Paddling Posture & Strokes

A Rage against The marketing Cuckoo

Bad paddling posture can turn a great day’s kayaking into a bad day’s kayaking. The following applies to the majority of paddlers.

Paddling Posture

If you are reasonably mobile then sitting in or on your kayak with your spine slightly forward of vertical is the best position. Your legs should be bent at the knee and hooked under the thigh braces or cockpit rim of your sit in kayak. For sit on top kayaks the bend in the knee is equally as important and using thigh straps (optional extra’s) makes this work much better.

Please Do This Simple Test

Click any of the images below to view larger versions.


leaning back whilst paddling will cause muscle damage

Sit on the floor and adopt a position leaning slightly backwards as in the image opposite. Stay in that position for a short while and feel some of your muscles start to complain.

learning slightly forward will be far more comfortable

Change position so that your spine is now slightly forward of vertical as in the image opposite. Stay in that position for a short while and you won’t feel those muscles complaining.

Doing it properly

Apply the above to your kayaking position and you will notice a huge improvement in both your comfort and effeciency of your paddling strokes. It is important to strike the right balance in your posture however, you can lean too far forwards! This will hurt the same muscles as leaning back does so make sure you are leaning JUST forward of centre. Here are some pictures to help.

too far forward

good paddling posture

bad posture


great posture

bad posture

Add a good paddling style to good posture and paddle all day. Forward paddling is what Recreational Paddlers do most of the time. When paddling properly it is a whole body activity, it is not restricted to the upper body only. Sitting leaning slightly forward is a great start. Now add some trunk rotation (no elephant jokes please) and adopt a higher paddling stroke and before you know it your legs, trunk and upper body are all working together. Paddling is easier and more efficient. Look at the images below by way of explanation.

There is an imaginary line down the middle of your kayak or sit on top kayak. Try to get your high hand (the one furthest from the water) over this line. Do this with both hands and you will rotate your trunk and use your legs automatically.

bad sit on top paddling

great sit on top paddling

bad touring paddling

great touring paddling

One Final Point

When you adopt the correct paddling style your kayak with track better. By raising your paddle the blade in the water is drawn closer to your kayak and has less of a turning effect. Low styles produce more turning effect as they are closer to sweep strokes. We use sweep strokes to turn our kayaks. If your kayak keeps going off track it is probably only “doing what your paddling strokes are telling it to do”.

Dear Marketing Cuckoo Man

Please stop designing and installing kayak seats that are like armchairs. High seats encourage people to paddle badly and we don’t want the sea’s, rivers and lakes filling up with paddlers that look like “Duracell Bunnies”.

A backrest is supposed to stop your bum sliding backwards on the seat whilst paddling efficiently so it does not need to reach up to the paddler’s shoulder blades.

Your ridiculous high back seats also foul our paddlers buoyancy aids and spray decks. Go back to your marketing nest and come up with something useful please.


The Old Duffer
Doing what he does best – Grumbling.
For Canoe Shops (Group) Limited