Carved/skidded turn and edging

OK, I’ve heard it both ways from different coaches, many eminent. So I throw the question open. Pick one…

(1) An inside edge turn is (a) carved? (b) skidded?

(2) An outside edge turn is (a) skidded? (b) carved?

Or something else?

I do have my own opinion, but before expounding it, I’d like to hear what others say.


i would see
a Lowbrace turn as skidded…

and your outer side turn as carved…

what is the real difference between your carve and skid?

Outside - skid
Always thought of the outside edge turn as the skidded turn because the orientation of the stern is at an angle to ‘skid’ across the water rather than dig in. Sort of like the knife when butterin’ bread.

Always thougt of carved as an aggressive turn well into secondary stability.

i thkn of a hockey stop on skates
or a bike as a skid…where your momentum slides you past where you wanted to stop at…

that is why i asked why the def. would be.


this should be interesting!

Very confusing …

– Last Updated: Sep-02-08 12:24 PM EST –

As a relative newcomer to kayaking my "definitions" below may as well be in conflict with "official" definitions, if such thing exists...

In kayaking, one leans to the "outside" to turn in contrast to just about every other sport where you lean in to turn (think biking or skiing)...

To me "carving" and "sliding/skidding" have different physical properties and the direction of the lean (out or in) *does not define* whether you are carving or skidding.

Carving to me implies you maintain your desired direction of motion in a way that involves as little sliding/skidding as possible. And conversely, in sliding/skidding you are dragging about to change your direction with little or no "carving" (and in the extreme you are not changing direction at all - just sliding out of control this or that way).

A race car analogy: turn with little or no skidding and you are "carving" a turn exactly where you want it. Skid along the surface, and you are no longer carving - you are "dragging" your tail but in a controlled way so that you are actually changing direction and are turning.

F-1 cars almost never skid intentionally where dirt road race cars almost always drag their tails on turns. Both have benefits in car racing...

In kayaking the effect from skidding vs. dragging is what matters. If you are paddling at speed and want to keep it, you should not skid - you should carve. On the other hand, if you are floating downriver with the flow you can't carve - you can only drag to change direction then start paddling in the new heading. If you want to catch an eddie, you first carve into it, then slide to a stop in it (if you continued to carve, you'd be out of the eddie or hit the obstruction that's causing it if you do not back-paddle hard).

In reality, since the kayak is a rigid body with a predefined shape (unlike cars or bikes that have steering, or even skis or snowboards that bend to carve), you can *never* purely "carve" a turn in a kayak that is shaped like most kayaks I've seen are. A part of the boat is always "skidding" during a turn. From there on - it is only a matter of which is the predominant characteristic of the turn - skidding or carving...

same same only different
inside outside no matter. if you stop paddling you are skidding, keep paddling and you are carving. however it’s moot. i hope your instructors ask instead: can you place your boat where you need to, when you want to? can you turn the boat on the arc you intend to, in a timely fashion? if they run you through lots of rock garden slalom, it’s the only way to really find out!

Some ideas

– Last Updated: Sep-02-08 1:07 PM EST –

A carved turn means the stern of the boat will travel in the same line as the bow of the boat. Think of a train on a track.

A skidded turn means the boat is pivoting/rotating (twisting) in a horizontal plane.

Many turns are a blend of both carving and skidding (just like in skiing).

For sea kayaks, the boats tend to turn in the opposite direction of the boat lean. For example, if the boat is edged (leaned) to the right, the boat will turn left.

If you paddle (on flat water) your own boat straight and, after gaining some forward speed, edge (enough) the boat in one (or the other direction), your boat should turn in the opposite direction. This is a "carved" turn because there is no (significant) force that is twisting the boat.

In a low brace turn, the stern of the boat "slides out". This is (mostly) a skidded turn.

Displacement hulls turn via
pressure differences. Their underwater shape dictates how these pressure differentials will react with the hull. Skidded…carved…all industry verbage. A hydrodynamic nautical engineer would use very different terminology. Does the boat do what you want?

I will argue that …
… one can equally well “carve” a turn by leaning into the turn. Think of slalom kayak or canoe -;). The carving part in this case is not the side of the hull (of which these slalom boats have none, pretty much, as they are flat-ish), but rather the bottom of the hull is used to carve the turn. Same with a sea kayak placed on edge where the normally horizontal plane of the seat bottom is vertical or nearly vertical.

But as I said in my previous post, with a rigid shape that is designed to efficiently go straight it is physically not possible to purely carve a turn - there is always some skidding, regardless of the direction of the lean as long as there is a turn…

simple is as simple does
to quote a great philosopher…if i edge hard to the right and paddle right to turn left, i turn left… if i slam a hard left rudder on while leaning right to make a sharp left turn then i’m turning left. one technique keeps me moving, the other kills my momentum. so guess which turn is skidding and which is carving in my humble mind. leaning to the inside while paddling is simply carving. i guess for me its about whether i am paddling forward or not to make the turn.

My opinion

– Last Updated: Sep-02-08 5:03 PM EST –

Interesting discussion. My $000.02...

Outside edge => skidded turn; inside edge => carved turn.

More detail. First, I meant sea kayaks, aka longboats, turned without a rudder. I know very little about short boats, and they may well be different. Second, I agree with the slalom coach that this is mainly a theoretical bon bon. Yet it's useful to understand boat dynamics. Third, an inside edge, the so-called low brace turn as taught in various curricula on flat, still water is not very useful in itself. It's really more for breaking into current or turning downwind in a significant breeze.

