As simplistic as it seems, learning to paddle a kayak correctly goes a long way to ensuring that you have the best experience on the water. When it comes to exploring the natural beauty of Sarasota and Siesta Key, few pastimes are more enjoyable than kayaking – so we want to guarantee you love every minute of it. The stroke needed to effortlessly guide a kayak through the water will come naturally with just a little bit of practice. And since this may be your first time, we’re here to provide some basic tips.

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Does Technique REALLY Matter? If you are on vacation or trying out kayaking for the first time, your lack of paddling technique doesn’t disqualify you from being on the water. However, when you learn to paddle effectively, you’ll have more fun!

The Art of the Paddle

It doesn’t take too long to master the forward stroke of a paddle, and you may even quickly learn to back up if you are trying to avoid something. But there are various techniques to paddle strokes, and understanding the fundamentals of blade orientation, paddle motion, and your body position will have you paddling like a pro in no time.

The basic kayak techniques for paddling are the same in all water conditions but are especially easy in the calm waters around Siesta Key. You’ll need to:

  • engage the core by stabilizing your abdominal muscles
  • push the paddle away from the body at the shoulder
  • pull back toward the body with core, chest, back, and arm muscles.
  • All paddle strokes should be performed with the proper grip: hands shoulder-width apart, centered, and knuckles facing up.

Paddle Size

Did You Know? Kayak paddles come in various lengths. The optimal length for each paddler is determined by the width of the kayak and the size of the paddler. If you are renting a kayak, you can ask for advice from the professionals onsite.

Most will recommend using the shortest paddle possible based on the width of the boat and your own wingspan. Kayak paddling the “right way” is more difficult with a paddle that is the wrong length for your boat and body type -especially if it is too long and unwieldy.

Technique Varies with Water Conditions

It is undoubtedly more difficult to paddle a kayak in the ocean or a river with currents. As we mentioned, the waters around the Sarasota Keys are primarily calm and smooth, meaning that paddlers will rarely need any advanced paddling techniques. However, novice paddlers may find themselves working against a tide at times, which may tire them out if they struggle to paddle. Therefore, learning basic techniques is very helpful.

Engaging the core seems like “common sense,” but it actually requires a conscious effort. Many beginners, whether in a sit-on-top kayak or a traditional sit-in design, tend to overuse their arms without engaging the entire body. Again, this will work, but you may become unnecessarily sore or overtired.

If you are nervous about being able to effectively paddle for the duration of your day, ask one of the Ride and Paddle team to demonstrate proper paddling technique. You may also wish to take advantage of our lessons and guided tours, where you can prevail upon the knowledge and expertise of trained guides – while learning a lot along the way!

At Ride and Paddle, we are committed to sharing our love of kayaking with all Sarasota and Siesta Key visitors. Click to view our website, book a tour, or reserve kayaks for your family. Kayaking through Sarasota waters is an unforgettable experience that everyone can enjoy – call today!