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Top Tips for Paddling a Kayak Efficiently

When sea kayaking, efficiency is key. Open water paddling is all about covering as much distance with as little effort as possible – this way we can see more of the stunning scenery along our coast and increase our chances of having unforgettable encounters with the amazing wildlife in our oceans.

The variables that we can tweak to allow us to be ultra efficient are endless, ranging from boat design right through to the angle (feather) of the top blade so as to cut through the wind you are paddling against. Many of you who have been out sea kayaking with us over the past few years will have been guided by Hugo, and we’ve asked him to share his top 5 tips for a beginner to radically increase their efficiency.

cornish rock tors sea kayaking guide hugo brown

Hugo’s 5 Top Tips for Paddling Efficiency

High Angle Paddling

Due to having to paddle by the side of the kayak we inevitably put more power on one side, causing the boat to turn. Unfortunately we can’t have a hole in the middle of the kayak to paddle through, which would solve the issue, as we’d sink. Knowing that the closer to the middle of the boat we paddle the more efficient we are being, we need to ensure that the blades run as close to the sides of the boat (the gunnels) as possible. To do this we hold our arms up as high as our shoulders will allow as it helps the blade to run as close to the boat as possible, thus reducing the unnecessary turning initiated by a wider “sweeping” stroke.

a group learning paddling skills on the beach before a sea kayaking tripTrunk Rotation

Using multiple muscle groups rather than just your arms allows you to paddle for longer without getting tired. Trunk rotation means that you rotate your core as you pull back the blade. This means that your core, shoulders and elbows are all working together to ease the work of each other.

sea kayakers paddling at sea

Punch Up

While pulling in with your bottom hand, your top hand isn’t doing anything to help. If we punch up with our top hand as we pull in with our bottom we can nearly half the strain on one arm.

Bring Out by the Bum

Pulling the blade too far back will actually start lifting water up rather than pushing it past us. This means we are putting effort in with no gain coming out. The cut off for slicing the paddle out is just behind our bum, which is the point where our blade begins to switch from pushing water to lifting water.

cornish rock tors sea kayaking guide hugo brownSafety Box

Protecting our body is important in any activity. Using a technically correct stroke makes sure that you are not putting too much strain on your joints and reducing wear and tear. Try to use what is called your safety box, which states that you should never fully extend your elbows while doing a stroke so that the force that comes through the paddle is on your muscles rather than your joints. Your muscles can take the strain whilst your joints are weaker. With this protection we can keep paddling long into old age.