Carving Turns - tips/pointers

So I’d like to start learning to do carving turns. Before I go out and get wet, does anyone have some pointers or tips for practicing? I’m under the impression that forward motion is the key and you want to be sitting upright before you loose your momentum and thus, lose your brace. I saw a great video on Youtube of a guy carving turns and the one aspect I don’t quite understand is how he is able to lean the boat over onto its side (say for example sake, the right side) and carve either towards the left OR towards the right. He seems to be able to carve a turn in either direction just from leaning over onto one side…how exactly does that work?

Its all in the initiation
speed is important but initiating the turn is also essential. Start the kayak turning BEFORE you edge, water pressure on the hull will do the rest. Nearly all kayaks will turn either direction on the same edge. Conscious, subconscious or environmental turn initiation determins the direction. The edge used (inside or outside) determins the shape and nature of the turn. Usually one edge carves more than skids, one may have more effect at the bow or stern, tighter/sharper, more locked in (i.e. more resistance to paddle or environment turning the kayak the other way without releasing the edge).

Dont wobble, often caused by over edging. Wobbling will stop the kayak carving more edge is generally good but over edging and wobbling is detrimental.

Try it backwards, many kayaks will carve/turn sharper and lock in more going backwards.

When you get the hang of both try and judge which locks in most. Paddle a circle on edge and see how many sweep strokes on the inside you need to break out of the circle (keep your speed up and dont wobble).

equates to shortening the LWL (waterline) of a kayak, thus making it easier to turn. Highly rockered boats with full chine profiles (buoyancy) are especially maneuverable. Depending on the kayak your body position may be for or more aft. Try altering your body position and seeing how the boat reacts. Carving is the industry term used, but that should not be confused with a planing hulled carve such as a surf kayak on a wave. Touring boats are displacement hulls and the shape of the hull determines how it will react to turning via edging etc. Pressure differences result in the kayak turning. You’ll hear the word skid used with highly playful boats and carve used to describe the arc of turn. It’s all jargon, so don’t get hung up on that, rather understand what’s happening as you change body and paddle position.

Two Rules #1 Raise the side of
opposition. #2 If you’re not getting wet, you’re not learning.

I agree that turns can be carved with either an on side or off side heel depending on the initiation, but d have generally foung that most hard-chine boats (kayaks or canoes) carve turns better with an off side heel as opposed to shallow arch hulls which seem to do OK either way. It is easy to undertand why: if you lean a hard-chined boat way over to the off side, you tend to substitute the chine on the side of the hull for the straight line of the keel. The line of the chine, however, is distinctly curved, so if you have some momentum going when you heel it, the boat tends to turn in the direction of the curve of the chine, ie, away from the lean. You can experiment with your boat by paddling it up to speed in a perfectly straight line, then abruptly heeling it to one side to see which way it likes to turn.

Here is the video
Here is the video I make reference too…I’d love to be able to do this as comfortably as he does it…

LWL / planning hull carve
LWL can be altered by edging but not by much on most touring kayaks, the bigger advantage may be the fact that the kayak becomes more rockered/less keeled when on edge. This may make the ends of the kayak easier to skid around when stationary.

When the kayak is moving forward the bow is pressurised if this pressure can be shifted to one side (rather than equal both sides as when going straight) i.e. by initiating a turn and edging it will push the kayak around and will continue to do so as long as the edge and pressure are maintained. Most touring kayaks do this best on their outside edge, most planning hulls and snow skis do it best on their inside edge.

Touring kayaks CAN be carved in the same way as a planning hull boat surfing or a snow ski/board but as with all of these the turn will probably have a certain ammount of skid in it as well dependant on the skill of the athlete or the desired outcome.

The video seems to show a mostly carved turn on the outside edge and a mostly skidded turn on the inside. The outside edge turn might be just as effective if the paddler just stayed on edge and paddled both sides once the turn was initiated keep the speed up and let the kayak do the work. The inside edge would be more effective if the paddler leant forward and released the stern to encourage the skid that is already happening.

…something the white water kayak community

seems to understand better than the touring boat

community is outfitting.

