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Types of Kayak    The Paddle    Paddle Strokes    Rescues    Equipment and Clothing


Types of Kayak


General purpose Will hold a straight course easily and have larger, more roomy cockpits. The boats are longer and have a more rounded hull.
White Water Designed for use on rough water: short in length, with a flat, often planing hull; although tend to be slow in a straight line. The cockpits are fitted with back straps and thigh grips to prevent movement of the paddler.
Sea/ Touring These are long, narrow boats, designed to hold a straight line. They have a curved keel to help ride over waves and are often fitted with external luggage straps.


Kayaks can be made out of wood, canvas, fibreglass, carbon fibre and Kevlar: or more commonly, plastic; each type having its own merits and drawbacks.



The Paddle


The paddle is what propels you through the water as well as providing steering and stabilisation. Second to the boat itself, it is the most important piece of gear you need.

Paddles are available in a wide variety of materials (and prices) which determine it's strength, weight and durability. The most common paddles seen around water sports centres have metal alloy shafts and plastic blades and are the least expensive. Fiberglass is common for midweight, midprice paddles; paddles made from composites are the lightest and most expensive although these latter designs are not as durable.

Also available are bent paddles which put less strain on the wrists although these are more expensive again.





Unfeathered paddles require less wrist and forearm motion and are less likely to cause repetitive type strain injuries. Feathered paddles offer less resistance in a head wind. No single paddle will cover all conditions but 'split' (two-piece) paddles are available which can be adjusted to either position.


Symmetrical A paddle for general purpose use. The choice for beginners.
Asymmetric Enters the water more cleanly when forward paddling, improving paddling efficiency.
Wing Pronounced scoop on the blade which provides more power. Normally used by racers.
Dihedral Stabilizes the blade by encouraging the water to flow off both halves of the blade face evenly.




Paddle Strokes


Below is a list of some of the more common paddle strokes required for the BCU 1 - 3 star tests. It only indicates what they are used for not how to actually achieve them; I will leave this part to you (hint: involves lots of practice).


Forward Paddling moves the boat forwards in a straight line. normal forward paddling/ touring stroke.
Back paddling moves the boat backwards in a straight line or to stop the boat.
Forward Sweep used to effectively turn the boats bow through 180o.
Reverse Sweep as above but a more powerful stroke
Draw Stroke used to move the boat sideways
Sculling Draw used to move the boat sideways, more useful in a confined space.
Stern Rudder used to keep the boat pointing in a straight line by trailing the paddle astern.
Bow Rudder a versatile stroke which allows various manoeuvres to be carried out, especially on white water.
Low Brace a support stroke to prevent a capsize
High Brace a support stroke to keep you upright. More powerful than a low brace.
Low Brace Turn used for turning on the move whilst offering some support.


Basic Rescue

All rescues basically involve getting most of the water out of the capsized canoe and getting back in it again. This can be a self rescue or an assisted rescue with the help of a single paddler or a group effort.

The rescues described here are the X, T and H, all of which are assisted rescues.

X - Rescue

Rescuer approaches the other canoe at the bow

The boat is dragged up and across the rescuers deck

Roll the boat onto its side to empty the water, roll upside down to finish.

Return boat to the water the right way up, alongside your boat, with your bow next to its stern.

Rest both paddles across the decks of both boats

The rescuer grips the decks of both boats to prevent separation and steady the boats.

The victim lies back in the water between both boats and re-enters, feet first.

The boat is steadied by the rescuer as they get back in, at the same time the gap between the two is closed.

The victim must maintain contact with one of the boats during the rescue to prevent themselves and the rescuer drifting at different speeds.


T - Rescue

The rescuer approaches such that their bow is perpendicular to the victims.

Rescuer grabs bow and pulls upturned boat on to their lap and across the boat.

Trapped water runs down hill and out of the upturned cockpit

The boat is righted and returned to the water alongside the rescuers boat, their bow pointing in the opposite direction.

The boat is steadied as before by laying the paddles across both decks with the rescuer using them as support whilst gripping both coamings .

The victim re-enters again by lying back in the water and getting in feet first.

The disadvantage of this type of entry, and the x-rescue, is that it is difficult to achieve if the victim and rescuer are of a much different size.


H - Rescue


This is a group rescue where both rescuers are to face the same way.

The victim is approached from the bow

The rescuer closest to the capsized boat grabs the bow and pulls it across their boat, helped by number 2

With the victims boat spanning both canoes, the water can be emptied by alternatively raising bow and stern (as on dry land).

The boat is returned to the water between the rescuers boats but facing in the opposite direction.

The victim re-enters the same as before but this time our rescuer can steady the boat whilst the other prevents their separation.





Equipment and Clothing


Fixed Buoyancy /Bags - these should be fitted to all boats, especially training boats where a capsize is inevitable, and under Scout Association rules, any craft venturing on to tidal waters. Buoyancy bags or closed cell foam should be fitted in such a way that when fully swamped the boat will remain at the surface in a horizontal position.

Spray Deck - these are essential when paddling on tidal or white water. They are not usually worn until the individual has demonstrated a safe wet exit. You should make sure that it actually fits your boat. The better ones are neoprene which stays taut and sheds water easily. Other materials include Nylon and reinforced fibre.

Buoyancy Aid - should be worn at all times. will keep you afloat in the event of capsize and allows for a normal swimming action. The amount of buoyancy provided (given in Newtons 'N') depends on the size/ weight of the individual. A handy attachment to have for Kayakers is a cow-tail for towing another canoeist.

Water Proof Cag - waterproof jacket with neoprene/ elasticated neck, cuffs and waist. Allows freedom of movement and protects from the wind.

Wetsuit - ideally sleeveless, only really needed in colder conditions or if you expect to fall in. Will keep you warm and buoyant if completely soaked.

If it is much colder you can wear extra layers on top or a thermal base layer underneath.

Footwear - ideally wetsuit booties (if wearing a wetsuit) or water-sports shoes. Technical sandals and trainers are also suitable. Ensure that laces are kept short or tucked away so they don't get caught on the footrests.

Helmets - these are not a legal requirement but should be used when the conditions deem them necessary (e.g. white water).