Burying my stern

Went WW kayaking today for the first time! (the West in Jamaica, VT). Wow! Very, very different from sea kayaking, but I’m hooked.

Questions: I was paddling a Perception Amp playboat, which has a very low bow and stern. I seem to have a tendency to bury the stern and get flipped. While this is a good opportunity to practice combat rolls, it gets old after about the third time in cold water. It seemed to happen most when I was trying to change direction in current, such as peeling into or out of an eddy. Is this because I was leaning into the current instead of away? How can I work on correcting this?

I also inherited a Perception Stikine, a higher-volume creek-type boat. Would this be better for learning in? I’m 5’4", 130 lb and the Amp fits great, but I’m wondering if it’s too different too soon for someone used to a 17’ sea kayak.

instructor i am not.
If your flipping upstream, i would say yes, your direction of lean is causing you to flip. Meaning you are not leaning enough downstream - like being on a bike. If your flipping downstream, either you are leaning too much and/or or not bracing enough on your paddle as you peel out. Sometimes bracing isn’t even necessary if you have the correct body lean and am prepared for a low brace. But, like i said, I am no instructor.

Interesting question you ask about
the best boat to learn WW yaking. I am tempted to say the creeker because with its potentially higher volume and smoother lines, might keep you up, higher and dryer and enjoying yourself rather than over and under dealing with edges and such. See you downstream.

Learning to WW kayak

– Last Updated: Apr-28-08 1:16 AM EST –

Depends on what you consider to be learning. Do you want to learn to learn more technical moves, or do you want to learn to find the tongue and shoot thru it? You have a boat for either.

It may be best to find a group to WW with who know enough to be helpful. The West will soon be past its day if I understand how that release works correctly, but you may want to hook up with the folks at Zoar in Massachusetts for some time on the Deerfield (below the dryway). You may not be a terribly far drive from there.

As to the leaning thing - 'tis a conundrum for sea kayakers because we lean into a wave which kinda seems like the same as leaning into the current, at least until you think more about what is actually happening on a wave face. I am no way no how an expert, but I have found another way to think about it which avoids any surface directional point of view. I do this because I just about always get it backwards if I do it by what I can see.

I try to think about it as resisting the water to stay up (with my edge), and going with the water to roll back up again up. If the water is kind enough to be running in an uncomplicated direction, like in a straightforward class 2 stretch, this seems to work OK. No guarantees for the messy stuff like the surf zone, the confusion there still flummoxes me. But if you can keep your cool better than me, the same kinesthetic approach should work.

Surfing and rolling

– Last Updated: Apr-28-08 6:18 AM EST –

Couple of shots of Cat surfing, rolling and running some rapids


Once she got used to bouncing off rocks, the roll came back and it was all downhill from there. If you saw her paddling, you never would have thought it was her first time kayaking on WW.

Great day.

Thanks, Erik
Yes, not a day we (or our bodies) will soon forget. Wonderful company, too. I do want to post a disclaimer about the first photo on the webshots site because my technique looked soooo bad. I was posing and lifted my right arm to smile for the camera. Erik, can you photoshop that so it looks like I know how to do a high brace turn? :wink:

I never let good technique
get in the way of a nice picture – you’d never see any pictures of me. (Alan A. bugs me about that as well.) I’ll get working on photoshop.

grabby tails

– Last Updated: Apr-28-08 9:57 AM EST –

Ah, yes...the upstream capsize leaving the eddy ---I've done a bunch and seen more.

The simple rule is "always show your butt to the current". That means that you should be leaning or edging downcurrent to keep your upstream edge from getting caught.

Think of leaving(or entering) an eddy as stepping out onto a moving conveyor belt. As you cross the eddy line, the current will try to roll the boat out from under you, just as a moving sidewalk tries to take your feet out from under you. If you roll upstream far enough so that the current can grab the edge of your deck, you're probably going over.