You buy a shell, customize it for your self.

what’s this have to do with carving?

Here is a handy little outfitting trick I learned

from my WW boat. I like it so much I added it to my

touring boat.

The comfort and control it added while leaning

had an enormous positive effect.

Almost completely agree
but there is a huge difference between a displacement hull in displacement mode and a planing hull on plane. A displacement hulled touring boat will only plane when surfing, and often that is a semi-planing situation.

Can you say more?
Maybe post a picture of your touring boat? Do you place the inside of your knee on top of the wedge? Or do you place the top outside of your knee under the wedge?

your knees rest against them
they help keep your knees more vertical…so the pads are on the outside of your legs…


turning, carving
"carving" can be a misnomer as some hulls will track well in a turn through a defined radius and other hulls can slew through a turn depending on how you transmit torque through your torso while bracing/turning.

Sounds like you’re trying to figure out how to control the kayak on a lean in a turn. Check out Hutchinsons video Beyond the Cockpit. You can do it incrementally.

And you have to get wet.

Some hints

– Last Updated: Aug-27-07 3:11 PM EST –

There are -two- turning techniques being shown in the video: 1) edged turns and 2) low brace turns.


Edging and leaning: as a point of terminology, I'm using the term "edging" to indicate tilting the boat while keeping your center of gravity over the boat. I'm using the term "leaning" to indicate using your upper body to tilt the boat. Note that, when leaning, the center of gravity is -not- over the boat. This means leaning is unstable and requires a brace (or some other support) to keep you from turning over.


1) Edged turn.

Sea kayaks are designed to be easier to turn when edging the boat. Pretty much, these boats are edged to the outside of the turn. That is, the boat is higher on the inside of the turn and lower on the outside of the turn. (This is backwards from how people typically paddle white water boats.)

The basic trick behind the edged turn is to sit on one butt-cheek while keeping your upper body over the boat. You do not want to do the edging by leaning your upper body.

You can practice doing the butt-cheek thing by sitting on a smooth floor at home and raising one side of your hip. If you do this right, you should be able to pass a hand under the side that is raised. Note that this action is a side crunch.

If you do this in a kayak, your weight is off center (to the left or the right of the boat's center line) and the boat will heel to the side away from the raised hip. You can add a little bit more boat rotation by lifting your knee on the upper hip side. You don't want to completely tilt the boat with your knee because it's a bit unstable. You should be able to tilt the boat using only a hip lift (sitting on one butt cheek) and with no knee engagement.

With proper edging, you won't need to brace at all to tilt the boat. You should, with practice, be able to hold the boat on edge for quite a while (even while not moving).

The purpose of an edged turn is to turn the kayak while moving without losing momentum.

You can sometimes intiate an edged turn by just tilting the boat. Typically, though, you'll need a bit of a sweep on the outside of the turn. You can edge the boat while performing the sweep (edging while sweeping makes the sweep more effective). The sweep doesn't even need to be a full bow-to-stern sweep. (A little bit of English is enough.) One use of edged turns is to adjust tracking without having to modify your forward stroke too drastically.


2) Low brace turn.

This involves tilting the boat to the "wrong" side and a vigorous brace. In the low brace turn, the paddler in the video is actually leaning his upper body over the side of the boat (to the inside of the turn) and supporting this weight using a low brace.

Keep in mind that the kayak is slowing down in the low brace turn (the low brace turn is a braking turn). If you wait too long, the brace won't support your body and you'll flip over. You need a bit of speed to do a low brace. (Note that you can do low brace turns that incorporate more edging and less leaning.)

Note that the resistance of the brace is the thing that causes the boat to turn towards the paddle. The point of tilting the boat in a low brace turn is mostly to reduce the turning resistance (think torque) of the hull by making it effectively shorter.


Edging is a useful skill by itself but another value to edging is to make a habit of having "loose hips" while paddling.

If I could post a picture…
…I would, but basically, they are under my


Care must be taken of course to ensure that you can still make a wet exit if you have to.

Think of them as a minicell platform that the bottom

of my legs can rest on.