Problem Fixed: Why is Your Kayak Spinning?


In the coastal areas, kayaking is a common hobby. Not only do you get to spend quality time and be around nature, but it also makes for a great workout. One problem that might arise during kayaking is an out of control kayak. So, why exactly is your kayak spinning?

A kayak is a dynamically unstable system where a drag force acts at the center of the pressure and causes the kayak to spin around the center of the mass. In a moving kayak, the center of pressure moves to the front of the center of mass, producing a torque that sets the kayak in a spinning motion.

Here’s What You Were Doing Wrong

A number of factors might be the reason why you can’t control the spinning of your kayak. These may be the paddling speed, the technique, or even the shape of the kayak.

A kayak has a thin, slender body, which makes it difficult to control on water if you lack the skill. When a kayak moves the center of pressure, which was aligned with the center of mass at rest, moves and is no more aligned with the center of the mass. This causes the removal of opposing drag forces from the center of mass, resulting in a torque. The torque imparts a spinning momentum to the kayak and further pushes the two centers out of the line.

The Crucial Factors

Body Movements

A lot of times, the kayak is out of control because of the faults in the kayaker’s paddling techniques. To sharpen your paddling skills, here are a few techniques. Firstly, make sure that your hands on the paddle are at shoulder’s width apart. You could mark the two spots at the shoulder’s width to gain consistency in your strokes. Holding the paddle this way would reduce drag and make the strokes stronger.

Secondly, try to paddle with the same force on both your left and right side. The dominant hand seems to paddle harder; hence you would paddle strongly on your dominant hand’s side. Try to paddle with the same strength on your off-hand side.

Body Movements

In addition, how you position your body weight makes great differences to the movement of your kayak as well. While moving the kayak, try to adjust your weight by moving on your hips. Also, do not push on your footrests too hard. This causes the kayak to lean towards one side. Make sure that your feet are lightly resting on the footrest and not pushed against it.

The Right Technique

On both sides of the kayak, keep the paddle equally dipped in water. You may paddle deeper on one side compared to when you move to the other side. Try keeping the paddle at the same depth on both sides. The deeper the paddle goes, the more push is generated in that stroke. Similarly, when sweeping the paddle, make sure the distance from the kayak is the same on both sides. The closer you bring the paddle to the kayak, the more spin the kayak experiences.

Keep your eyes focused on noticing any changes in your kayak’s movement, starting from slight spinning or leaning. Staying vigilant and making quick adjustments can save you from a lot of frustration later.

External Forces

Apart from the lack of proper technique, there are other factors like wind or damage to the kayak that might cause the spinning.

Wind is not always known to mess with the kayak’s movements, but on a day with a strong breeze, it might cause some interference. On a breezy day, the wind might make it problematic to keep the kayak straight. In such a case, determine the direction of the wind before getting on the water and work against or in the direction to deal with the spin as required.

Along with the wind, another climatic factor might be the waves. Very strong current and high waves will interfere with the movement of your kayak. To stay on top of things, make sure you stay in low current and small waves if you are not experienced. Only if you are comfortable, confident, and trained enough to handle a strong water current should you go kayaking in one.

Beware of the defective kayaks:

Defective kayaks might keep leaning on one side even if you are doing everything else right. To check for any functional defects, take the kayak out for a test drive before buying it.

If you experience constant spin or leaning, ask a friend to try the kayak too. If the friend can handle the kayak alright, then you might need to see if you are doing something wrong. If the friend also experiences the constant spin and lean, then there is a good chance that the kayak is defective. In short, get two persons’ opinions before you buy the kayak.

For a quick check, turn the kayak upside down and look for any deep cuts or scrapes. Shallow dings and cuts are normal and expected, but anything that appears deep and long might cause problems later.

Another way to test your kayak is to take it in a shallow water pool and walk alongside it until you get into the water hip deep. Then give you kayak a gentle push and see how it acts. If it leans to one side, it is damaged.

Choose the right type of kayak:

Let’s consider the following two types to understand this: a sea kayak and a whitewater kayak.

A sea kayak is longer with a heavier and not so flat hull. This makes them ideal for forward speed and tracking. With a sea kayak, you can enjoy a smooth ride without performing any maneuvers. On the other hand, a whitewater kayak is all about the maneuvers of skidding and carving, etc. For this reason, they have a smaller body and a flat hull. Since it lacks a centerline or keel to keep it in water, it will lean to one side in the water and gain spin momentum. This works fine for those who want to perform these maneuvers, but for a smooth ride, the whitewater kayak would not be the best choice.

The Right Type of Kayak

Lastly, go into the waters with a clear mind and focus on your movements. Keep your mind on the task and hand and enjoy your time.

Few extra tips:

  1. Sit in the right posture. Your hips should be right back in the seat while your legs should be a little bent. Rest your feet at the footrest. If your legs are straight, then by the time you return, your back would be very strained.
  2. Before getting into the kayak, place your paddle across the kayak in front of where you will sit. This way, not only would the kayak stay balanced, but you would also not leave the land without your paddle that might otherwise slip off.
  3. Dip the paddle in the water near to your toes, then run it parallel along with the boat and sweep it out when you reach parallel to your hip. This way, you will get a forceful stroke.
  4. Focus on one point and practice paddling straight to it to master the skills.

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