To prevent this, you need to lean and/or edge downstream(downcurrent) as you exit the eddy. The amount of lean is proportional to the current speed -- if it's fast, you need to go hard and lean hard.

Coming into an eddy, you need to remember that the current in the eddy is flowing upstream. Entering an eddy you lean upstream because that's downcurrent.

The other common problem I've seen with folks peeling out of eddies has to do with fore/aft body position. As the current accelerates the boat paddlers let themselves be thrown backwards, putting them in a weak position and burying the stern. You need to come out of an eddy with an aggressive forward lean. Sea kayakers coming from 17' boats usually aren't very aware of their fore/aft body position and how it can affect a 7-8' boat. Keeping your paddle strokes well forward will help.

Look at the body position in the second photo here:

At this stage, I wouldn't try to reach back for a pivot as shown in the rest of the sequence. Keep the forward lean until you're up to speed in the main current.

You should also hold the upstream edge up a bit when you're ferrying across the current.

You want to enter or exit an eddy as close to the top as you can. The eddy line is narrowest and best-defined there, and you'll have less "funny water" to deal with.

As for boat choice, you should understand that many playboats were designed to have grabby edges to make play moves easier. The creekboat will certainly be more forgiving, but will also be less responsive. I found an old Amp review where the author "...was floored by the end swapping potential in the smallest of eddylines." You may have already discovered that. ;-)

Burying the stern can be fun and useful with a bit of practice:

You also may be able to move the seat forward.

You’re too light for the Stikine.
Nothing special about it anyway. I don’t know a thing about the AMP, but Angstrom’s advice about exiting eddies, etc, is right on.

There’s actually a big difference between low volume sterns in short playboats and in long boats such as slalom boats. A long, low stern can be a wonderful control tool for managing eddy turns and peel outs, but a very short low stern just has to be much less useful. A playboat paddler should be thinking about how to use the sharp edges and the markedly flat bottom, while not trying to engage the stern unless wanting to get vertical.

Great! Just move my right arm down about 6-7 inches. There. Wait a minute…hmmm - no face. Oh well. Maybe low brace turn next picture. :wink:

In addition to leaning the boat
You may also want to pay attention to whether you are either leaning forward or leaning back against the backband when you eddy out or peel out.

If you are leaning back (as many beginners do), a sharp current differential can also grab the tail of a kayak with slicey ends, like the Amp. Keeping the weight forward (leaning and paddling agressively forward) can help with this.

And remember…lean the boat side to side, not your body. As you tilt the boat into the turn, your body weight should be centered.

Sorry I missed the West with you Cat! Looks like you did well!


Oh, good! Doughnuts for dinner!
…and breakfast, and lunch. Seriously, I never thought I’d weigh too little, but had to give up on my Ellesmere for the same reason. Just couldn’t control it in the wind, and ballasting made it too unwieldy. Fortunately, found a low-volume Sirius which fits (and feels) like a silk glove.

I appreciate everyone’s input. Will probably take the Stikine out once just to confirm g2d’s assessment (look! it’s a bird! it’s a plane! no, it’s Cat in her Stikine!), but it’s nice to know there are advantages to the Amp’s low stern. Can’t wait to try the pivot turn (when the water warms up a bit.

And I assume that’s the precursor to pop-ups, pirouettes, and all that other fun stuff. Wa-hoo!!!

Catch you soon, Chuck!
Now I know why all you river rats are out there in those funny little boats…


– Last Updated: Apr-28-08 2:37 PM EST –

You've probably got more options for boats that fit you on the whitewater side than on the touring side. Most whitewater boats now come in multiple sizes. Jackson probably has the widest range. A 2Fun would be a good fit, and there are more small options from other manufacturers.

Just looked at the photos -- Those are very "slicy" ends and edges, and won't give you a lot of margin for error. That's from the era of boat design when every playboater wanted to do cartwheels. Now everyone wants to do aerials and the long thin ends are gone.

