@suckypaddler Thanks for reaching out, Jenn!
I'm going to piggy back a little bit on the good advice you got from @REI-JenK and @AlexH-C here. If you have an opportunity to tell us a little bit more about your kayak (recreational kayak versus a sea kayak, as an example) and the conditions you are paddling in (flat water versus ocean) that will help us get a better idea of how to provide any further advice.
I hope you got a chance to read the Basic Kayak strokes article as that has a lot of great information. Here are the two key parts of that article that had the greatest impact on my paddling:
- Making sure my hands were in the correct place on the paddle (the 'paddler's box' in the article and that I was sitting up nice and straight. Once I got this dialed in it almost forced me to engage the larger core and back muscles more than my arms and it also kept my paddle blades where they needed to be.
- Remembering that for speed and tracking I want to use a paddling stroke that not only fully submerges the blade of the paddle, but also that stays close in to the side of the kayak. I was a paddler who typically kept my blades out wide to the kayak and that made it hard to paddle straight and was very inefficient.
Hopefully the advice you're getting here helps your paddling stroke. Don't hesitate to reach back out if you have more questions. Thanks!