Hull Design - Carving the Inside Circle

I’m trying to understand how hull design aids inside carving.

Some of my boats (MR Outrage, Dagger Atom, Perception Slasher) require just a nudge with the paddle and a bit of a lean and they’ll carve that circle all day. Others (MR Independence, Dagger Encore) seem to require more help from the paddle and a more extreem lean. Then others (Swift Osprey, Perception GyraMax, CD Solstice) don’t seem to want to carve at all.

Yeah a really skilled paddler could likely prove me wrong on that last statement. My point is that something about the hull design makes carving that inside turn easier or or harder.

What is it?

Hull design and the inside circle

– Last Updated: Apr-17-08 12:23 AM EST –

Touring hulls, with bows in the water, hopefully have equal force on each bow plane when moving forward, kinda like a double beveled knife edge. When heeled, we turn the bow into a Japanese knife - with single bevel edge. The differential force on the heeled down side deflects the bow in the other direction, away from the heel.

The inside circle is really a controlled skid, the stern skidding out, away from the circle to keep the boat turning. To get that to work, as you know, the stroke must be vertical, parallel to the keel and isolated forward. It always helps to heel the hull because that lifts the stern which enables a looser skid.

With touring boats the outside heel carves the bow into the circle as well as freeing the stern, but they will usually do and inside circle when heeled inside. With whitewater hulls, the ability to carve is situational with each hull shape, but the need to keep the paddleshaft vertical when in a wide boat usually favors the inside heel.

And power is also a key of the inside circle. The faster the hull moves, the further forward the loci of all forces is, or pivot point is. Google peripatetic pivot point.

The inside circle is a controlled yaw couple or a controlled skid. In most solo paddling, particularly in an empty hull, the paddler is the center of mass. Newton was pretty much right; energy is conserved; once moving, mass tries to continue on course. When the Bow and rotational center of the hull is moved off course, into the circle, the CG continues on course, skidding the stern around the CR.

That is why we initiate the inside circle with a couple sweeping cross forwards.

I'm surprised you can drive an Indy into an inside circle but not an Osprey. Try that one again. You may need an inside heel w/ Osprey; it's one of the wider solos.

Inside heel
Thanks Charlie,

In all cases I’m using an inside heel to get the boat to carve inside.

The Outrage, Atom and Slasher need just a little heel and lock into a carve quite firmly.

The Encore, seems to require a lot more heel to get it to carve.

The Osprey is a funny hull. Sometimes it feels like it’s locked in and carving but other times it just spins away from the blade and the heel. I’m never quite sure what it’s going to do.

I’ve only got two hours in the Indy but it does seem to carve quite predictably. A little heel and direction from the paddle and it’s there. It does not lock in as firmly as the first three hulls mentioned though. A sloppy stroke will easily destroy the carve.

I have an idea that rocker and chines have much to do with this but so far I can’t really look at a hull and say yeah that one will carve and this one won’t. It’s a bit of a mystery to me.


As you note there are inherent differences in the way different designs carve and it might simply be a matter of adjusting your technique to all those different hulls.

Also, heeling to aid in carving can be a funny business. This might not be your problem but is worth considering. A heel to either side can facilitate any turn that has already been started. For instance if you execute a forward stroke that has a little bit of yaw to the offside continuing, even after a correction stroke, then heel (to either side), there’s a chance the hull will continue carving to the offside before you can start any other stroke. This might be what is happening with your Osprey. In other words, heeling to either side will continue carving in a direction that has already been initiated, even an almost inperceptable one. Try initiating the turn first, then do your heel.

The inside circle is the key skill that delineates advancing from intermediate solo canoe paddlers. Very strange this thread has had so little play.

I guess not many paddle in circles
unless they’re comparing their boats or practicing free style technique or messing around in moving water.

I practice inside turns all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to spin my canoes in a complete circle. I guess that I just haven’t seen the usefullness of it. Now you guys have got me curious and I’ll be trying it in the Blackhawk Zephyr the next time out. It sounds like fun.

BTW, Charlie, I’m probably considered as a novice to intermediate single blader, so maybe that’s another reason that I haven’t messed around with inside circles.

Boat design
Could be that my question, what about a hull makes inside circles easier or harder, is not easy to answer. I think it’s got to do with chines and rocker but…?

Yanoer I’ll guess that most of your boats , long minimaly rockered hulls, don’t lend themselves to it.

The technique is fairly easy but, for an intermediate like myself at least, the right hull makes it possible and the wrong hull makes it impossible.


– Last Updated: Apr-17-08 5:56 AM EST –

The effect you get when you heel your boat, depends on the design of that boat, which way/side you heel, how much you heel the boat and the way the boat is (already) moving through the water.
Also there are paddlers who like/prefer a design that changes its behavior much when heeled, others, like me, prefer a more neutral behavior when heeled, because for example when I heel my canoe for stability purposes or keeping waves out, I would not be pleased if that would change the (turning) behavior of my canoe.

try this experiment
Watch a pole dancer spin around the pole for a while. If that doesn’t make you forget the question, nothing will.

