As this is Fourth of July week, boaters and paddle craft enthusiasts will be out in force. And if you’re of the latter, whether kayak fishing or just out for a quiet day on the water, proper and efficient kayak paddling will help increase speed and momentum so you can travel farther with less fatigue, say the folks at YakGear, a Houston, Texas company that markets a variety of paddle craft gear.
The pro’s at YakGear offer these general tips for new and seasoned paddlers to make the most of the day on the water.
Efficient paddling, they say, begins with proper sitting posture. An upright sitting position is key to getting the most from your paddle blades and allows for easier dipping and removal of the blade from the water. Paddlers should be sitting upright or slightly forward and not lean on the backrest. Feet should be anchored to the footrests or foot molds with knees slightly bent.
Don’t overlook hand grip. To determine the optimal grip placement, YakGear says to position the middle of the paddle on your head and grab the shaft with elbows at 90 degrees. This will be the ideal gripping spot for each hand. Most paddlers will tend to over grip the paddle. A light grip will prevent hands from growing tired and give you a better feeling for the balance of the paddle. Using paddle grips, such as HOLDFast Kayak Paddle Grips, will help keep hands fresh and provide a consistent, tactile point of contact.
A smooth and consistent paddle stroke too is perhaps the most important aspect of efficient paddling. According to YakGear, most new paddlers hold the paddle too close to their bodies with their elbows bent – more commonly known as paddle hugging. Instead, keep the paddle as far in front of your chest as possible, with elbows slightly bent. This will allow you to reach farther forward when you begin your stroke.
And lastly, Yak says some folks may be using the wrong length paddle. The general rule of thumb for finding the correct length of paddle is to stand straight and position the paddle vertically alongside your body. If you can reach up and just hook your first finger joint over the blade, it will be the correct length. For kayaks wider than 30 inches, you will need to add those extra inches to the overall paddle length. Paddles are measured in centimeters instead of inches, so a conversion will be needed. One inch equals 2.54 centimeters. For most kayaks and adults, a 230 cm or 240 cm paddle will do the trick.
For kayakers that straddle standard paddle lengths or may have several different sizes of kayaks, YakGear’s Backwater Assassin Carbon Fiber Hybrid Paddle, for example, provides added versatility with an extra 10 centimeters of adjustment to fill the gap. The kayak paddle is available in lengths of 230-240 cm and 250-260 cm.
With these tips in mind, be careful out there this week as the waters will be crowded, especially at places like Beltzville Lake in Carbon County, Blue Marsh in Berks and Lake Wallenpaupack in Pike County.
If you happed to be a golfer and avid bird watcher, you may want to get a tee time at Jack Frost National Golf Course in the Pocono’s. A buddy played there recently and said there’s an active bald eagle nest on the 10th hole.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.