Basic Kayak Skills

For water sports enthusiasts, kayaking can be not only a great adventure, but a fun way to get outdoors and enjoy nature. What’s more, kayaking can be done by virtually anybody just by learning some basic kayaking skills. You’ll need a kayak a paddle to have a good time, but you’ll also need to know how to properly use them before you set off in the water.

Getting In

It may sound like a piece of cake, but due to the way a kayak is constructed, planning your entry and exit of the kayak is key. Unlike a canoe or a boat, it’s actually easiest and most effective to enter the kayak while it is on dry ground. Set up your kayak close to the shore of the body of water you’ll be navigating and make sure there are no rocks or other impediments to block your path to the water. Use your paddle to push yourself into the water.


Once you’re in and ready to get moving, you’ll need the proper paddle technique in order to propel your kayak through the water. The kayak paddle is different from, say, a canoe paddle in that it has two fins instead of one. Hold the paddle with your hands slightly more than shoulder width apart for the most effective and comfortable stroke. If you’re trying to go straight, make a stroke by inserting the paddle into the water at about your waist and pull straight back, parallel with the kayak. Then repeat with the other fin of the paddle on the opposite side. If you push the paddle out, it will push the kayak forward and away from your paddle stroke. This technique is used to turn the kayak. If you are in fast-moving waters, you can also use your paddle as a rudder by placing the fin in the water behind you. Place the paddle behind you on the right to move left, and vice versa to go right, using the current against the paddle to steer the kayak.


Kayaks are built to be able to roll over in the water and roll back with relative ease in case of rapids, bad weather or other water conditions. To perform a roll, first place the paddle on the side of the kayak at about water level with the blade flat to the water. Then roll the kayak over so you are upside down in the water. Use a sit-up motion with your body while at the same time pushing the paddle out away from the kayak and up towards the surface of the water. These two motions done at the same time will cause the kayak to turn up and help you get back above water.

About this Author

James Patterson specializes in health and wellness topics, having written and produced material for the National Institutes of Health, the President’s Cancer Panel, and an Inc. 500 Hall of Fame company. He is also a former sportswriter, with writing experience in basketball, baseball, softball, golf and other popular sports, and writes relevant sports titles.