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Kayaking Fundamentals: How to Do a Sculling Draw Stroke

Whether you’re in a sea kayak, sit-on-top, fishing kayak or whitewater boat, knowing how to do a sculling draw stroke will move your paddling skills up a notch. When you master this stroke you can easily move sideways without having to turn the boat. This is especially useful when boating in tight spaces like rock gardens and restricted channels. Sculling is an advanced technique, but you can master it with some concentrated practice in a calm section of water. You’ll probably find it easier to do on one side of the boat, but practice on both sides until it’s dialed!

The sculling draw stroke is a technique requiring full upper body participation and subtle paddle movement. You start out with the paddle shaft held vertically and the blade about two feet from the boat. Move the blade back-and-forth through the water so that the leading edge is slightly elevated, or at a “climbing angle.” Don’t exaggerate the angle or you’ll be moving the boat forward and backward instead of sideways.

Your hands and arms stay in a relatively fixed position, with your lower wrist flexing as you move the shaft back and forth. The power for the stroke comes from torso rotation. Keep facing the paddle shaft and as you twist your body aggressively, in coordination with your wrists, you’re able to make rapid strokes that provide the momentum to propel the boat sideways at a surprising rate.

Part IV of our Kayaking Fundamentals video series with expert kayaker Ken Whiting demonstrates all the nuances and benefits of the sculling draw stroke in this short instructional video. Paddling is a like a coordinated dance with the water. You start out as a novice without much knowledge of your partner’s moods and abilities. As you experiment and add new steps to your repertoire you learn how to work with the water, instead of struggling against it. Keep on learning new techniques; your paddling will be more effortless, and more fun!