14 - How to kayak - making your kayak turn

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Sweeps, rudders and draws. Strokes for turning your kayak.

The forward sweep is much the same stroke as the forward stroke except the blade as drawn back is a wide arc well out to the side of the kayak. The kayak turns to the off-stroke side.

To begin this stroke, rotate the torso, lean forward and place the blade near the side of the kayak up by your feet. Angle the power face of the blade out from the side of the kayak and push the blade away from the side of the kayak. Bring the paddle blade back in a wide arcing motion and continue to rotate your torso. Continue to bring the paddle back until its almost contacts the rear of the kayak. Retrieve the paddle by lifting up just as it gets to the kayak's hull. Turn your head to watch the blade as it arcs back to the kayak. (Always watch your work!) The most effect turning portions of this stroke are beginning and, even more so, the end. The middle portion of the stroke keeps up the forward motion but has little effect on the turn. Do not lean your body or your head to the stroke side, as this will destabilize your kayak. Your body and head should turn, not lean. When sweeping while going forward through the water, tilting (not leaning) the kayak will assist the turning motion.

The reverse or back sweep is the reverse of the forward sweep. Start the stroke by rotating your body and head to the stern, place the blade with the power face toward the hull of the kayak and sweep the blade out and forward in a long arc culminating at the hull of the kayak near your feet. The kayak will turn toward the stroke side. The stern motion is the most effective portion of the back sweep.

By alternating a forward sweep on one side and a back sweep on the other, you can spin you kayak in place. Long kayaks with little rocker (as in the video) will be harder to turn than short kayaks with a lot of rocker. Tilting the kayak will enahance the rocker effect. The latter can be turned a full 360 degrees in about 15 seconds. How long does it take you to spin yours all the way around? Practice and see if you can shorten the time. This is also a good way for judging a kayak's maneuverability when selecting a kayak.

The stern draw is the same motion as the last portion of the forward sweep. Start by rotating your torso toward the back of the kayak. Place the blade well away from the side of the kayak with the power face toward the hull. Draw the paddle in toward the hull of the kayak. Use this stroke as a correction stroke when adjusting your paddling direction as it does not dampen your forward speed. It will stop a broach in its initial stages but it is not as powerful as a stern rudder in this type of situation.

The stern rudder is the same motion as the first part of a back sweep. Rotate your torso to the stroke side, put the blade in the water close to the boat at the stern and push or pry the back of the blade out and away. This is an easy way to get a kayak to turn, but it has a braking effect, slowing you down so use it quickly and sparingly. The stern rudder is very effective in stopping a broach. Be careful not to get the blade so deep that you can’t snatch it from the water before your sliding stern runs over it and trips.

The bow rudder uses your paddle blade as a steering plane near your feet to turn the kayak toward the stroke side. Reach forward (not much rotation this time) and place your paddle blade up by your feet. At the same time, move your off-stroke upper hand across the center line of your boat and touch your opposite shoulder with it. Place your lower elbow into your side and angle your forearm angles out about 45 degrees. Bend your wrists back and lower the paddle blade so it enters the water slicing forward with the power face facing the kayak hull. It is important to begin with the edge of the blade parallel to your kayak, Bend the wrists back further and the blade face opens and begins to move away from the kayak. Hold it firmly to the side of the kayak and the kayak will follow the blade in a turn to that side. It should be possible in calm wind conditions to turn the kayak 180 degrees with a single stroke.

The cross bow rudder is a powerful by risky stroke. To perform a high cross bow rudder reach forward as if to start a bow rudder, but cross over the kayak to the opposite side and place the blade parallel to the kayak center line about one foot from the hull. Keep the rear hand about head high. Slowly open the blade away from the kayak. Be prepared to let go of the forward hand if the force on the paddle threatens a capsize. Start with slow forward speeds and open the blade face slowly until you develop a feel for this turn. As you slow during this turn you can increase the angle on the blade and let the paddle move further away from the hull. When you have almost stopped, you can continue turning the kayak by performing a cross bow draw, hop the deck and do a forward sweep or if you wish to continue turning and want to stop, drop the rear hand and do a back sweep. To perform the even riskier low cross bow rudder, perform the same motions as the high cross bow rudder, but keep your rear hand low. The angle of the blade is much harder to adjust in a low cross bow rudder, so start carefully, at low speeds and with the initial placement of the blade close to the hull. With the extra leverage generated by the paddle way out in front of you, this stroke is very hard to control.

All bow rudder strokes are most effective on kayaks with a lot of rocker. These strokes are effective in narrow channels where it is important to guide the bow around a tight curve instead of swinging the stern out into the bank.

The hanging draw is useful in moving the kayak to the side without turning it, for example when you need to get closer to a pier, shoreline or rock. You are parallel to the feature already and you are still moving forward. The perform the hanging draw, place the stroke side blade in the water near your hip. Bring your upper off-stroke hand to your stroke side shoulder. Again place the blade parallel to the center line of the kayak. Your lower hand will be close to your hip. Open the blade face away from the kayak. The kayak should move out to the stroke side. If the kayak begins to turn toward the stroke side, move the in-water blade farther aft and if the kayak turns away, move it farther forward.

The sculling draw and standard draw are useful in moving the kayak to the side while not moving forward. Rotate your torso and head to face the direction you wish to go. Extend the stroke side paddle power face away the hull and as far out from the kayak as comfortable. Do not lean to that side. The upper hand should be at or below head level. Angle the blade away from the kayak and move the blade forward through the water parallel to the center line of the kayak.

When you have moved the blade well forward, adjust the angle of the blade so the other edge will be facing away from the kayak and make a long extended vertical sweeping motion. As the blade sweeps through the water at the slight angle it will move away from the kayaking. Resisting the tendency by pulling the paddle shaft toward the kayak will move the kayak toward the paddle shaft. This is called sculling.

The standard draw does not use the sculling motion but a directly pulls the kayak to the side with the paddle blade. Again rotate your torso to look directly out to the side of the kayak. Place the paddle blade into the water out from your hip and as far from the kayak as you can without leaning to that side. Your upper hand should be at head height. Draw (pull) the kayak to the blade.

When the blade reaches the hull, move the in-water blade to the rear and lower your upper hand to remove the blade from the water. Reposition that blade out to the side to make another stroke. This is the standard recovery.

A modification of this stroke is to return the paddle to the starting position without removing it from the water. When the paddle reaches the hull after the draw, rotate the blade perpendicular to the kayak center line. Return the blade to the extended position without removing it from the water. Rotate the blade parallel to the kayak and start the stroke again.

Turning strokes are all enhanced by tilting the kayak. Tilting lifts the ends of the kayak out of the water. The more you tilt the kayak, the quicker the turn. Tilting is not the same as leaning. Tilting is the process of rotating the kayak while maintaining the center of gravity (mostly you) over the kayak's center of support ( the kayak). With practice you'll find you can lean the kayak over quite far ( dipping the coaming - edge of the cockpit - in the water ) by adding some bracing component to your strokes. But that is our next topic.
How to keep your kayak from capsizing...............




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