Learning Paddling Skills Make You Safer On The Water


A Club Refresher Session

As new kayakers, we all had the desire to learn basic skills in order to make our boat do what we wanted it to. The need to turn, brace, and learn different strokes were just the normal desire to move about in the most efficient way possible. But there is a far more serious side to learning paddling skills: knowing what to do, and being able to adequately execute that skill can help keep you out of harm’s way on the water. Case in point: I am not a great paddler, but I can paddle fast. I took the class on the forward stroke years ago, and that skill may have saved me in the Black Canyon on a club trip. We had set out from our campsite, and were paddling up to Hoover Dam against a fairly good flow of current. Going around a tight bend in the river, I was trying to stay close to the left bank, which was the “inside turn”, when I noticed a large rock on the right, out in the river. At that point I inadvertently let the current sweep my bow toward the right, and quickly found myself just up river from that rock. The current was strong enough that it could easily push me back onto the rock, and I was thinking about the possibility of getting “wrapped” on it. The force of moving water is incredible, and can quickly bend a kayak around a tree or rock, trapping you inside to drown. The thought of that happening suddenly sent me into survival mode, and I paddled the “chicken wing” forward stroke at world-class speed.



Jen Kleck

In addition to having several people in the club who may occasionally pass on a few paddling skills to others during our paddles, we have a world-class coach at Aqua Adventures (AA). Jen Kleck is a British Canoe Union level 5 sea kayak coach, and one of the top sea kayak coaches in the country. AA offers several classes in paddling skills, and those resources can be found at:


If you are at all interested in joining the club on one of our great trips, you need to have the basic skills in boat handling, self-rescue, and safety. After you become proficient in those skills, the club can help in maintaining them. Unfortunately, paddling skills are not like riding a bicycle: you do forget how to execute them efficiently.  So we are committed to supplying “Refresher Skills Sessions” every so often, and will announce them on this website and by email to club members. So, get onboard, and learn those basics. The more you practice them, the more confident you will be on the water, and the more fun you will then have. And kayaking is great fun.

-Contributed by Jay Murdock