Gordon Brown DVD - Question

Just watched the Gordon Brown DVD and got a question about the tidal races segment (does not matter if you’ve seen that or not - just share your thoughts either way).

When exiting from the eddy into the current, he starts crossing the eddy line with a sweep to initiate the turn, edging upriver. As soon as the bow enters the current, he switches to a lean downstream supported by a low brace.

Why is he edging first and why bother with the sweep? Edging like that in a strong current can only lead to trouble I feel and the sweep is not really needed, unless the eddy is really aggressive and tall. He does not say why he is doing it - my guess is to initiate the turn faster, as he would be doing on flat water. But is that necessary or of any benefit crossing an eddy line?

Of course, he does the opposite when exiting the current - edges downstream with a sweep as he begins to cross the eddy line then switches to an upstream lean with a low brace.

I got to try it next time I’m on the river to see if it makes any difference…

initiating spin momentum
He is initiating spin momentum / initiating the turn. It starts the boat turning / caring so that when you hit the eddy line you don’t have such an abrupt transition. Not doing so would make you more unstable when you hit the fast current on the eddy line heading down river.

It is not as counter-intuitive as it sounds. It works.

Edging is important

– Last Updated: Nov-05-10 11:39 PM EST –

The edging is important. I can still remember a time when I exited an eddy (behind a navigation buoy in the SF Bay) and didn't edge, and before I knew it, I was upside down (and blew my roll, so swam in the end).

There is an article in the Fall issue of California Kayaker Magazine (downloadable or viewable at www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html - pages 6-8 for this article) on Eddy Turns by Bryant Burkhardt. Eddy turns are exactly what they are doing in the video, even though it is under the segment on tidal races.

The article covers why you edge, and specifically why you edge away from the current you are entering.

Also covers crossing the eddyline quickly, which is what I think Mr. Brown is doing with the sweep strokes.

Edging is critical in a strong current

– Last Updated: Nov-06-10 8:38 AM EST –

Given that you list whitewater in your profile I find this a little confusing. What Brown is doing there is about the first thing that anyone learns how to do in WW after figuring which end of the paddle is up. But maybe I am misunderstanding the question, so if the following is way off base I am sorry.

First, edging so you are giving the current less of your hull is the only way NOT to capsize in current equivalent to say class 2 WW. Staying flat will cause water to pile up against the upstream side and take you over. A very strong eddy line, while usually not as strong as the main current, is worth similar precautions because a minor shift of weight downstream can still cause a capsize.

As to the S-shape he is doing and adding the sweep, it takes a certain amount of inertia to actually cross a strong eddy line. It isn't uncommon in stronger current to find that there is real resistance when you try to cross the eddy line, so the boat tends to want to stall before it it fully in or out of the current. Eddy lines are squirrely places to be anyway, for example that's where the whirlpools will often lie, and in tidal situations the squirrely bit can easily be the length of a sea kayak. And having bow in the current and stern in the eddy is also not a perfect place to be because it is a point where you potentially have more compromised control.

So - in strong current edging and initiating sweep(s) is the fastest and most under control way to enter and exit an eddy. If you've been getting away with staying flat without penalty, you've likely been in tidal currents that aren't equivalent to class 2 or so whitewater in strength.

Edging upstream, not down

– Last Updated: Nov-06-10 10:23 AM EST –

He is edgind *into* the current first as he begins to cross the eddyline. Only after the bow is across the line does he lift the upper edge and leans (not just edges) downstream.

As I mentioned in my post, I was looking for confirmation of why he is doing the first edge, which IMO would only destabilize him if the current was strong. It was clear to me he was doing the edging to initiate the turn but I did not see a reason to do so.

The first reply above says that initiating the turn through this outside edging helps with softening the transition into the current. That might be so in slow currents like the ones in the DVD (he could paddle against them, so nothing more than about 4-5 mph I estimate). But I'm fairly convinced it will have little to no effect in current that is going down at 12-15 miles per hour. Plus, if the eddy line is tall and messy, I would not want to do a "preparatory" upstream edge at all as I suspect my edge will catch as soon as the bow crosses the line.

I do WW and do it in both WW or sea kayak and I know one has to prep the correct angle relative to the edfdy line (deponding on what one wants to do, the "correct" angle varies). If the angle is too shallow, one can get pushed back by a strong eddy line and fail to cross.

