Paddling issues

Hi, I am quite new to kayaking. Recently I bought gumotex pneumatic kayak.I’ve been kayaking with my partner on some lakes and small rivers. Everything is great other than my paddling technique. For some reason when I paddle kayak goes slightly left. I watched a lot of vids and read quite a bit, but I don’t know what to do with that. It is bothering me because my partner has to correct it while paddling. Does anyone has any advices? I am quite desperate…

Edit: my post was flagged as a spam…

Are you right handed?

To add power on the left, try pushing with your right hand in addition to pulling with your left when you stroke on the left.

Yes, I am right handed. Thank’s for your tip :slight_smile:

Common problem at first, and matches your being right handed.
I don’t know the boat in terms of foot braces. But another thing that will help keep your paddling centered is to push on the foot brace while the arm is bringing the paddle back. Pushes your hip back a smidge so any built in tilt is less so. And we all have one after a few decades of using our body.

Thank’s for your advice. It is comforting to read that it is a common problem. I will try to do my best. I hope that with more exercise and experience I will get better :slight_smile:

Is this a tandem paddling situation?
If so, are you in the front or in the back of the tandem kayak?
Or are you paddling the kayak solo and it always goes slightly left?

Yes, it is a tandem kayak. I am sitting in the front. We tested this in different situations. It occurres when I am paddling by myself and when we both paddle. When my partner paddles by himself it doesn’t happen.

Insure that you are holding the paddle centered left to right and you are not reaching out farther on the right. If this is not the case, then shift the paddle center slightly to left which will correct the tendency to go left.

As mentioned above, a stronger stroke with your right hand could potentially cause the issue. Concentrating on eliminating as much sweep element from your stroke as possible could help. And paying attention to the end of your strokes could help. The paddle should slice up out of the water cleanly as you’re finishing your stroke, making sure that the paddle never lingers momentarily in the water at the end of a stroke.
As a side note, I have no idea of the sizes of you or your partner. But boats do not behave well when they are bow heavy. If you’re the lighter person, you should always be in the front, and the heavier person in the back, in any tandem paddling situation. Either that or organize your gear so that the overall boat trim isn’t bow heavy, even if the bow paddler is a little heavier.
I have tandem kayaks and a tandem canoe. Directional control from the bow is difficult in any. It’s harder to detect the slight beginnings of a change in direction from the bow, and boats seem more receptive to subtle corrections from the stern. Bow turning strokes can be very effective, and are typically employed when the maneuvering is much more deliberate than slight directional control adjustments. The stern paddler should handle directional control, such as managing a boats tendency to turn slightly to the left. As I just mentioned, the biggest thing I would ever look for is the bow paddler having their paddle dragging through the water a bit versus a quick and clean exit after their stroke. But I have paddled with completely inexperienced people in the bow, as well as people where I found they could not manage directional control from the stern once we got paddling, and have always been able to easily manage directional control from the stern. Even with the kayak only slightly veering to left while you are paddling, I would still consider the stern paddler in the scenario. One possibility is that sweep strokes are more effective the slower you are moving. So the stern paddler may be able to compensate for a slight tendency to veer to the left when that person is the only one paddling, but add in a bow paddler, increase speed, the sweeps become less effective at turning the boat, so directional control has become more difficult for the stern paddler using those sweep strokes. If the bow paddler is the only one paddling, it’s much more difficult to control the boats tendency to veer slightly to the left, and it doesn’t rule out the source of the issue coming from the stern of the boat.
It seems I’m stirring up all kinds of mud into the water. I’d start with never having your paddle enter the water creating drag, or creating drag before leaving the water, as these are the most powerful sources of directional change in a moving boat. Then look at applying power evenly on both sides while eliminating sweep action in your strokes. Then look at the stern paddler’s ability to manage subtle directional control at speed. “Take us over to the right.” “Take us over to the left.” Just see where that ability is at. The other good result of this practice is that you will find that the stern paddler can do the most effective maneuvering work if the boat maintains momentum through the bow paddler never stopping with their normal forward stroke. You say “Take us over to the right?” and you keep paddling forward, paddling to keep momentum, with no changes in your storke to help effect the turning. Is the stern paddler getting the entire paddle - both blades - on one side of the boat and initiating a nice, efficient stern rudder? Is the stern paddler simply pushing one blade of the paddle down on the water beside them, doing more braking than turning?
Any tandem paddling pair can learn a lot through attention to detail during exercises like these. You say right now it’s bothering you because your partner has to correct it while paddling. Any directional control effort the stern paddler does takes something from forward effort, and so I can say that while the stern paddler is providing directional control, they are feeling bad that the bow paddler is cranking out all the forward power. So becoming efficient in directional control from the stern should be a matter of respect towards the bow paddler as well.
We love tandem paddling. It truly takes on a team feel. There are rewards that simply aren’t there while solo paddling. Good luck and enjoy!

Thank’s for comment. I will make sure to pay attention to how hold my paddle.

Wow, thank you for your detailed answer. Great exercise proposition. I’m sure that with more practice we’ll manage to figure this out :slight_smile:

I am the guy in the back here. I registered to add a few points:
Weight and Balance is unlikely to be the problem. I’m only <5 kilograms lighter than @Melpomene_22 and we have luggage in the back, that should make it pretty balanced.
In the beginning I noticed her paddle strokes were asymmetrical both in left-right and up-down direction. On the left stroke, her right hand ended up above her head. On the right stroke, her left hand only made it as high as her shoulder. Also her right hand, at the end of the stroke, is roughly in front of her face, while her left hand stops off-center.
I filmed it from behind to show it to her, but even if she focusses on paddling symmetrically, the boat (Gumotex Thaya with fin) goes 45° to the left within a few strokes. I’m not very strong myself, so constantly correcting for that by applying stronger strokes on the left is quite exhausting after a while.

