Sunday, August 20, 2006


How to hold your kayak paddle - 90 Degree Rule & Paddler's Box.

90 Degree Rule & Paddler's Box improve kayak paddling performance and reduce risks of injury.

How you should hold your kayak paddle is amazingly NOT trivial. This can set you up for good body mechanics and powerful, efficient paddle strokes, or you can be on the path for weak, low endurance paddling and high risk of injury. When they pick up a kayak paddle for the first time beginners always hold the paddle with their hands too close together and power the paddle with arm muscles and elbow bending. It always amazes me when I see many experienced paddlers still making these same foolish beginner mistakes. Those who make the effort to really perfect their paddling techniques will be rewarded.

1. Paddle length. Choose your kayak paddle length by reaching straight overhead and picking the paddle that is as tall as you can reach with your second knuckle. Slightly shorter paddles are needed for squirtboats and other low volume kayaks. Longer paddles are needed for inflatable kayaks (IKs).

2. 90 degree rule - set your hand position on the paddle with paddle shaft over your head and elbows held at 90 degrees. Mark this position on your paddle shaft with tape if necessary. This is critical. Don't let your hands drift closer together as the day progresses.

3. Right hand control means that the right hand always holds the paddle rotated for paddling on the right side of your kayak. Rotate the paddle shaft in your left hand whenever needed to get the paddle blade in position to paddle on the left side. (European paddlers use left hand control paddles. Take your own paddle when you travel. Whichever one you are used to, using a "wrong" hand control paddle is amazingly difficult.)

4. Paddlers box. The paddler's box is a ~square produced by your chest, straight arms and the paddle shaft. Reach out with straight arms and always hold your paddle as far from your body as possible. Keep hands and paddle as low as possible (except the top hand on a vertical stroke like the forward stroke). Maintaining your paddler's box during all of your paddling is critical for power, endurance and prevention of injury. (See my post "Principles of kayak paddling strokes")

More about: Kayak Paddling Techniques - BRT Insights.

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