Paddling Tips

Watercraft Care

Sun is the main enemy of kayaks and paddleboards! Did you know a plastic kayak can deform in just 2 hours if left on a car rack or on a rock?  Even a fiberglass kayak can color fade and become brittle with too much sun (a couple of summers uncovered on the beach, for example).  A stand-up paddleboard can develop blisters causing the outer laminate “skin” to separate from the core.

Tips to Protect your Watercraft from SUV Damage:

  • Kayaks – Store it in the shade; don’t overtighten straps on roof racks
  • Paddleboards – Store it in the shade; drape something over it (even just a towel) when in direct sun
  • Bag it! They are cheap insurance for your expensive board. A bag also makes it a lot easier to carry around.

Cold Water Hazards

It’s easy to get the early-season paddling bug, but beware the 40 degree waters! What is the #1 hazard of cold water paddling? Most (including medical and rescue experts) would say hypothermia, but it’s actually not a significant concern until after 30 minutes. In fact, the biggest risk is drowning! Within seconds of an unexpected plunge, cold shock phenomena occurs and can last for one to five minutes. During this time, victims will gasp for air uncontrollably, and if their head is underwater, they drown immediately. For a full-write up courtesy of Josh Martin, Owner of Northern Cairn.

Precautions for Cold Water Paddling:

  • Don’t paddle alone
  • Wear a PFD, dry suit, booties and gloves
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs
  • Don’t overestimate your abilities
  • Don’t underestimate the water

Use Your Core!

Good posture is key to good paddling! Increase your stroke’s power and efficiency by sitting up straight and “pulling with your core” instead of your arms.

Try This Drill:

Adjust your seatback so you are propped almost vertically, extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height so they are almost straight, turn your torso about 25 degrees away from the bow to the left side, and place the right paddle blade in the water on your right side.
Now, turn your torso back towards the bow and past it 25 degrees to the right side, pushing and then pulling your paddle blade with your torso and shoulders. Your arms should remain straight! When the blade reaches your hip, slice it up and out of the water and drop it down on the opposite side.


40 degrees + wet = perfect conditions for hypothermia! (No, you don’t need sub-freezing temperatures and snow).

Prevention is Key:

  1. Wear layers of wool/synthetic clothing to regulate body temperature (no cotton!).
  2. Stay hydrated and well fed.
  3. Know the symptoms and monitor.

Monitor Symptoms:

Watch for the “umbly’s”: grumbly, fumbly, mumbly, and/or stumbly. Look for signs like changes in personality (irritable, impatient, clouded thinking), fine motor skills (zipping zippers, unscrewing water bottle lids), and/or gross motor skills (shivering, slurred speech or trouble walking).

Treat Mild Hypothermia:

Remove wet layers, get out of the elements (rain, wind, snow) and generate heat (eat, drink warm liquids and exercises like sit-ups, walking or jumping jacks).

Moderate and severe hypothermia require more involved treatment.

Kayak Shoulder Stretch

In paddle-sports, shoulders are the most prone to injury. Dynamic stretching is a great way to avoid injury, reduce fatigue and increase range of motion. Try these stretches before your next kayak outing:

Arm Circles (Rotary Cuff, Shoulder Girdle)

  1. Standing, hold arms out to sides at shoulder height, making a “T”
  2. Start rotating arms forward, elbows straight, in a circular motion and progressively make circles bigger and faster
  3. Repeat in opposite direction by rotating arms backward

Posterior Shoulder Stretch

  1. Standing, hold both arms in front of you, at shoulder height
  2. Pull one arm across chest with the other, keeping shoulders down and elbows straight
  3. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat on opposite side

Tips by Glenn Stark,  Certified Master Private Trainer/STOTT Pilates Instructor as Bay Tennis & Fitness

Paddleboarding How-To

How do you get the most power and efficiency out of your paddle board stroke? It’s all about the each, catch, and stack!

  • Reach: Stand tall with your knees slightly bent and back straight, reaching as far forward as possible with your paddle
  • Catch: Make a quick, fully submerged, and vertical catch (paddle meets water) with the blade to start your power stroke
  • Stack: Twist your torso, so that your shoulder line up parallel with you paddle shaft on the catch, and continue your stroke by twisting from the core. This “stacking” allows you to use your core, back, and shoulders for power instead of your arms.

Ready to Paddle

Get your body paddle-ready with these 3 simple exercises!

  • Core Rotation: Hold a long pole (broom, ski pole, paddle) behind your head/neck, resting it across your shoulder with your hands draped over it. Rotate, from the core, right-left and then left-right. Repeat 10 times. Next, sideband to the right and then to the left, to alternately engage/stretch the obliques.
  • Doorway Stretch: Stand in a doorway (or corner) and rest your right arm against the frame with it bent 90 degrees at the elbow to look like a goalpost. Lean forward until you feel your chest open up/stretch and hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat on left side.
  • Shoulder Rotation: Anchor an exercise band/tube to a post/door at mid-body height. Hold the end of the band so it comes across the front of your body with your elbow resting next to your body at a 90 degree angle. Rotate your hand out, away from the anchor, keeping your elbow at your side (as if it’s a door on a hinge). Repeat 10-15 times then reposition your body to do the other side.

Courtesy of Julie Slifka, Northern Michigan Sports Medicine Center

PFDs on Board

Just like kayaks, SUP’s are classified as vessels by the US Coast Guard, which means you are required to have a PFD (personal floatation device) on board while paddling anywhere outside a surf or swim zone. PFD’s are now more lightweight, breathable, and comfortable than ever and can even be worn around your waist- aka, the inflatable belt pack. Each time you’re on the water, take a few extra minutes to get the right fit:

  • Loosen all straps
  • Start from the bottom and work your way up, tightening straps to be snug, yet comfortable
  • Pull up on the shoulder straps to make sure the PFD doesn’t rise up on your head

Paddle Safe

When paddling open water, especially on the big lake, kayakers should be prepared! By carrying these basic safety items, you can have a better paddling experience:

  • PFD (required by law)
  • Light Source, aka “nav light” (required by law at night)
  • First Aid Kit and Sunscreen
  • Pump and Paddle Float (sit-in kayaks)

Many a paddler heads out not knowing what to do if they flip, so having the know-how to right your boat and use your pump and paddle float is key. Also, letting someone know where you’re headed and when you expect to return is often an overlooked, but essential, habit of safe paddlers.

Kayak and SUP Storage

With the cooler months coming upon us, it’s time to start thinking about putting the boats and boards away. Here are a couple of storage tips:

  • First…clean your boat out! Hose it off inside and out, then dry it completely.
  • Get any gunk and grime out of the cleats, pad-eyes and from under the cockpit combing.
  • Spray out the rudder, skeg box and foot pegs as well.

You want any moving parts to work smoothly next year.