Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is the skill you will use most frequently when sea-kayaking. A good technique is essential for injury prevention, endurance, power and speed. 

The key to the forward stroke is using the bigger muscles of the back, stomach, shoulders and legs, rather than relying on the arms. Good rotation provides the power for the stroke.

A good forward technique can make an enormous difference to how much you enjoy your paddling, and how your body feels at the end of the day!

Posture Technique  Tips Common Mistakes


  • Sit tall, push your backside into the back of the seat and tilt slightly forward at your pelvis. Don’t slouch!
  • Keep your knees comfortably bent. If your kayak allows, have your knees fairly close together for power. For manoeuvring and stability, your knees may need to be under the coaming or thigh braces.
  • To protect your shoulder, your elbow should not go above shoulder height or behind your hips.  
  • Look to the horizon to maintain a good posture.  This also helps to prevent seasickness.

Hand position 

  • To find the recommended position for your hands on the paddle, grip the paddle and place it on your head. Your elbows should be close to a 90 degree angle.
  • Use a soft grip on the paddle.
  • One hand (usually your dominant hand) is the control hand.  The control hand turns the shaft so that the blade is square to the water for a good catch.  The shaft slips in the palm of the other hand as it is turned by the control hand.
  • Keep the wrists neutral.
  • ‘White-knuckle’ paddling (tight grip) causes repetitive strain injuries, blisters and restricts the entire stroke.

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