But I would not want to edge into the current just to help with my turn, was my thinking. Notice that he changes his upstream edge into a downstream lean *after* he begins to cross the eddy line, once his bow is into the strong current. If I did that in the currents I menjoy playing with, I think I'd be upside down in no time at all -;)

In very strong currents (with a long boat) I find it better to enter at a shallw angle upstream rather than expose my bow to the current to sweep downstream immediately. This way I can just ferry into the current and then float down with barely any effect from the current on my boat.

Of course, if my goal was to turn downstream fast, I woild need to enter at a less shallow angle, in which case the strong current will sweep me downriver whether I begin to turn before the crossing or not. In WW (short boats), the sweep stroke is not so much to initiate a turn but to get a strong push over the eddyline. I suspect with a really tall and curling over eddy line one may want to alter the edge so as to not get flipped by the curling eddy line coming on top of his downstream edge (!) but as soon as the bow clears that the main current will have far more strength than that eddy line curly wave so one needs to immediately transition to downstream edge/lean.

Here’s how Ken’s doing it

– Last Updated: Nov-06-10 12:39 PM EST –


And this:


No *upstream* edging as far as I can see during the crossing of the eddy line (though I do see the sweep and edging upstream *before* crossing).

Just rewatched that segment
The first edge matches what you would do with a standard sweep stroke, as he is doing before entering the eddy line. The edge makes the sweep stroke more effective.

Then he switches edges (and goes to a lean) and does a low brace turn on the other side to complete the turn.

Just rewatched that segment
The first edge matches what you would do with a standard sweep stroke, as he is doing before entering the eddy line. The edge makes the sweep stroke more effective.

Then he switches edges (and goes to a lean) and does a low brace turn on the other side to complete the turn.

That’s what he’s doing. I was questioning the need/use of that first edge upstream while crossing the eddy line.

If he were doing it before crossing, to adjust his angle and gain speed that I understand. But doing it during the crossing of the line seems to be tricky and may disbalance you if the current is strong.

I guess I’ll have to try it to see if there is something to it -:wink:

souns like

– Last Updated: Nov-06-10 3:09 PM EST –

he is initiating a low brace turn into the eddy that starts the turn towards the direction of the down stream eddy turn. I suppose if he didn't initiate the turn the hull wouldn't peel out as fast and could start to ferry across on edge without turning? I've only done this in moderate conditions so don't have that much experience in strong eddy currents.

Sounds like it's more of a beginner level instructions and in more advanced conditions with mixed confused water and you don't know which way you are going to get rocked he may not edge as far over to initiate the turn. But for moderate conditions if you don't initiate the turn then the hull doesn't turn and you end up ferrying across into the middle of the river instead of a quick turn.

Plus, you know it becomes so automatic to edge in conjunction with a sweep stroke in a sea kayak that he was probably just doing what came naturally in those moderate (as i understand it) conditions.

If he didn’t expound on the initial upstream edging in the video, then he probably realized that doing so could trip some people up.

OK - stand corrected
I did not catch that he was edging upstream.

That said, I suspect it is hard for anyone to tell for sure what was going on without being there. One of the more frustrating things in videos of moving water is that there is a lot the paddler sees and feels that just does not translate into something visible on the video. Given the man’s experience, I’d have to guess that there were specifics in that eddy line that caused him to feel that was a correct response.

I am saying that because we’ve also seen him pull a blooper and edge the wrong way on a DVD - and that error was noted in the final DVD. So he’s not shy about saying so if he goofed.

Havent seen the vid
but remember the gentleman making this yankee a mean cup of coffeee one morning in Wales. For that he’s cool in my book no matter!

Speed and space matter

– Last Updated: Nov-08-10 9:28 AM EST –

"I suppose if he didn't initiate the turn the hull wouldn't peel out as fast and could start to ferry across on edge without turning?"

True, if he crosses the eddy line at a good speed, so the boat will clear the eddy line before the bow has been swept downriver by the current.