Came back tonite to re-read … lots of
good info here.

I’m going in circles all the time
Aren’t we all? I don’t have any trouble getting my WW boat (Dagger Impulse) to carve a circle. An onside stroke or two will set up an offside carve pretty easily, and vice versa. I find that it’s a little more difficult to get my Yellowstone Solo to lock into a carve, and the circle it carves is much bigger, but if I am persistent I can get it going. Its also is a lot trickier to transition the YS from an onside to an offside carve, and vice versa.

People around my area probably think I’m nuts, but I practice craving circles on flatwater all the time. I picked up a copy of Tom Foster’s Solo Open Whitewater Canoeing DVD a couple of years ago, and I have been practicing ever since. Not much whitewater here in RI, so it gives me something to do when I stay close to home. I pretty much have the circles down, but I have a long way to go on the fancy freestyle moves.

Carving on Flat vs Carving on the River
I have not been putting in enough flatwater practice time in my whitewater boats. What I have been doing is trying like heck to get consistent carving in moving water. Current differentials, cross currents, and plain old turbulence make hash out of much of my carving forcing me back to that old stern pry.

Come to think of it that pry could use some work as well.

Glad I’m not talented. It’s good to have room for improvement!

We should split the difference
because I need more time on moving water - although my wife probably wouldn’t agree.

Hell verse Yaw couple

– Last Updated: Apr-17-08 8:00 AM EST –

Heeling, outside the circle starts the bow carving. Heeling inside the circle improves paddle physics. Both heels lift the stern, which is often helpful. Heeling adds nuance.

The key to the inside circle is the setting up the yaw couple; the initiation that starts the CG skidding outside the rotational center.

Unless paddlers make the deliberate attempt to become better paddlers it is unlikely they will discover the skills of heeling and carving circles. Whatever they learn initially that gets them down the river or around the lake is what many will stay with for much of their paddling lives. Not many solo canoeists ever attempt whitewater or freestyle so they are not confronted with the need to learn even some of the more basic skills like hitting eddies, peeling out, ferrying, bracing, backing, J leans, etc. It is when working or playing a river that the skills like heeling, carving, and working the edges, really come into play. And unless paddlers have experienced many of these moves in WW boats they may not be that inclined to attempt them in longer boats with less rocker and chine. Part of this too is who you paddle with, what kind of water you paddle, and what your goals are. Many are quite content to gently float down the river, observing wildlife, the scenery, conversing with friends, etc. Keeping the hull flat and the boat stable, rounding the bends, and staying away from strainers while using basic paddle strokes will mostly serve those ends. Others see paddling as more of a sport in itself and seek out the improvement of skills and technique as a much higher priority and push themselves to make moves that are essential to advancing. Once a paddler starts advancing, much of this just starts becoming feel without thinking about how you are using skills like carving circles that you deliberately worked on earlier.

my son Aaron tells me

– Last Updated: Apr-17-08 6:47 PM EST –

weight transfer helps a lot carving in whitewater. I assume he's right 'cuz he outmaneuvers me in a less maneuverable boat. Referring to forward/aft transfer, side to side is assumed.

I’m Lucky
My wife seems reconciled to my boating addiction.

I actualy get plenty of flatwater time but find it more enjoyable to paddle flatwater boats on flatwater.

I’m suspecting chine is involved

– Last Updated: Apr-17-08 12:08 PM EST –

A year ago on Pine Creek when you tried to teach me the inside circle in my Supernova, I wasn't much of a student. I had a tough time doing it at all in that boat. Then a couple weeks later I was trying it in a Yellowstone Solo and it was almost a piece of cake. I don't think my "mental practice" in the intervening time made the difference. As you know, the Supernova is about as chine-free as you can get. Prodigy X, of course, carves inside effortlessly.

Carving knife
I like Charlie’s knife model. If you’ve ever tried to carve a curve in minicell foam with a pointy knife, the tip always dives toward the center of the radius. This helps me to understand why the outside lean works when I try to turn my shallow-vee MR Indy instead of the inside turn/skid, which requires heeling nearly to the rail. Great thread! Thanks to all.

I might suggest that part of the issue is the term.

I learned the skill as “paddling” the inside circle; this has a different implication than “carving”.

It also seems to be a solo open boaters skill that is more relevant to rockered WW boats. Relevant, because a straighter keeled flatwater boat does not always require the attention in holding a line that a WW boat does.

One idea that works for me comes from planing hull kayak control- the understanding of spin momentum. Paddling an inside circle is an exercise in controlling the tendency of a highly rockered hull to continue to turn without straightening out. As noted by others in this thread, the boat is not really carving, it is the stern skidding. And while that is how most boats turn, the more rocker, the more the boat will continue to turn instead of naturally straightening out.

I also agree with the comments of others that it is a fundamental solo canoeist’s skill. Understanding the skill in a WW boat can also lead to better overall skill in any boat. One of the coolest moves in WW open solo, IMO, is a charging ferry without using J-strokes. Being able to do so only comes from practicing the inside circle. Do that, and control of yaw of any boat class is easy.