Bow Rudder Stroke: Why? Purpose?

-- Last Updated: Jun-07-09 9:06 PM EST --

Been on here in the past but I can't find threads.

Why the bow rudder? I could do the same turn this gentleman is doing by using a gentle stern rudder, no less drag, no less loss of speed. Why in the name of the Lord would one use the bow rudder, get a wet arm from high raised paddle, and on a windy day stick a paddle in the air. The balance of the kayak (the "edge") in a bow rudder, no less, is away from the paddle side, thus hard to corrective brace in "soup", and is more prone to capsize. Is that why I always see bow rudder demos on flatwater. The stern rudder, conversely, has the paddle on the lean side, ready to brace and can be floowed by a sweep in bad conditions, and I see it used in chop and surf as well as flatwater routinely. MOre forgiving.

There must be something about this bow stroke that places it at an advantage to the stern rudder.

By the way, when I practice a gentle bow rudder, I can position the blade closer to the boat than the man in video, and it can draw my kayak completely sideways (rather than turning). I think that is a draw stroke, no? I see an advantage to it for coming in to a dry dock landing or astride to another paddler.

But the wet, high bladed bow rudder still eludes me as to purpose. Please enlighten. Thanks. cd1

many reasons
Good first to know how a kayak turns or actually first that it is made to not turn much, but track, unlike a WW boat which is the other way around.

Second, when moving forward, the front is in high pressure from pushing water aside, like it is in wet cement. The rear low pressure, like on marbles.

This is why a boat weather cocks in wind, why the back is easier to slip in making turns, etc.

So why any bow turns?

For one, if a rock is ahead you might want to move the front of the boat first, then the back. So a quick sweep, switch edges and a bow rudder than a stern rudder to move the stern over.

Or if you have trouble turning upwind a bow rudder acts as a pivot that holds the bow from slipping and allows the stern to slide downwind.

I will leave it to others to add to these instances. And there are different types of bow rudders, draws, etc. all make for different outcomes in different conditions. Eventually they all blend together so you can move from one stroke to another to get it done.

In tight Mangrove tunnels…
You can guide the bow though with a very low paddle angle so that the paddle doesn’t get tangled and able to change sides quickly. Also in position for a power stroke.

Narrow spots
I have found the bow rudder useful in narrow spots when a gentle turn of the bow will make things easy, where a sweep or stern rudder kicking your back end out could make you scraps rocks or whatever you’re going through. I find it’s only really that useful though in calmer waters, any sort of chop and you’ll want to stay in a stern rudder.

Search for a recent thread
on the cross bow rudder -:wink: I think it was about some videos from some British kayaker.

As for the bow rudder, in addition to the “avoiding rocks” usage, in a sea kayak I find it useful sometimes in river currents to keep my bow pointed where I want it against the current rather than let the current sweep it downriver. But not sure if this is a “legitimate” use or not, just works when entering currents that are faster than where you are, so a stern rudder does not do much to keep your direction since the water at your bow is moving faster compared to at your bow…

cuz it works?
if you want to move your bow without pushing the stern is one reason.

I live on a narrow winding creek and the bow rudder is the only one that can make many of the turns and keep the kayak out of the marsh grass. I also use it in the surf zone or if I want to turn the kayak the most rotation with the least effort. I use a true stern rudder also, so it deprends on the wind, waves and what’s easier at the time.

Why is it called a bow rudder, when
it’s executed next to the cockpit?

bow rudder position
When i was taught the bow rudder five years ago we were told to lean forward and plant the blade as close to the bow as we could reach. As i’ve used it more over the years i’ve come to bring the blade closer to the cockpit as shown in the videos. This gives a more vertical shaft with less torque on the reaching arm and the boat just pivots around the blade.

And i’m sorry but a stern rudder can’t turn the boat the same way a bow rudder can. If you look at the video, he turned around 180 degrees without losing all momentum. You just can’t make that turn with a stern rudder. With the bow rudder, I’ve found that you have to kind of tense up and make your upper body rigid for the boat to really respond. It’s great fun when you really execute a good bow rudder.

A cross bow rudder and draw …
… while leaning away from the paddle is a really weird looking move. But has been used for decades to make sharp, snappy turns through gates in slalom whitewater, and is very whippy in a hard-chined kayak.

All the reasons given and…
some boats respond notably better to bow rudder than stern rudder.

A basic in controlling your boat in wind is to work forward of the cockpit if you wish to turn upwind and at or aft of your cockpit to turn downwind.

But mostly I find that stern ruddering is less precise, slower to turn the boat, and looses much more momentum than bow ruddering.

