Kayaking C-Stroke Techniques

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Ethan Thompson

Top View of a Couple Kayaking in a Lake Doing a C stroke

Choosing the Right Paddle Stroke

You can best determine your preference of kayaking paddle strokes by considering the type of water you are paddling and the equipment you are using. One kayaking equipment option is the tandem kayak.

Benefits of Tandem Kayaks

Tandem kayaks are most suitable for those wishing to paddle with young children or pets. These kayaks also offer a viable option for planned paddling with friends or family members when one person has a more advanced skill level.

Seating Arrangements in Tandem Kayaks

The most experienced paddler should usually occupy the stern (back) seat. The paddler in the back is responsible for steering and controlling the kayak. Both paddlers can communicate easily and need to work together as a team.

This arrangement enables the more experienced paddler to give the more novice paddler tips to improve kayaking paddling techniques. Having a means to paddle in more advanced water greatly benefits a less experienced paddler. Some people simply enjoy the closeness of shared paddling experiences.

Other Factors to Determine Seating Positions in a Tandem Kayak

Typically, it is always best to have the larger person in the stern seat of a tandem kayak. Even weight distribution with a little extra in the back is the best option.

However, on calm weather days and depending on the circumstances, you can overlook this rule. It is also important during calm water excursions to allow the less experienced paddler to sit in the stern to practice the kayak paddling techniques needed to successfully guide the kayak.

Accommodating Children and Pets

When a couple wishes to take small children or a pet along, we advise using a tandem 3-seater. The child or pet should sit in the middle seat, affording the back paddler the ability to easily supervise and safeguard all activity.

With a 2-seat kayak, a child or pet should always occupy the front seat for safety. Any time you paddle a tandem kayak solo, it is always best to sit in the center seat or the back seat when no center seat is available. Sitting in the front when paddling alone will give you minimal control.

Using a Canoe Paddle Forward Stroke To Effectively Move Forward

Importance of Communication

The most important element of tandem kayaking is teamwork and effective communication. For ease of communication, the forward paddler should always turn their head to the side to speak or to listen to the paddler in the stern.

The ability to effectively communicate is vital since the forward paddler is the eyes of the excursion and will need to assist in the navigation around obstacles. It is also important to coordinate verbally the intended means of handling the boat.

Coordinating Paddle Strokes

Another issue when tandem paddling is that the stern paddler must coordinate kayaking paddle strokes and avoid contact with the movement of the forward paddle. Having the forward paddler use the C-Stroke technique with a canoe paddle is a good forward momentum option.

Using a canoe paddle on one side of the boat will solve the clashing problem and efficiently assist in propelling the kayak in a forward straight line.

Mastering the C-Stroke Technique

To add the C-Stroke to your skills in tandem kayaking techniques, you will first need a good canoe paddle. This instruction is for a right-handed paddler, opposite for left-handed.

Proper Paddle Positioning

The forward paddler should position the paddle vertically on the right front side of the kayak. Your left hand should be on top of the paddle with your arm extended and elbow bent slightly. This top hand will move through the stroke at a level higher than your head and should end the stroke centered over the cockpit.

Executing the C-Stroke

  1. Lean forward slightly to extend your reach as you begin with a bow (front end of kayak) draw (pull blade through water).
  2. The stroke is ‘C’ shaped.
  3. Place your feet firmly on the footrests and rotate your body as you draw.
  4. End your stroke with a fast twist of the wrist which will rotate your thumb to a forward position.

Continue your strokes on the right hand side of the kayak. Another name for this kayak stroke technique is the ‘inside circle’ and paddlers sometimes effectively use this style to control a whitewater kayak.

Regardless of your kayak paddling technique, always stay safe and enjoy the adventure!

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