Fastest way to do U-turn in flatwater?

What’s the fastest/most efficient way to do a 180 with a solo canoe in flatwater? Do you do a tight turn assisted with a bow draw/duffek and big lean, or do you swing wide, put the boat into a carve, and then paddle hard on the inside of the turn to keep your speed up?

Seems like the former will get you facing the correct direction sooner, but it will also kill a lot of your momentum and require a bit of effort to get up to speed again. The latter keeps you moving at speed, but the boat spends a lot more time changing direction.

I tried Googling and YouTubing “buoy turn” and saw it done both ways, with mixed results.

A wedge
Turns quickly, even pivots if heeled to the rail, and requires almost no effort.

solo buoy turn

– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 5:42 PM EST –

This is treated well in the book, "Canoe Racing" by Heed and Mansfield.

The authors mention both methods, but to execute the tightest turn they recommend to lean, get as far forward as you can, sweep and use a cross draw, and then "put the hammer down" to quickly accelerate.

This will bleed your speed, but if you go wide, other boats may cut inside of you and force you into the weeds.

If you are own your own, you might do fine with a hard lean and a sweep.

I race kayaks, not canoes, but follow the above methods for a solo kayak.

A good buoy turn takes a lot of practice, especially in the skinny hulls.

Greg Stamer

Wedge seconded

– Last Updated: Aug-05-12 9:09 AM EST –

ST's Wedge nomination needs a little fleshing out. With the hull moving forward, we initiate with an onside Sweep while heeling the boat's onside rail to the water, which starts the canoe carving offside. In all variations, pitching the bow down by coming forward off the seat enhances but the bow carve and the stern skid

The paddle is "wedged" near the bow, with the backface out and open at ~ 40dg closing angle of attack, the forward edge against the hull, the railing edge about 4" away from the hull which increased the deflection into the carved turn.

As the stern skids out and around the bow to onside, the paddler concludes the turn with another Sweep. Most Wedges will crank a hull through 270 degrees of rotation, so a 180 is simple.

Personally, I'd use a Cross Post, an outside heel that initiates with a sweeping onside Forward, just like the Post. With the bow carving into the turn, plant a Cross Duffek. This is more energetic than the Wedge but allows the paddler the to pull the bow offside. Conclusion is the same, carrying the blade back across the bow to a sweeping forward.

Tandem we'd need to decide on whether we wanted a faster turn or to carry momentum through the turn. Again, always an outside heel to engage carving bows, The bow paddler's Cross Duffek matches with a stern Reverse Sweeping Low Brace to turn on a dime, past 270 dg rotation id desired, but the boat is dead in the water.

To retain momentum the Bow plants an onside Duffeck and the stern powers through the turn with sweeping Forward strokes. We may not be able to effect pitch as much as in a solo hull, but both tandem partners should come forward off their seat/ kneeling thwarts to increase bow down pitch, which, again, increases the bow's carve into the turn and stern's skid around that carving bow.

All these option work for canoes with stems in the water. Whitewater canoes with raised stems offer other turn/spin options, but, with total sales comprising ~1% of the annual canoe market and idiosyncratically boat specific, probably not worth the typing time.

Obviously depends on the canoe’s
design. CE Wilson is correct for the majority of solo boats, but whitewater boats can be turned fast by hanging on a duffek and leaning a bit back and outward so that the outer chine of the stern bites and carves while the paddler transitions the duffek to get the bow turned.


– Last Updated: Aug-06-12 10:25 AM EST –

So do I have this right (in the words I am used to)? Wedge = initiate and heel hard to the outside of the turn and use a bow jam to tighten the turn up? The other method sounds like a normal eddy turn but with the boat leaned on the outside instead of inside, yes? The latter makes more sense to me if heeled to the inside of the turn, but I suppose doing it with an outside lean is probably second nature to folks who do flatwater freestyle or WW slalom.

I'm used to thigh straps, inside heel, and lots of secondary stability, so doing this in a squirrelly (to me anyway) flatwater boat may be amusing :).

Thanks for the explanations. I'll have to check out the referenced book, too.

Yep that’s the wedge
The outside heel will cause many (but not all) hulls to carve along the curve of the hull.

“I’m used to thigh straps, inside heel, and lots of secondary stability, so doing this in a squirrelly (to me anyway) flatwater boat may be amusing :).”

Yep you can launch yourself right out of the boat doing the wedge. That’s what I did the very first time I tried it.

I prefer to maintain a few inches between the hull and my paddle. That takes a bit more muscle than resting it against the hull. But it gives the wedge a bit a bit of a shock absorber. For me that reduces the flying lessons.

Until recently, I would have said wedge
Now I do think I would have to say cross post. The wedge is by nature a far more powerful braking manuever, that takes momentum off the turn. I do believe that the cross post can maintain acceleration better. However, this is only true if both manuevers can be accomplished to their maximum degree of efficiency. I can execute an onside wedge far better than I can execute a cross post, so for me it will be a wedge.

To my mind, a tandem canoe heeled over to raise the stems out of the water will turn faster than any flatwater solo canoe. In either case, though, I would use what I have called the running bow jam - which may be the same as the wedge. Initiate with a forward sweep and then place the angled blade of the paddle in front of you, up against the hull of the boat. If you don’t fall out you will turn very quickly. A slightly less aggressive move would be the running bow draw, which also turns one around right quickly.

Depends on which solo canoe

– Last Updated: Aug-06-12 9:16 PM EST –

I'm sure you are correct about tandem canoes in general being able to lift their stems quite easily, but which solo canoe you compare them to makes a difference. I had a Wenonah Vagabond which did not respond well to heeling. Wenonah's trademark elongated-diamond shape, with the fattest part of the canoe occupying only a very tiny proportion of the overall length, meant that heeling the hull simply buried the center section deeply in the water and the stems wouldn't lift much at all. On the other hand I once watched pblanc heel his Mowhawk Solo 14, and because the fat part of that boat was gently curved it occupied a considerable proportion of the overall length, and the degree of taper from fat area to each stem was quicker. The result of the drastically different shape (quite a traditional shape actually, but drastically different from that of any boat made by Wenonah) was that heeling the boat would lift the stems clear of the water with room to spare. When he leaned the boat like that, all it took was a gentle touch to make it spin.

Pblanc put his Mohawk through
doggy obedience training to achieve reliable heeling.

Outside heel worked great
Messed around with turns yesterday over lunch, and outside heel with sweep strokes worked really well. I was really surprised at how tightly the boat carved a turn - less than a boat length’s radius. Pretty darned cool :).

Adding a bow jam pivoted the boat even faster but killed speed. Cross draw worked, too, though muscle memory kept making me switch to an inside lean on that.

You want reversal with minimum displace-

– Last Updated: Aug-07-12 3:53 PM EST –

ment yet you want to maintain momentum? Agreed...Stevet and CE described probably the two most prevalent methods, but as mentioned, it all depends on the edge on your hull, your weight, surface conditions, wind direction/speed... Heeling, adding bow jam..[crossdraw]and sweep. Better results come with making all three elements fluid without wasteing time/distance in the process to check your phone messages...