Why Does my Kayak Keep Turning ?

It is fun to go kayaking in your leisure time. Feeling the cool breeze and water gurgle is a great experience. Kayaking takes you away from the maddening world and brings you into nature’s cradle. At the same time, you need to be able to steer your kayak in the right direction. If your kayak keeps turning in one direction, you may want to know the reason. After all, you will like to go in the direction you want and not where your kayak is taking you.

Your kayak could be turning in a particular direction because of a number of reasons. It could be due to damage to the kayak, or a incorrect paddling technique. Your kayak could also be turning because of the use of the wrong paddle resulting in unbalancing the kayak. Finally, your sitting posture may be responsible for your kayak turning in an unwanted direction.

If your kayak keeps turning in a particular direction, you need to find the reason. Once you can do so, you will be able to rectify the situation. This is crucial in open waters or white water conditions. This article brings to you the main reasons why your kayak is going in a particular direction. Read on to understand the reasons and the corrective actions. Both new paddlers and the pros will get something from this discussion.

Why does your kayak turn in a particular direction?


A kayak is a small narrow boat for one or two paddlers to sit and navigate themselves through the water bodies. Kayaking is both a sport and a leisure activity. Kayakers compete with each other to see who is the fastest of them. Kayaking is globally recognized as a sporting activity, or people simply row down a river in its pristine glory enjoying the best nature has to offer. For doing all this, a kayaker first needs to row as per his needs – and not go where the kayak is drifting.

Many times you would have found that your kayak is moving in another direction. This is undesirable – especially in oceans and white water conditions. If you are not able to steer your kayak in the right direction, you could end up hitting a big wave or a rock. This will damage your kayak or put you in the water. In extreme situations, this can be life-threatening.

A kayak drifts or turns in a particular direction because of several reasons. The main ones are:

  • The kayak could be damaged
  • Body posture may be incorrect
  • The paddling technique may need improvement
  • Use of wrong paddles

You will need to identify the actual reason for your kayak going the wrong way and correct the situation. We will discuss each of the points listed above and the corrective steps you need to take accordingly. Do note that you will need to exercise some amount of observational skills and practice to implement the solutions.

Damaged kayak

A damaged kayak is the main reason for it to drift in a particular direction. The kayak could have deep scratches or cuts on the bottom. This streamlines water in a particular direction more than the other. Alternatively, the weight of the kayak could be unevenly distributed. This happens because of a manufacturing defect in the kayak or the tip of the kayak may have been damaged in a collision deforming its shape. This leads it to point towards one side and steer the kayak in that direction.

First, do a visual inspection. Flip the kayak and check its outer surface. It should be smooth or with minor scratches. Next, take it to knee-deep water to find out if the kayak drifts in a particular direction. Gently push the kayak from behind. If the kayak moves in a straight line, it is ok. Or you can ask any of your pro kayaking friends to take the kayak for a test ride.

Incorrect body posture


You need to maintain proper body posture while kayaking. It affects the weight distribution and leads to proper kayak navigation. Here are a few pointers toward the correct body posture:

Keep your thorax, neck, and head in a straight line

This will allow you to maintain balance while you are paddling through the waters. Keep your shoulders and stomach in a relaxed position.

Rotate your hips while paddling

You should rotate your hips while paddling. This will allow you to make weight adjustments while one side of your paddle is in the water.

Evenly rest your feet on the footrests

This is important. If you press hard on one of the footrests, it will lead to uneven paddling and the kayak will steer in another direction. Bend them slightly for proper balance.

Concentrate on the horizon

Keeping your eyes on the horizon will help you maintain correct posture and balance.

Improvement in paddling techniques

You need to have a proper paddling technique. You need to make sure that you are holding the paddle correctly and using it in the right manner. You need to apply even force with your hands while you dip either of the sides in the water. Usually, people end up applying more force with their dominant hand. This pushes the kayak in the other direction.

Here are a few more tips on improving your paddling technique.

Hold the paddle shoulder distance apart

Ideally, you should hold the paddle one shoulder distance apart. If you find your hand shifting, mark the holding spots with waterproof tapes. Also, your elbows should be at 90-degree angles.

Have a uniform rowing motion

Abrupt rowing pattern will drift your kayak in an arbitrary direction. A smooth rowing pattern is the best way to row and move in your desired direction.

Select the correct paddles


If you are using the wrong set of paddles, it will lead you to steer in an unwanted direction. It is best to use feather blades than any other rowing blades. They provide minimum wind resistance and give your kayak the optimal push. Once you correct your technique, you can graduate to other paddles.



We have given the key reasons as to why your Kayak is turning. Please read our other articles on kayaking to further your knowledge.

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