The 4 Fundamentals of Kayaking

The four fundamentals of kayaking are nothing new; Coaches have been talking about them for years and they have been discussed on coaching courses as something that should run through every session that a coach runs. But rarely are they provided to students, until now. I’m even going to suggest that perhaps there should be a fifth.

The four fundamentals are;

  • Posture
  • Transfer of Power
  • Connectivity
  • Kinesthetic Awareness


Posture is very important to a kayaker. There are there positions that you could adopt when paddling their kayak. You could lean back, you could sit upright or you could lean forwards; all to varying degrees.

Let’s look at leaning back. This position is often adopted when we first start. It’s comfortable, it’s relaxing, it’s probably how you’re sitting right now as you read this but what muscles are you using to hold yourself in this position? None. How much rotation do you have in that position? Also none, or at the most, very little.

Let’s now sit up from that position. Which muscles did you use to pull yourself into this upright position? Your stomach muscles, your abdominal muscles. Those lower abdominal muscles are connected to the adductor muscles which are at the top of your legs; you also used those to pull yourself into the upright position. I hope it makes sense to you that if all of these muscles are relaxed then you don’t have control of your legs, something which is vital as a kayaker, at least it is if you want to move your kayak around as efficiently as possible. Which leads us nicely into transfer of power.

Transfer of Power

Transfer of power is about using the paddle to grip the water and then taking that pressure from the blade, bringing it through your body and transferring it to your kayak and then using it to propel you in the direction that you want to move. It may be a turn, it may forwards or backwards, it maybe sideways but get a hold of that water and use your corse to transfer the pressure to your lower body and thus your kayak.


Connectivity means being connected to your kayak. You should have good contact at the feet, the knees/ thighs, your buttocks and your hips. Without good connectivity you will “slosh” around in your kayak. Without good connectivity it is impossible to be able to transfer the power efficiently. So get yourself some hips pads, fit some closd cell foam to your seat, make sure you footrests are adjusted correctly. I personlly move my footrest back and forth all the time. In the winter they get moved further away as I’m usually wearing and extra layer or two, in summer they move closer as I may be in just a pair of shorts. Even daily, my hamstrings may feel tighter, or looser and I will need to adjust them to get that fit “just right”.

Kinesthetic Awareness

Kinesthetic Awareness, in english, is feel to you and I. It’s the fundamental that ties the others together. It means being able to feel what the water is doing underneath your bum, feedback that comes to you through the hull of the kayak. It also being able to feel the water pressures on your blade, sometime these pressures are subtle but being able to feel them means being able to use the water effectively and transfer the power to create the desired outcome in any movement of the kayak.

A fifth fundamental?


Flexibility is vitally important to a kayaker. Being flexible means that we can reach around to the stern for a rudder stroke. Being flexible means that we can have a verticle paddle stroke when we want to move sideways. Being flexible means that our bodies can absorb the stress and strains we put it through in the persuit of our sport and not pick up an injury.

Many leisure centres run yoga and/ or pilates classes and attending one regularly will undoubtedly help your kayaking. This will not only help your paddling but gives you an oportunity to stay paddle fit when you’re unable to get on the water because, let’s face it, none of get to paddle as much as we’d like.

What do you think? Should the 5th one count as a fundamental? Leave your comments below…