If the idea of getting vertical makes you go "Wa-hoo!" instead of "Oh #$&^%@!", you're probably going to do just fine. :-)

Not sure that’swhat you meant to say

– Last Updated: Apr-29-08 2:15 AM EST –

You say "And remember...lean the boat side to side, not your body. As you tilt the boat into the turn, your body weight should be centered." I think you are either not saying what you mean, or are not aware of just how much you are leaning downstream at the moment when the current bashes you sideways. You might be saying how it "feels", and when doing it right, you do "feel" like the boat is right underneath you, just like you feel like the floor of an airplane is "straight down" when the plane makes a sharp turn (even though it's not).

Agstrom's post above is very well-worded, enough to also clearly explain how suddenly placing yourself in moving current while essentially stationary will figuratively "knock your feet out from under you" unless your center of mass is positioned downcurrent from your point of support. As an analogy, simply tilting the boat but not leaning downstream to counteract the force of acceleration as the current slingshots you downriver would be the same as making a sharp turn on dowhill skis, and digging in your ski edges so they don't slip but trying to keep your body right on top of the skis instead of well off toward the side toward which you are turning (because that is the direction in which you are being accelerated). In either case you need to position your center of mass so that relative to your point of support, it lines up with the combined forces of gravity and acceleration. All that means is that if you peel-out into a substantial current and don't get flipped in the upstream direction, you really WERE leaning downstream at the moment the current grabbed you. A photo taken from the proper angle and at the right moment would show this too.

There's a nice section in Bill Mason's "Waterwalker" that shows this principle really well because the center of mass of a canoeist is so much higher than that of a kayaker. A bunch of tandem canoeists do peelouts into a current that is so strong that the paddlers tilt the boat as far as they can, and their bodies actually extend far out beyond the gunwales and over the water. A brace lets them fall into this position as the boat eases out into the flow, but once the current fully hits them, they are in perfect postion to be flung into motion without being up-ended.


You can see edge and lean as she exits the eddy. You’d need more lean with a faster current.

One method I’ve seen is to lean into a forward low brace as soon as you cross the eddy line. The more exciting way is to come across the eddy line with good speed and plant a forward duffek(like a bow rudder) on the downstream side of the bow in the main current. The pull on the paddle will help pull your body forward and downstream, and the boat will follow. In fast current it can feel like someone’s pulling on your paddle with a big bungee cord, “slingshotting” you up to speed.

Seat Position??
Lot’s of great advice here.

I’m sure that it is more technique than anything else, however… check the seat position. It may be all the way back and if so, it wouldn’t hurt to move it forward.

I don’t know these specific boats, but most WW boats have adjustable (fore/aft) seats.

Seat Position
Amp has fixed seat position. Think about the bow profile - any further forward and there’d be no room for feet!

Good points, about front to rear torso position making more of a diff in a 7’ boat than a 17’. Also matching boat speed to strength of eddy fence. If you notice from Erik’s pics, I did a lot of back-paddling (with white-knuckle death-grip!). Next time, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead! Towanda!!!

One comment on Guideboatguy’s comment on body lean in a canoe: it’s different in a kayak. You essentially wear a kayak instead of sitting in it, and control the edging angle of the boat with your hips and legs, moving independently from your torso, which should generally stay more or less vertical. You can’t do this in a canoe, so you have to get your upper body involved in leaning the boat. But canoes are much wider and more stable than kayaks, so you can get away with it.

I appreciate everyone’ input. Can’t wait to get out and experiment some more. Yee-haw.


No different in a White Water Canoe
Or any narrow solo canoe for that matter. Lean (heel) the hull. Keep your weight centered.

In big wide tripping boats like those used in Waterwalker it can be tough to get a good boat lean without throwing your weight into it. But if you don’t get the boat lean no amount of body lean will keep you from getting dunked. Been there, done that, went swimming 8-o