Draw Stroke

A side draw stroke is used to move the kayak sideways from a stationary position. It is useful when rafting up, when pulling in to a landing spot such as a wharf, approaching a capsized kayak, or to pick up something floating in the water. 

There are two main side draw strokes, a feathered draw (also called a ‘T’ side draw) and a sculling draw. A sculling draw can be sustained longer and provides more support than a feathered draw. The feathered draw is the more powerful of the two, particularly when applied with grunt.


Feathered draw - also called 'T' side-draw

The feathered draw stroke can be broken down to 4 phases.
  1. Setup
  2. Draw
  3. Twist
  4. Slice


  • Rotate your torso so your body and head are facing the direction to which you want to move your kayak.
  • The bottom hand is the working hand and will control the placement of the working blade through all phases of the stroke.
  • The top hand acts solely as a fulcrum at about eye-height.


  • Extend the working arm out to the side of the kayak and fully immerse the blade in the water with the power face towards you and parallel to the kayak. 
  • Draw the blade through the water towards your hip with your bottom hand. Keep looking at the object you are moving your kayak towards, and maintain your body rotation. 
  • If you are unable to keep the top hand steady during the stroke, rest the back of your hand on your forehead. 
  • Finish drawing before your paddle comes in contact with the side of the kayak.
  • If your kayak “trips” over the shaft at the end of the draw, let go of the paddle with your top hand to avoid capsize.


  • Twist the working blade so that it is at right angles to your kayak by rotating the wrist on the working hand inwards.
  • Take a slight pause after the twist in order to let the kayak’s momentum finish. This will also allow you to maintain better control of the working blade during the next phase, the slice.


  • Slice the blade back to the start position for your next draw.

Repeat the sequence until you have reached where you want to go.


Sculling draw

The sculling draw is less powerful but more sustainable than the ‘T’ draw. It provides more stability, and there is less risk of tripping over the paddle.


  • Rotate your torso so your body and head are facing the direction you want to move your kayak.
  • The bottom hand is the working hand and will control the blade.
  • The top hand acts as a fulcrum. The palm is open with the shaft cradled in it.
  • The blade should be near vertical with the power face inwards.


  • Trace a figure of 8 from bow to stern with your working blade fully immersed on the side you are moving to.
  • Keep your wrist open when moving the blade towards the bow and your wrist closed when moving it to the stern.
  • Keep looking in the direction of travel.
  • Power the stroke with your torso rotation, not with your arms.
  • To encourage you to use your torso, connect the elbow of your working arm to your hip.


  • An upright posture will improve the precision of the stroke.
  • Use your legs to help you rotate your body.
  • Keep the top hand in a constant position in both draws.
  • Drawing down-wind is easy. Drawing against a strong wind can be futile! Position yourself to take advantage of the conditions. 
  • Try edging your kayak slightly to decrease hull resistance.
  • Edging your kayak may improve the effectiveness of your stroke. Not all kayaks are the same so experiment to find out what works best for you. This applies to both the feathered draw and sculling draw.


Common mistakes

  • Using the wrong hand (the upper hand) as the working hand. The bottom hand controls the stroke.
  • Gripping the shaft tightly with the passive hand. This can lead to capsize if the kayak and the paddle come in contact.


Practice drills

Here are some practice drills for the two types of draw strokes.

Feathered draw

  • Before you get in your kayak, close your eyes and simulate a draw stroke. Which hand are you using to control the working blade? 
  • The working hand should be the bottom hand.
  • Practice drawing up to a fixed object in the water.
  • Practice the stroke in varying conditions.
  • Practice on both sides.
  • Establish which side works best to edge your kayak by experimenting on both sides.

Sculling draw

  • Try to perform the stroke using only your bottom hand to hold the paddle. Stabilise the paddle with one finger of your top hand if necessary.