is always wise. It’s tricky of course during a pandemic. I personally worked out the basics before I went to any clinics, but you should make instruction a priority at some point.

Thanks, Pru. The company I’ve been out with offers whitewater kayaking and rafting, SUP, sea kayaking lessons and 5 flatwater beginner tours which is where I found the 2 I’ve been on. I feel comfortable with these people but should I look elsewhere (in Montgomery County, MD) for flatwater classes? Any recommendations from anyone?

If the boats are relatively the same, then it’s an issue of technique and conditioning. With a study or better yet a class that covers paddling technique, this will improve rapidly. Improvement in conditioning takes a little longer and will improve the more you paddle. It took me about 2 years to go from paddling about 8 miles for a day trip to 30+ miles. I’m much oldeer and not sure if i can do that now.

The boat you paddle can make a big difference. In general, the longer and narrower the boat the faster and easier to paddle it is. It may feel tippier at fist, but this feeling goes away with more seat time. It will generally handle better in rougher conditions, although a shorter wider boat will initially feel more stabile in flat water.

All this is only important if speed is your primary concern. Every boat is a compromise and no boat is best for everything. If you are primarily into leisure paddling, fishing, photography, etc on protected water or in narrower creeks, then a slower boat may suit your need much better. If you are into exploring area where speed and distance are important, then a faster boat is better. If you want to kayak camp, then a boat with more volume is what you need.

The first and most important thing you want to decide before actually deciding that you want to buy a boat, is what you want to do with it and where you want to paddle. Many people as they get more into kayaking will have more that one boat to serve different purposes.

You are definitely not too old to get into kayaking. Myself and many others on this site are a fair amount older.

I think if you feel comfortable with them, that is good. Perhaps you can ask them about a private basics lesson. It’s remarkable what a difference proper stroke technique can make. And then once you have that mastered, as your fitness improves, so will your confidence and, if you desire, your speed.

Thanks. Speed isn’t the reason I kayak but being towed gets to be embarrassing!

For local instruction try:

Rick Wiebush at

Paula Hubbard at

Brain Blankinship at

I know all of them personally and they are excellent ACA certified sea kayaking instructors.

You could also ask for Dave Isbell at Annapolis Canoe and Kayak for more suggestions. They do not offer instruction, but they are one of the best kayak shops in the local area. They also do rentals.


I can only dream of having so many skilled resources where I live. Wow!

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You could also try Potomac Paddllesports, although I don’t know much about them. I’m under the impression they concentrate more on whitewater.

Any good course should cover basic safety. What you don’t know is what gets you into trouble. They should also discuss different types of boats and by talking to you can steer you in the right direction. Start out used if you can. People that get into kayaking rarely stay with their first boat after they have paddled a while and learn more about the sport and what they want. You can almost always sell a used boat for about what you paid for it…

Thank you!

We are around the same age. Staying in shape becomes more challenging as we age. Do you get some regular exercise? Do you work on your core muscle groups?

Technique is more important than people think. Good kayak paddling involves the abdominals and lower back muscles.

Maybe you should avoid tours and groups for awhile until you get stronger.

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Just remember the tortoise and the hare story. Or as my dad told me if you are slow enough you will come in first place in the next race.

Honestly you did the right thing and asked the person in charge about your concerns and he had every chance to suggest a slower group for you if there was one or something for you to work on. Many times what we think is a problem as it reflects on us isn’t a problem for others. A lot of sports are like that. I used to golf a lot and it never bothered me being paired with someone not as good as me but when I was paired with someone better than me I always felt I was slowing them down.

Work on getting better but don’t use it as a reason to not continue.


Once your skill level becomes sufficient and you learn how to do assisted and self rescues, there is another possibility in addition to paddling with a group. In my own case, most of my paddling is solo … perhaps 75%. I make conservative choices which are above all safety conscious. My solo paddling allows me to observe nature more closely and it often becomes quite meditative. I have no trouble keeping up with myself.


Thanks for the advice. I do need to build my core. I’m exploring instruction opportunities now too so I can develop good technique instead of a lot of bad habits!
One of the reasons I chose to go on a short tour was the promise of basic instruction and the safety of having people with me who knew what they were doing but if it’s going to discourage me I suppose I need to use them as opportunities to strengthen my abilities instead of learning.

Bud16415, your dad was right! Thanks for the encouragement - you’re right too!