Help with eddying technique pls

Intermediate solo open boater Mohawk XL-13; 240 lbs somewhat limited dexterity, but damn strong.

On class 2+ water I can cross the eddy line at the proper angle, lean and turn the boat nicely upstream towards the boulder. Except my downstream momentum was so strong to begin with I usually wash right back downstream. With all my might and quick, short powerful strokes I can often paddle up into the eddy, but others don’t seem to have nearly so much trouble.

It doesn’t seem right I should try to reduce my downstream momentum by backpaddling before making my cut across the eddy line, as no one else seems to do this. But I just can’t seem to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

Any help here?

Sounds to me like…
…if your down stream momemtum is too strong and carrying you right past the middle eddy behind the rock, then you didn’t get far enough up stream in the calmer water before you started across.

When you start across, you will naturally be getting a angle pull back down river, so you have to be up far enough up to start with.

Reading the river comes with experience.



Eddy technique
The probable causes of what you are experiencing are:

  1. Entering the eddy at too acute an angle. Think of it as a cellophanes fence that you need to punch through. If you come straight down river you tend to glance off of the cellophane. If you approach the eddy at closer to a 45 degree angle, you are more apt to punch through.

  2. Not powering completely across the eddy line. This will cause you to spin out on the eddy and get washed down stream.

I agree …
Sounds to me like you are not hitting the eddies high enough, and not setting the correct angle. Experiment, keep practicing, you’ll get it eventually. I spend a lot of my time on flatwater rivers, in flatwater canoes, practicing ferrying, eddy turns and peel outs just for fun.

That helps keep you sharp for higher class water too.


“You can dance with the river, but you have to know the steps.”

I agree with the previous posters, except that you might want to try an even bigger angle, like 75 degrees (more perpendicular to the eddy line), so that you have even less downstream momentum.

One thing to remember is that WW boats have a lot of rocker, so the first few feet of the boat are just skimming over the water. You’re not really in the eddy until your knees cross the eddy line. Paddle with forward strokes until your knees cross the eddyline. Once your knees cross, you can use a quick stern pry or a forward cross draw to help turn the boat upstream. Also, you can try leaning the boat hard upstream right after your knees cross the eddyline, so that the boat carves the upstream turn.

One more thing- a lot of eddies have a “sweet spot”. A little bit downstream of the rock there is often a small standing wave. At large angles (closer to perpendicular to the eddy line) hit the trough of the wave. As long as you have decent forward speed, it will funnel you right into the eddy, while at the same time killing part of your downstream momentum.

At smaller angles you can use the crest of the wave to bounce your bow into the eddy.

By the way Rick…
… I see from your profile that you live in Manhattan; I’m in New Jersey. Do you ever paddle the Mongaup? A great river to practice eddy turns.

Also, the NY/NJ chapter of AMC (Appalachian Mtn. Club) has a very active WW paddling group, with plenty of open boaters. Come and join us sometime.

Haven’t paddled an XL-13.
I agree with the others about entering at a more open angle. I often enter at 90 degrees, seldom at less than 45.

Another issue is weight transfer. As you cross the eddy line, you often need to lean forward so the bow grabs the eddy.

A third issue is the boat. Different boats have different amounts of resistance to sideways skidding. And you have to know how your edges work. The XL-13 has less edge than my Guide and Synergy. If you go into the eddy leaning on your inside edge, the boat may slip on you, especially at your weight. (I’m 220, so I also have to take weight and momentum into account.) In my Synergy, if I have to make a tight eddy turn and minimize slip, I often lean onto the DOWNSTREAM or outside edge. The paddle has to be well-planted in the eddy to do this, or you may flip. However, the outside edge of some boats will grab better and allow a tight turn into the eddy.

There is a kayak video, “Essential Boat Control,” which has the best discussion of how in-or-out lean, boat speed, forward/backward lean, and storing/releasing angular momentum in the torso can be used to optimize control of turns into eddies. If you can borrow a copy from your club, or even buy a copy, you will find it very worthwhile.

bonk that rock

I concur.

Try hitting the eddies so high that your bow is literally bonking the rock.

People often think they are getting there high, but are several critical feet below the rock. The only way to know exactly how high you’re going in, is to get your boat to touch the rock. Play with that at rocks/eddies where it feels right. Aiming at the rock will also allow you to better judge how you’ve read the river and paced your angle and acceleration.

Yes, accleration - Backpaddling is so not a good option to solve this problem! To be stable on the eddy lines, enter and exit with some mustard. (With all this encouragement, I can just see you next time out, rocketing through the top of eddy and right up onto the shore! Not that much speed, but you get the idea.)

Also, I think everyone has been assuming eddies on the edge of the river. If you’re trying to get into narrow mid-river eddies behind small rocks, it can be tougher, but same thing applies: hit 'em high and play with opening a wider angle. Err to the side of ending up front-ferrying in, and then correct your river reading and angle/accleration from there.

And, try following somebody who paddles like you, remebering that at 240lbs in an XL13 you may not be able to get into the same eddy the same way as somebody wieghing 160lbs paddling an Ocoee.

Finally, just in case, practice paddling backwards! :wink:

Nice to know that there’s enough ww open-boaters to provide these comments!! Extra nice that we all more-or-less agree on the solutions to try! Although… onside I’d visualize a forward draw rather than a stern pry . . . :slight_smile: (Just joshing - I know you only used a stern pry because you nailed the angle, speed and lean, and didn’t really even need a stroke at all to carve your eddy turn.)