I agree with you 100 percent
My wife prefers it to a stern rudder and I never could figure out why. (although it is probably a hold over from her cross bow canoe rudder)

I much prefer to just use a stern rudder since I don’t have to make a special move with the paddle and it is already in the correct place.

She and Grayhawk, (see post above) love to use it in the tight twisty mangrove tunnels, but it seems mighty odd that I can go through easier using my stern rudder where the other end of the paddle is not up in the air getting caught in the overhanging branches.

with all that said, I use it in WW occasionally for a quick manuever around a rock.



Boat and wind

– Last Updated: Jun-08-09 8:46 AM EST –

Having just nailed my (short-lived) first roll in real surf, I haven't the nerve to try a bow rudder in that kind of stuff myself yet. But I get that there are moments where you will get more bang out of pinning the bow and skidding the stern than the other way around.

As mentioned above, depending on the direction you are turning in wind it may be a better choice than a stern stroke. In some boats it may also be a better choice. In my Vela, with her relatively deep bow and disappearing stern a bow rudder can be decidedly faster unless I want to to drop the skeg just for a turn, to make it a fair battle.

I have heard the other side argued in terms of whether it is more protective than a stern rudder, in that the paddle is beside or slightly ahead of the paddler so already at the bracing point, and that a likely capsize will actually be inside from the paddler losing the outside edge. Clearly some disagreement there...

Another use of bow rudder
In surf or if the stern of your boat is locked in a wave and the bow is free, you can change direction by using a bow rudder. Trying to pry the stern of your boat when it is locked in a breaking wave in almost all cases will be more difficult. Not an easy stroke to execute in faster moving, bigger water but when executed properly it is very effective.

Slipped and Carved Bow Rudder
Bow rudder can be done powerfully and safely in big water also.

Slipped turns, i.e., when edging the boat away from the direction of turn is usually the faster turn due to using two forces, one, decreasing rocker by edging, and two, edging away from the turn allows you to “butter the bread” or slide the stern. Since the stern is “on marble” when moving forward, the boat can really turn quickly.

Carved turns, i.e., when edging in the boat the same direction as turning is slower usually due to only utilizing decreased rocker to turn, but the ADVANTAGE in a number of situations especially bigger water is that you can edge towards powerful water, i.e., surf, waves, wind, eddies, etc. AND you can use the bow rudder or even the more powerful high bow draw (different names given for this but instead of planting the blade as forward or close to hull you rotate the torso and plant the blade vertically and away from the hull significantly)

This turn us usually slower than the slipped version but it can actually act as additional balance, support, and stability at times where you might be too tense to execute a faster slipped turn. Sometimes slower wins the day as if you go over you go over on the side of trouble so you then can roll up away from trouble too.

For me, all these strokes do not daunt me anymore. I remember Steve Maynard saying years ago, and just recently John Carmody also saying there are basically four kinds of strokes, bow and stern that keep you up bow and stern that make you capsize.

good question

– Last Updated: Jun-08-09 10:11 AM EST –

I too always doubt whether to call this a bow rudder or a post.
Nevertheless it works to make a turn:

The pivot point is in front of you.

The guy in the video is not doing a bow rudder. That was always taught as a dufect (sp-?) turn. Why would that be called a bow rudder - maybe because it’s not at the stern? You can do a simple bow rudder at the forward position of your stroke and do a correction and just continue along with the completion of your paddle stroke. That’s why I like them. I don’t have to turn my body or take the paddle out of the normal paddling position. But the stern rudder seems more powerful especially during surfing. If you practice a bow rudder, you may get to like it and use it more. There’s a lot of overlaps in paddling technique and you begin to like certain ones for a variety of reasons that another paddler may not.

I thought the purpose of the bow rudder was for bringing the bow into the wind. It’s a question on the 2 star BCU assessment.

bow rudder position
In my experience you need to get the blade up by your shins to be effective.

If the blade is planted next to the cockpit it’s not a bow rudder, it’s a hanging draw, and the boat won’t turn, it’ll just move sideways (which is also a cool stroke).

I’ve come to really like the bow-rudder for getting in between and around tight rocks for rock gardening. At first I did feel that it was an unsuportive stroke, and couldn’t use it unless the water was flat. But once I discovered that the bow-rudder links perfectly to a forward stroke, it became much more versatile and you can catch your balance with the forward stroke portion if you’ve gotten a little upset in the bow-rudder portion of the stroke.

In comparison to the stern rudder, the bow rudder definitely moves the bow around more accurately when moving fast in tight quarters. The stern rudder (for me) changes the boats direction, but doesn’t move the bow sideways.