Here’s some stills from the video. Two of the pictures are consecutive strokes respectively.

edit: For some reason this post was flagged as spam and at the same time the post of @Melpomene_22. Possibly because we’re writing from the same IP-address.

She might be doing a bit of a sweep stroke when the left hand is up, and less of one when her right hand is so high. She might try to keep them both at about eye level. Also to equalized the power of each stroke try to be aware of what is called the paddle box shape, and twist at the waist using more core strength and less arm strength.

The Paddlers Box - How to Kayak - Paddle Education - YouTube

Kayaking 101: How to Forward Stroke, Sweep Stroke, and Edge - YouTube

Definitely asymmetrical. The height of the right hand above the head gives the appearance of some clumsiness. The height of the left hand looks ok to me. The pictures don’t indicate any decided sweep as a part of the stroke on the right side. From your description, it would take a mighty sweep stroke from the bow to get the kayak to favor to the left at that rate. Something that would be obvious. 45 degrees to the left within a few strokes honestly sounds like a bow rudder type reaction more than a bow sweep type reaction. In a well - trimmed and well-designed tandem boat, that would take a skilled and deliberate execution of a bow rudder. Not an accidental introduction of a bit of drag as part of a forward stroke. As I mentioned before, while at speed, sweeps lose their effectiveness and static strokes (like a bow rudder) gain effectiveness.
It sounds like the boat itself probably has a tendency to spin out once it reaches a certain speed. That could explain the included fin. My guess is that at tandem paddling speed, it will require skilled directional control from the stern.
I would probably start by ironing out a quick, coordinated low angle stroke approach from the bow paddler. The focus being on making sure they aren’t introducing any drag as the paddle enters, or before it leaves the water. Once you are confident in that, it will be interesting to see if the boat still wants to spin out at tandem paddling speed.
Once you get good at this, it should become clear that as the stern paddler, you would never let a boat turn 45 degrees unless that’s what was intended. The further you let that turning momentum proceed, the harder it is to control it. Look forward at where you want to go. If the boat starts to turn at all, you need to correct that from the stern. If that means you take a couple strokes to get moving, and then your 3rd stroke ends with a directional control component, that’s what you do. If the turning momentum is so strong that you stop your forward stroke to leave a stern rudder in the water while the bow paddler continues with several forward strokes, then that’s what you do. The stern paddler has more control while moving forward than the bow paddler. With 2 equally skilled paddlers, the bow paddler is not capable of overriding the stern paddler’s wishes as to what direction the boat is pointing. It could end in the bow paddler bow ruddering and then sculling on the right side to turn the boat to the right, the stern paddler sculling on the right side to prevent the boat from turning to the right, and the boat simply moving sideways through the water in a fight to control the direction you’re pointed. But outside of an all-out deliberate fight over that control, accidental bow paddler imperfections cannot override the stern paddler’s will to point the boat in a certain direction.
In other words, while Melpomene_22 works out their forward stroke technique, you are responsible for directional control - no matter what. I have paddled alongside tandem paddlers with directional control issues, and jumped into the stern paddling position just to show that this is the case many times. I would bet $100 that I could jump in any of my tandem boats and do it with Melpomene_22. It’s not that I’m that good. It’s just that I have a lot of hours always trying to perfect paddling skills, and have learned from my own experience as well as that of others.
You got this iojfmeckl! Melpomene_22 obviously cares about this. Remember to always think well of your paddling partner, and enjoy the challenge. While you may be able to attribute a loss of speed to a bow paddler - maybe - you cannot blame the bow paddler for the direction the boat is facing in a well-trimmed well-designed boat unless they did it in a very obvious and deliberate manner like planting and holding a bow rudder.

An additional note, given Melpomene_22 is just a tad heavier anyway, there would be nothing wrong with changing up between front and back paddler once in a while and putting the other in charge of directional control. If you are the stern paddler, and you are responsible for directional control, there’s no better way to find out a person’s contribution to directional control than putting them fully in charge of it. It guarantees both paddlers learn this ability, thereby better understanding their own personal contribution while paddling in the bow. This would be a great way to iron out any asymmetry in either person’s strokes. And it would keep things fun and interesting.

A question for you. Does the boat still bear left when the bow paddler doesn’t paddle?

No. If only I paddle in the back, the boat goes straight effortlessly, @castoff . If we both paddle I feel that it wants to deviate to the left and I am able to correct for that, which is exhausting. And when I stop paddling and let her take over, the boat quickly turns left by a lot.

We’ve bought the boat 2-3 weeks ago and been on the lake/river 7-8 times since then, 2-3 hours each. The reason I always sat in the back is that I was doing some kayak racing as a child, so I thought it’d be smart to have the more experienced person responsible for steering.

We appreciate all the help and tips so far. The next time we’re on the water, possibly today, we will switch seats and try how that goes.

2 years ago I bought a tandem sit-on-top. That thing never went straight with both of us, just one of us paddling (both on), or just one of us on the boat paddling from stern position. I thought it’d be nice for the 2 of us to be in the same boat…he didn’t want to get a canoe. So I sold the tandem and got myself a Dagger Axis to upgrade from my pelican.