Kayaking posture
Credit: Josie Boulding
When the water gets intimidating, says Tyler Curtis, it’s instinctive to let your posture slide toward the back of the boat. But leaning back actually makes the boat unstable—boils and seams are more likely to grab lower stern edges, a higher bow is harder to control, and the position makes hip rotation, and thus boat lean, almost impossible. “You are guaranteed time upside-down if you paddle leaning back,” Curtis says. Here’s how to stay rightside up.

Start with your boat. Make sure foot pegs are in the right position and outfit your cockpit properly. Pad your hips so you don’t slide around on the seat and install a good back brace, snugged against the small of your back, for support.

Sit tall on your seat with your spine long and head high, and lean forward slightly from the hips. Imagine that a string runs through your spine and is being pulled tight.

The paddle blade should enter the water near your toes and the shaft should be quite vertical. Don’t move your body, reach with your arms. Push your upper arm forward, until your lower arm is back to your hip.

To bust through big waves and holes, lean even farther forward and keep paddling. As you hit the feature, plant your paddle blade past it. It keeps your weight forward and helps pull you past the wave.