All right
OK, so if I’m heading down the river like a bat out of hell and want to cross the eddy line on the right at a nice 90 degree angle, I’m making a sharp right turn.

So if the water is going at 10 feet per second, and let’s say my boat is 10 feet long, and the eddy line is 10 feet to the right of where I am. Well now I’ve already confused myself. But my point is, because others have told me too my angle is too “acute” to the eddy line: by the time I turn the boat 90 degrees (“one-onethousand”) so the bow is pointing directly at the the eddy line, I’ve already travelled a good distance downstream.

So now that I’m facing directly at the eddy line, assuming I’m not swimming by now, I’ve still got to travel 10 feet to reach or cross the eddy line (“two-onethousand”), and as I’m doing this the boat is continuing to travel downriver.

So now in two seconds I’m twenty feet downriver from when I began to make the move.

So are you fellows saying, perhaps, that I’ve got to begin the move 19 feet earlier?

Or I’ve got to be a lot closer to the eddy line than 10 feet (under my hypothetical), because otherwise it’s physically impossible to power perpendicularly across the river that far when to travel that distance across means I’m being swept downstream the same distance.

Did I confuse everyone?

Anticipation is the key to WW canoeing in bigger/faster water, especially in a boat like your XL, which is less responsive than alot of other boats.

When you’re coming up toward the eddy, set your angle and start paddling forward, timing it so that you hit the top of the eddy.

You’ll get used to having the boat drifting downstream sideways.

Also, after you set your angle, you will need some distance to get up to speed, so you should start out on line that is, say, 5 or 10 feet to river left or right of the eddy.

It can be tough to go straight downstream and do a quick turn into an eddy because the act of turning can slow you down somewhat- and you need that speed to punch into the eddy. Also, if you’re paddling straight downstream as you approach the eddy, you are moving quite a bit faster than the current, so you have less time to do everything you need to do.

With experience you will learn how far upstream and sidestream you need to set your angle, and as you improve the distances will decrease.

And of course, having a good, efficient forward stroke is important. The better your forward stroke, the less anticipation you’ll need.

Sound complicated? Maybe it is, a little.

A WW instructor once told me “WW canoeing is the chess of the Mountain Dew sports”.

If you don’t want to think while you paddle, you can always switch to a kayak. :wink:

(I can say that here, since the kayakers won’t be visiting this post). :wink:

And as yarnelboater said, a draw in the eddy will work instead of a stern pry (if needed :wink: ). And aiming for the rock is a good idea, too. You’ll know you’re improving when you start hitting the rock!

what river?
You only confused me a little bit. But yes, start about 19’ earlier. And river-left enough to give yourself room, you don’t necessarily want to float sideways down to that eddy, you want to paddle at it.

I strongly recommend reading “Thrill of the Paddle” by Paul Mason and Mark Scriver, and looking at what they call ‘crossing the grain’. Sometimes the key to running a line or making a move on one side of the river is to set up on the opposite side.

Learning to read farther downstream is a great skill, even developing plan As, Bs and Cs, and other variations or options as you move along. Thinking.

However, we’ve got to remember that there are a lot of ways to skin an eddy.

Picture that eddy 19’ downstream. Set up to be close to 90 degrees, start far enough left, watch the rock and start giving yourself enough speed to get there high. Angle, accleration, lean - you’re in. Just lean and let it carve, barely a turning stroke needed.

(Sidebar: g2d, good option on the counter-intuitive lean to help make the boat stick, but, from what I understand, an outside lean isn’t worth what you give up in stability if you’re paddling a soft chined boat. Only edged boats can really take advantage of that aggressive, outside carve in an eddy turn. I’m just getting the courage to practice with this on very gentle eddies.)

But every approach isn’t the same. Picture that same eddy, but in a lower-volume river. More rocks, so you don’t want to expose your broadside for too long. Maybe you even have to slip between some guard rocks just above your eddy. You can still get there, but since you’ve had to mess with your angle (i.e., you’ll be approaching at less angle until the last minute) you need to compensate with other elements - like focusing on really quick, agressive turning strokes (i.e., jabbing some tight, hard pries) and then applying very quick accleration. Maybe even a big reach with the draw and some body language to weight your bow and get your lean.

Same eddy, but a different reaction to different circumstances. You just need to anticipate this ahead of time and focus sharply on the right element at the right second.

Don’t drag your pry away from your hull, because it will kill your speed and have you wagging all over power-correct-power-correct etc. Jab it. And develop a good forward stroke, and maybe throw in some cross-forwards, being able to accelarate quickly by applying several full-on power strokes (still in front of your hips, or even your kness) in a row with no correction is a major help.

Now a seemingly simple question, has opened up a lot to think about! And we haven’t mentioned ‘paddling against an arc’.

Maybe just worry about the wider angle for now!


Plan ahead
You want to start your turn well before you get to the eddy.

Picture your self upstream and off to the side of your target eddy. Now draw an arc from you to the rock. Follow that arc so that the closer you come to the eddy the more you are crossing the current until you cross that eddyline between 45 and 90 degrees. As you cross the eddy line lean into the turn HARD and plant your paddle in the quiet water behind the rock. If you scrape the rock with your paddle you came in just right. If you hit the rock with your bow you are only slightly too high.

Yes these are the answers I was looking for. I do all my paddling with the AMC, although many fewer trips this year than in previous.

And thinking in my mind how I run the river, and combining that with what I’m reading here, it seems I’m too focused on obstacles up and coming and not taking time to look at my receivers downfield.

Thanks for your help.