For a long boat to exit a tight eddy and want to turn downstream quickly in a narrow river, it seems it would make sense to use all that's available to the paddler to initiate and continue the turn. E.g., as shown in the video, agressive edging upstream along with strong sweep followed by a cross-bow rudder on the downstream side. Sounds like the best way to maximize my chances of flipping over -;)

IMO, it is much easier and less flip-inducing to just paddle only fast enough so the front end of the boat will clear/climb over and begin crossing the eddy line. Keep the speed slow enough so that the stern hangs into the eddy waters while the current swings the bow downstream. That may mean even stopping the forward motion for a split second or two. Then, as soon as the angle of the boat relative to the eddy line begins to approach 90 degrees and the boat is about to begin to turn downstream (and potentially back into the eddy), make a paddle stroke upriver to continue the turn and prop yourself over the eddy line, fully cross the eddy line, and complete the turn - you will now be facing downstream in the main current. All that while maintaining a good downstream edge/lean being ready to be swept downriver by the current. Very little effort requred for this very tight turn and it can be done in a narrow stream - as narrow as half the boat length if not less. Kind of how his video demonstrates paddling with the eyes closed and spinning out and back into the eddy, except make that sroke out of the eddy stronger so that you don't come back to the eddy but instead continue downstream...

Just to cross or turn into a current from a wide eddy space as in the video, it probably does not make much of a difference how one does it, but nice to see some options shown. I thought his video provided good solid instruction overall. Only dissapointment (besides the DVD being a tad on the short side and probably focused more on the advanced beginner turning into an intermediate than an intermediate turning into advanced) was the lack of some good rough water action to back-up the nice photo on the cover -;)

Good thoughts. Thanks, all!

speed across stronger eddy lines

– Last Updated: Nov-08-10 10:02 AM EST –

"IMO, it is much easier and less flip-inducing to just paddle only fast enough so the front end of the boat will clear/climb over and begin crossing the eddy line. Keep the speed slow enough so that the stern hangs into the eddy waters while the current swings the bow downstream."

I think what you describe works on weak eddy lines just fine. The problem, IME, with sitting on a much stronger eddy line is that people end up in very unstable water as they are swept down into the much wider and more chaotic boils and whirls downstream of the nice sharp eddy line. This is where I see people get flipped when they cross eddy lines. To avoid this, you need to cross an strong eddy line with speed, and paddle all the way ACROSS the eddy line. When your butt is fully across the eddy line, you can take the low-brace turn position. But pussyfooting into strong current, and stopping forward strokes before getting your butt across the line is where I see most people flip, as they try to lean and low brace into the boils that they've drifted half-heartedly into the midst of. You're much more stable powering into the current, and bracing on that fast moving water in the main flow.

As far as the original question about an agressive sweep and lean, I'd say that's just the instructors usual way of turning the boat. If you've got to turn a long, straight tracking boat in an eddy, you need to lean it over some. (Do I recall correctly that Gordon Brown usually paddles a Nordkapp?)

Good point.

– Last Updated: Nov-08-10 10:48 AM EST –

Yup, he paddles a Nordkapp of some sort in that video.

I see what you're saying about the unstable water and folks getting flipped there. Good point.

With that explanation about the slow speed/letting the current turn you downriver, I was visualizing my usual paddling environment, which is the Potomac river below Great Falls. I suppose a wide tidal race environment may indeed be different - don't have these where I paddle... Instead, visualize a rock in the middle of the river and my kayak hiding behind it (usually there are only a couple of feet width of the entire eddy). Or a small protrusion on one side of the shore that creates a small eddy line just wide enough for my kayak to cling to the rocks parallel to the current with a couple of feet separating me from the main current (e.g. I can't turn even half-way in that eddy - the bow will stick out and get pulled downriver).

While there can be a strong current with messy and pushy waves in the main channels there, the eddy lines are narrow for the most part and the eddys are short and disappear quickly. So while the eddy lines can be tall and really pushy, the swirly areas are not that long/wide.

There is only one area where I paddle (at Rocky Island, at levels near 5 feet) where I've expereinced a wide messy eddy line on the VA side which stretches perhaps as much as a 100 feet down and can be up to about 30 feet wide strip of somewhat turbulent water where you would not want to spend time innecessarily; though the really bad area is much smaller but still wider than the small eddies I had in mind above...

For large races I guess one may run into a situation where more speed would be better.

basic skills
The first thing we learned was to cross eddie lines at an angle and with speed.

If he didn’t have to brace I don’t see what the problem is with edging to get a better angle or initiate the turn? By the time someone approaches eddies they should have good bracing skills for edging in confused water.

Even in really confused water sometimes you have to edge and sweep.