Practical Guide on How To Paddle A Kayak Upstream – Kayaking Tips for All Levels

how to paddle a kayak upstream

Learning how to paddle a kayak upstream is an important skill to possess.

It is tough and the thought of paddling upstream can be intimidating for many people.

However, it is important to learn this technique to stay safe in the water. Moreover, if you are kayaking as a form of exercise or strength-training workout, then you can benefit from knowing how to paddle your kayak upstream.

I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you improve your paddling and become highly proficient in it in no time. Let’s get right into it!

Why Learn How to Paddle a Kayak Upstream

Paddling upstream is a lot of work.

But while it may be difficult, the great news is that anyone can do it. This is an excellent way to improve your strength, particularly the upper body. Most importantly, it can keep you safe in the water during those unpredictable obstacles that may come your way.

If you are paddling in the river, you will love the experience of exploring all the possibilities in this body of water. The waves are usually gentler and the trees serve as a kind of blockage from the strong wind.

Another good thing about the vegetation around you is that it provides you with some shade.

Yet, it is important to note that some currents are likely to come along at certain points during your kayaking adventure.

While it may not exactly be a major issue, this adds some challenges – and excitement – at the same time. If you know what you are doing, you can prevent dangers and risks caused by these currents.

4 Tips on How to Paddle Upstream

Now that you know the potential risks involved in kayaking in the river, let us talk about ways to prevent these.

Basically, learning how to paddle upstream is a viable solution to stay safe in the water while in your kayak.

You should be able to avoid obstacles that could flip your vehicle over or other concerns. Here are 4 tips you need to keep in mind when paddling upstream.

1. Watch out for V-Shaped Water Flows.

In the river, there is such a thing as V-shaped flows or the upstream and downstream. You can easily spot an upstream flow when you notice the “V” points up towards the river. Be on the lookout for obstacles such as rocks that force the water to quickly flow over it.

On the other hand, the downstream flow means that the water goes past objects. Either way, these V-shaped flows are important to avoid whenever you are paddling your kayak upstream. The faster flowing movement is trickier even for many experts.

2. Check for Obstacles.

You also need to keep your eye out for obstacles in the water.

These may be some fallen tree trunks or anything that sticks out of the water. What they do is to kind of act as a rake or keep you stuck between the obstruction and the water.

Avoid touching branches or pushing them aside using your paddle. This may tear your paddle or worse, have the paddle slip away from your grip.

A quick and timely reaction is important to evade these obstacles. Thus, you should first check for a viable passage and avoid these risky areas as much as possible.

3. Stay on the Edges.

Another smart thing to do when paddling upstream on a kayak is to remain on the sides or the edges of the river.

The currents are basically weaker than when you go to the center. So, if you want to maintain your pace and keep safe when paddling in an upstream direction, you need to stay to the edges.

4. Go against the current.

This may sound impossible to do, especially when the current is so strong.

But you should be able to do it, as long as you apply certain techniques.

Kayaking upstream and against the current requires a lot of strength and upper body resistance. You should be sure to check the speed of the water before you begin. If it is over 5 km/hour, it can be tough to make progress when going against the direction of the current.

Once it slows down, then it should be easier. This is why it is best to drive toward the edge where the water speed is slower and weaker.

Read More: Can One Person Use A Two Person Kayak? It’s Not As Simple As You Think

Here is a video that shows how to paddle a kayak upstream, which can be helpful to practice. Check it out and apply these techniques to ensure safety and fun while kayaking:

Additional Things To Consider When Paddling Upstream on a Kayak

Upstream paddling is tricky for some professionals and especially for beginners.

The river’s speed and flow rate add to the intensity of kayaking in an upstream direction, which makes it a great effort to do so.

This is why I recommend that you begin slowly if you are just learning the art of upstream paddling. For instance, you can practice in canals and leisurely find your way upstream. As you get stronger and better at handling the water speed, you can explore on tougher routes and currents over time.

Furthermore, countecurrent kayaking can be a highly strenuous activity. You will have to muscle your way as you come across obstacles such as large tree trunks, rocks, and even dams in the water.

In addition to physical strength, you need to be very cautious of your surroundings. Look ahead and notice any massive obstruction that can cause your paddle or kayak to get stuck. Avoid these at all cost and be sure you maintain a far distance from these things as you continue to paddle upstream.

By keeping these things in mind, you can accomplish your goal of paddling your kayak to safety, which can be an exhilarating and highly rewarding experience!

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