Next, definitions. I agree with kayakernj... in a skidded turn, the boat pivots around a point well forward toward the bow, so the stern skids across and outside the curve of the turn, leaving a distinct, wide, smeared wake. In a carved turn, the boat pivots more or less about the fore-aft center, and the bow and stern slide about equally. You could say the bow and stern stay in line with the curve of the turn, but strictly speaking a boat would have to bend like a ski for that to happen.

Finally, the conclusion -- edge outside, and you get a skidded turn, which is relatively sharp. Lean forward and/or plant a paddle forward on the inside (aka bow rudder), the bow is "pinned" even more, the skid greater, and the turn sharper. Edge inside and you get a carved turn, not as sharp as the skidded turn.

Why am I so sure? I've looked at it with others -- we perform the various turns and observe each other's trajectories and wakes. That's what we see!

Why does it work that way -- discussion for another day.

Finally, why do so many excellent coaches get it backwards (I know of several)? Hypothesis -- they are thinking of skiing, where the most elegant, efficient turn is a carve rather than a skid. But boats don't flex like skis, liquid water is very different than snow, etc etc.

OK, fire away.

I couldn’t resist.


Is that the sound of
your head as you slam it onto the computer monitor in frustration?


– Last Updated: Sep-02-08 7:38 PM EST –

I always thought of carving as turning using your inside edge, just like skiers and surfers. Not relying on your yaw inertia or releasing the "bite" so much as having your edge actually "dig in" against centripetal force and following an arc. Carving to the outside of a turn (opposite direction of lean) seems quite counterintuitive. In every other sport I can think of, carving to the outside leads to intimate face time with the snow, water, etc. To me, turning in the direction opposite the lean is more about unsticking the hull from the water (creating a smaller water line) and pivoting.

That being said, some boats react in very counterintuitive ways. While attending a river canoing class, I kept having problems keeping the OC-1 I was in going straight at speed. However, I wasn't wallowing away from my paddle side, but battling a constant inside turn. As was explained, when approaching the hull speed, a subtle turn or lean can set up an asymmetrical bow wave that will perpetuate the turn. Once this turn was initiated, only a strong draw on my off side or slowing down would break it. On totally flat water, the boat would glide along beautiful arc until it slowed down (and spun out). Was I carving or sliding?

More importantly, what does it matter? I don't think cross bow draw, power stroke, etc... I just do it. If your boat goes where you want and you're having fun, who cares?


Pragmatics over science
I doubt many paddlers (any form of paddle craft) have ever done a carved turn with no part of the boat skidding, what ever edge they are engaging.

Its a skid if the boat slids sideways. Its a carve if all the points of the edge/waterline of the boat travel through the same point on the arc.

One relies on releasing the boat from the lateral grip of the water. The other relies on the water pressurising part of the hull and stopping it from slipping sideways

As already stated a turn with more skid can re-orientate a kayak and scrubb off some speed, very usefull at times, however a lacks a little accuracy and can be hard to control, think driving on ice. A turn that is more carved will maintain speed while keeping the kayak turning accuratly even when other forces are trying to affect the turn, think train on tracks, also very useful at times.

Most paddle craft can be made to do a turn that is more carved than skidded or more skidded than carved on either edge. It is very useful to be able to adjust this carve/skid continuum. The environment has as much to do with this as the boat/paddler etc. Some techniques are more effective in different boats or different situations.

In a sea kayak and canoe when I need a turn to be more carve than skid I generally use an outside edge turn, unless I have the power of a wave pushing me and the shape of the wave around my boat, then I can make some powerful curves on my inside edge. My white water kayak probably about 50/50.

And David, kayaks do not need to flex like skis in order to carve. They are already curved in various places.

bang, bang
yes…the sound of my head as it hits into the computer…

“The “Ya think” thing is obnoxious.”

it is? sorry, but you still have it wrong.

“I do see the effect you describe quite regularly but I wasn’t talking about that phenomena. Your example doesn’t illustrate an edged turn. It just illustrates that you need enough momentum for edging to produce a turn.”

enlighten me man…WHAT illustrates your ‘edged turn’ if my example doesn’t. someone is missing something here.

“You could have simply pointed out that I missed mentioning that you need momentum to have the effect I was talking about. That would have been useful but you chose to be obnoxious instead.”

and I still need to know what is the 'effect you was talking about"

try my ‘test’ and you’ll see that an edged boat will show no preference as to it’s course unless initiated.


Just to make it clear to other readers:

oh I’m sure they have it perfectly clear.

“bow sweep, YAW initiation, then edge, add paddle blade as needed. maybe I’m doing it wong???”

Which way do you edge?

does it matter? my point exactly. the boat doesn’t really give a rats @$$(Mariners excluded)which way you edge.

stevie headache

Splash, Splash
Hey Steve,

“bow sweep, YAW initiation, then edge, add paddle blade as needed” . . . absolutely agree with the only caveat being if I do a bow rudder to increase the turn on an inside edge I tend to go splashey, splashey. That’s why I tend to use an outer by habit to help with my upright orientation. Don’t much care beyond that what any of this is called.

friend of mine
went to a symposium at MDI last year and took a class in bracing and paddle strokes—he told me that the instructor—somebody relativly well known–told the class that the carved turns that he was teaching were nice but that once the water got rough, most paddlers wouldn’t use them anyway

Muddy the waters some
I was paddling my Manta Ray 14 on the Blackwater River in Florida. 2-3 mph constant current, no whitewater. Loaded with camping gear (450 lb. max capacity) with the bow loaded a little heavier than the stern. I’d come up on a quick turn in the river, hit a strong rudder, the bow would dig in and the stern would “skid” around. When I was headed the right direction, applied a sweep (or sometimes rudder) on the appropriate side and take off. Might not be good technique, but it was sure fun. Kinda like driving in the snow and using the skid to get you a tighter turning radius.

and it s not even winter…sigh.
gonna be a long one.