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How To Hold A Kayak Paddle (The Right Way)

If you’re new to kayaking, then you may not know the proper way to hold the paddle when you’re in the water.

The reason that this is important knowledge for a beginner is because it affects your time out in the kayak.

When you hold a kayak paddle the wrong way, you can tire too quickly and end up sore after your excursion in the water.

Below we’ve got some tips to help you maintain proper form when holding a kayak paddle.

1. Check Your Orientation

Before you even attempt to start paddling out in your kayak,  you need to make sure you’re holding the paddle in the correct orientation.

You’ll want to center the paddle horizontally in front of you and check the orientation in the following ways:

  • Paddle blades should be pointed perpendicular to the water.
  • Your larger knuckles should be pointed upwards as you drip the paddle with both hands.
  • If your blades aren’t symmetrical, then the shorter side should be on the bottom.
  • If your blades aren’t flat, then the concave side should be facing you.
proper kayak paddle orientation
image via REI

2. Center Your Hold

In order to make sure you’re maintaining proper form and practice a good paddling technique, you need to center your hold on the kayak paddle’s shaft.

Here’s how to center your hold on the paddle:

  • While holding the paddle, lift it above your head and rest it on the top of your head. Both arms should be bent at the elbow 90 degrees.
  • Move your hold until the center of the paddle is centered on your head.
  • Adjust your grip as necessary to keep the shaft centered on your head.

This centering creates what is known as the paddler’s box since your arms are at 90 degrees, forming the bottom and sides of a box, and the shaft of the paddle creates the top of the box.

centering kayak paddle hold position
image via REI

3. Let Your Grip Relax

Now that you’ve centered the position of the shaft, it’s time to check your grip on the paddle.

For beginners, it’s easy to grip the paddle too tightly. This is often a result of anxiety in the water.

However, if you maintain a tight grip on the paddle, then you’re just going to wear yourself out and really fatigue your hands and arms.

So, you definitely need to make sure that you’re not tightly gripping your kayak paddle.

Instead, you need to relax your grip. Here’s how to make sure your grip is relaxed:

  • Take your index finger and thumb of each hand and circle them around paddle to make a circle grip.
  • Lightly rest your other fingers on the shaft of the paddle
relaxed grip on kayak paddle
image via REI

With a relaxed grip, you’re better able to focus on paddling with your torso instead of your upper body, which means that you won’t fatigue as easily out in the water.

Final Word

If you’ve been anxious about getting out into the water with your kayak, then use the tips above to work on holding your paddle the right way.

You can even practice holding the kayak paddle on shore to make sure you’ve got the basics down before hitting the water.

Once you’ve masted the proper way to hold your paddle, then you’ll be able to spend more time out in your kayak without getting fatigued as easily.

Then, you’ll be ready to start working on the various paddling strokes that you’ll use to move through the water when you’re out on your kayaking adventure.