How to Paddle a Kayak Without Getting Wet

In a perfect world, most of us would like to be able to paddle our kayaks without getting drenched in the process. Is this always possible, though? Not exactly.

However, there are some steps you can take to ensure you stay mostly dry during your kayaking outings. To help you do this, below we have outlined and explained several strategies you can follow for paddling a kayak without getting wet—strategies you can employ the next time you launch your boat.

Four Strategies for Staying Mostly Dry When Kayaking

To help you avoid getting completely soaked on your next kayaking adventure, here we have listed several things you can do whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, including changing your paddle design and length, using a spray skirt, and installing drip rings on your paddles.

1. Change Your Kayak Paddle Design

Kayak paddles come in many different shapes and designs. Most kayak paddles are equipped with grooves which are specifically designed to help you get more power from every stroke.

The only problem with these grooves is that they tend to carry water during each paddle movement, allowing the water to then slide down the shaft of the paddle and right into your lap. This can be frustrating to say the least, but when performance is your main concern this problem may be unavoidable.

There are other paddles that have a concave design, either in place of the grooves or in concert with them. This concave design (picture a shovel) tends to make the paddle scoop up a lot more water than it normally would—water that can also end up inside of your kayak and onto your lap.

Both the grooves and a concave design on a kayak paddle are designed to make you go faster in the water; to improve your performance and distance with every stroke. This can be very important when kayaking competitively, or when traversing rough waters in which every stroke has to count.

However, if you do not mind sacrificing a little performance you could always upgrade (or downgrade) to a kayak paddle that has neither grooves nor a concave design. These readily available paddles will do little to improve your performance in the water, but they will keep you much drier with every stroke—but not necessarily completely dry.

Although losing the groove and concave design can reduce the amount of water that gets carried as you paddle your kayak, it might not completely stop the water from coming down the paddle’s shaft.

2. Install Drip Rings on the Shaft of the Paddle

As we mentioned above, most of the water that comes into a kayak when paddling comes from water running down the shaft. To avoid or at least limit this amount of water you can always install a set of drip rings to the shaft of the paddle.

Many outdoor shops and kayak-specific retailers sell drip rings designed to solve the problem of getting drenched. The lightweight rings come in a set of two and will not add a lot of extra weight to the paddle.

Drip rings are typically installed by placing them onto the shaft of the paddle and sliding them down into position, usually 3-5 inches from the blade of the paddle on each side. They are narrow at the bottom and then widen out like a funnel as they extend to the blade, thus catching the water that would otherwise slide down the shaft and into your lap.

When using drip rings, however, you must be very careful not to get them into the water as you paddle, otherwise they will scoop up a large amount of water, weigh the paddle down and probably end up leaving you soaked.

If you don’t have the extra cash right now to get specially designed drip rings, you can always create your own using the top-half of a plastic two-liter bottle. To do this, start by cutting the bottle about 4 inches from the top. Slide this top half onto your paddle, with the larger end toward the blade to catch any water that may slide down the shaft.

You may have to adjust the narrower side of the bottle a bit to get it to fit onto the shaft. Once you have slid the larger end of the cut bottle down the shaft, about 3-5 inches from the blade, secure it with some waterproof tape so it won’t slide around. Repeat the same process on the other side, using another two-liter bottle.

Now you have a homemade water catcher that will prevent much of the water you paddle from coming inside the kayak.

3. Switch to a Longer Paddle

When paddling your kayak with a short-ish paddle, the angle at which you are paddling into the water is very high. With this high angle, it is more likely that water will run down the shaft.

And if you paddle hard and long enough, chances are you’ll have a boat full of water before your kayaking adventure concludes. To avoid this high paddle angle, you may want to switch to a longer paddle.

Using a longer paddle, much like paddling with shorter or smaller rotations, can help you avoid situations in which large quantities of water are coming into the boat and onto your lap. That’s because the paddle angle will be much lower, often perpendicular to the kayak itself.

Fortunately, kayak paddles come in many different lengths to suit different paddlers and styles. Although starter paddles are usually about 75-80 inches long there are some paddles that come in sizes of 96 inches or more. At this size, the angle at which your paddle will hit and return to the water will be much, much lower, thus preventing the water from sliding down the shaft and into the boat.

4. Use a Spray Skirt

If you own a sit-in kayak, and you want to limit the amount of water coming onto your lap and clothes, a spray skirt—one designed specifically for these types of kayaks—might just be the best solution. A spray skirt will never weigh you down physically.

These contraptions are made from a thin, flexible, stretchy material that actually goes over the cockpit of a sit-in kayak and then wraps securely around the lower end of your body. Spray skirts, as you might have guessed, are 100 percent waterproof and they help prevent instances of water splashing onto your lap during kayaking adventures.

Many of the best kayakers in the world use these types of skirts during competitions to keep them dry and paddling strong.

Spray skirts are available in a number of convenient sizes. As such, it is very important that you measure the cockpit of your kayak before rushing out and purchasing one of these waterproofing items.

Last Word

While all of the methods listed above can certainly “limit” the amount of water entering the cockpit of your kayak and onto your lap, none of them are completely bulletproof as a solution. Kayaking is a fun sport that inevitably involves water, so you’ll need to plan on getting at least a little wet every time you take your boat for a spin.

Wearing light fabrics such as those used to make bathing suits, can eliminate the heavy feeling of getting wet in your kayak, and a well-designed wet suit can certainly keep you completely dry, but save for these methods and a few others, you may just want to embrace the idea of getting a little bit wet every time you decide to paddle.

image: Pexels

Shawna Newman

Shawna currently lives in Las Vegas where she gets in lots of great hiking at Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park. When she has time, she visits National Parks in a quest to visit each one in the U.S. Shawna’s favorite outdoors activity is hiking and her favorite National Park (so far) is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

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