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30 Days to Massively Improve your Whitewater Kayaking with only Flat Water!

We’ve all experienced those times when there is no water.

When you’re sat around, doing rain dances, waiting for the levels to rise.

Waiting for that time you can get back on the water.

But what can you do while we wait to better prepare for when the levels rise?

Kayaking is a sport that, while fun and adventurous, does actually require you to be quite fit…

One thing that we could all do to improve our whitewater, is to take our kayaks to the closest flat water and put some time into working on our paddling.

Here are a few things that you can do on flat water whilst you wait for those levels to rise.

Flat water training in the Fog
Paddler: Del Read – Photographer: Tom Clare

Perfecting Paddling Technique:

Whitewater kayakers often under-appreciate the importance of having a solid paddling technique.

We are often way too preoccupied with staying upright to worry about how we should be taking each stroke.

Take the time when the water is low, to start refining your technique.

Start by focusing on the basics: body posture, paddle grip, and efficient stroke mechanics.

Practice a forward stroke, keeping your upper body rotation smooth and controlled.

Experiment with different strokes like the sweep stroke, draw stroke, and dip turns (if you have a half-slice).

Spend some time practicing support strokes too, and your roll if you’re not confident.

Your roll should be instinctual, there is never any harm in practicing it more.

And if you can roll normally, practice the back deck roll or any other variation you can think of.

You can also train freestyle kayaking to improve your boat handling and freestyle techniques.

This can be a fun way to keep fit and enjoy your flat water training.

Check out our bow stall article for more on this!

Find a Slalom course:

The essence of slalom kayaking lies in manoeuvring through a series of gates set up in the water.

Now Slalom can get a bad rep amongst other whitewater paddlers…

But have you ever seen a slalomer transition to a creek boat and have more control than all of the series steep creekers within 30mins?

There is a reason why a lot of the pro-kayakers have a slalom background…

Set up a course of “gates” on flat water using buoy markers, poles, or rocks to simulate a slalom course.

Start with a wide gate configuration and gradually decrease the distance between gates as your skills improve.

Focus on maintaining a fluid and precise line through the gates, using a combination of paddle strokes and body movements to guide your kayak.

Start slow, focusing on technique and accuracy and slowly build your speed up.

You will thank yourself when you get back on the water and suddenly those tight moves feel easy.

Endurance and Strength Training:

As whitewater kayakers, we have it easy…

The current is taking us where we want to go…

Ever get to those flat sections in a river and suddenly your shoulders are burning and your breathing is a little more laboured than you would want it to be?

Flat water training may be boring but it will sure help your fitness and endurance on the water.

Allowing you to stay out for longer and feel less fatigue.

Find a long section of flatwater and take it slow.

Start small and build up.

Start with a 20min paddle, then 30 min, then 40min etc.

Don’t stop and focus on your breathing and your technique.

Before long you will be paddling for miles without too much effort.

You shouldn’t be going out hard here, but then we do want it to be a workout.

No lying back and half-arsed paddling!

Keep a pace you can consistently manage throughout the length of your workout.

Speed and Power

The other element that you can work on is speed.

This is useful for that extra oomph you need to get you over a big hole, to keep you away from a tow back or to power through some technical rapids.

To do this on the flat, you can introduce some sprints.

Make sure you warm up fully before you start any sprints with, at least, a 10min paddle.

You can break these sprints into any way you want.

If you really want to work on power and acceleration try sets of short sprints:


  • 10 x 10s Sprints (All out) with 20s rest in between.
  • 3 min Recovery paddle.
  • Repeat x3-5

To work on maintaining speed, increase your sprint times.


  • 5x 1min sprint with 30s rest in between
  • Rest 3-5 min
  • Repeat x 3-5

You can also try pyramids:

  • 30s Sprint, 30s Rest
  • 60s Sprint, 60s Rest
  • 90s Sprint, 90s Rest
  • 60s Sprint, 60s Rest
  • 30s Sprint, 30s Rest

Rest for 5 mins and repeat 2-3 times.

There are so many ways you can break this down. You can also look at longer paddles at faster paces, almost like tempo runs.

Make sure you keep good technique and that you cool down properly with another 10min easy paddle.

Hope that helps pass the time whilst you are waiting for the levels to rise.

If you commit to this you will see a huge increase in your paddling ability.

Even if there is whitewater around, it might be worth fitting one or 2 sessions in a week to improve your fitness and speed work.


P.S. This is pulled from our Newsletter, if you want to receive more tips, tutorials and content like this, straight to your inbox, sign up here!

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