Basics of Whitewater Kayaking

Kayaking is an outdoor water sport in which participants use an elongated paddle to navigate small, narrow craft through various bodies of natural water. Of the many forms pursued for recreational purposes, whitewater kayaking has quickly gained enthusiasm among outdoor devotees. This method involves steering the vessel through turbulent waters, with crossing currents that commonly come together in a white froth. While the sport plays host to a number of advanced practitioners, there are some simple rules and maneuvers that even the most novice of kayakers can master.


As in all sports, safety is of chief concern when approaching kayaking. Wearing a floatation vest is always considered a necessary precaution, even for advanced swimmers. The water can suddenly shift in ways that would render your best efforts to stay afloat useless against the currents should you become removed from your vessel for any reason. It’s also important to check in with your local meteorologist for an estimation of the days weather conditions. Circumstances could become very dangerous without warning should a storm appear while you’re still on the water. Additionally, it’s always best to kayak with companions. If one person suffers an injury, others can steer him into a neutral position where he may remain safely until help arrives.

Staying in Line

Keeping you watercraft parallel to the current’s flow is a foundational exercise in kayaking. It entails directing and holding the boat directly downstream, despite navigating tumultuous waters along with any obstructions that may appear. You can practice this by first paddling upstream for several moments, working against the current in order to slow the boat. Next, submerge and hold your paddle in the water on one side of the kayak, causing it to spin around 180 degrees. Once you have rotated to the frontward position, begin pushing your paddle forward through the water, alternating to either side of the boat, as if attempting to propel yourself backwards. Practice keeping the craft in a straight line, adjusting for any change in water speeds or obstacles that come your way.

Forward Sweep Stroke

This tactic enables you to guide the vessel toward the direction you desire, while maintaining a somewhat foreward postition. Entend your paddle toward the front of the kayak, opposite the direction you plan on turning, placing the end in the water near your feet. Simultaneously, twist your upper body toward the area you wish to travel while pushing the paddle in a large arch away from your body. Keep the arm nearest the paddle blade straight, while the other remains curved in tight to your chest. The kayak should, at this time, execute a sharp turn. Once your straightened arm begins to approach the rear of the boat, however, quickly draw it in toward your body while lifting the paddle completely from the water. Doing this will prevent serious injury to the connective tissue within your shoulder.

About this Author

Harold Sconiers is a jack of many trades. As an adolescent, he achieved accolades as an amateur boxer, subsequently taking his skills into the professional ranks. At the same time, his naturally creative mind allowed him to delve into developing other aspects of his artistic side. He is a community actor, writer, amateur filmmaker and inventor.