keeping my kayak on course

I just purchased a Current Designs Kestrel 140 with rudder yesterday,5/26/07. I took it out on Deal Lake in NJ and noticed that when I didn’t use the rudder it had a tendency to vear to the left. I had to add a few extra left strokes to compensate at times. Since I’m relatively new to kayaking, I’m not sure If my paddling technique is to blame or something more severe is at fault with the kayak? It wasn’t a particularly windy afternoon. Perhaps it was a combination of problems.

I checked the hull of the boat and there appear to be no problems. I don’t want to rely on the rudder unless I have to. I want to perfect my stroke. How can I determine if there is a problem with the kayak or if there is something I am doing wrong.

You can check for weathercocking by paddling in opposite directions with the wind coming from the side. If the boat always turns into the wind, it’s not you.

A constant turn can be caused by many things – being stronger on one side, not holding the paddle centered, unequal reach/flexibility, etc. It’s not unusual for right-handed people to have a left turn when they’re starting out due to being stronger on the right. Some folks also have problems getting both blades in cleanly if they’re using a feathered paddle for the first time. A paddle that’s too long will make any turning tendency worse.

Don’t think about paddling hard yet. Try to work on being smooth and even. Look ahead and make small corrections with stroke pressure as soon as the bow starts to move off course. Try to put the paddle in as far forward as you can comfortably reach, and don’t pull back past your hips.

Enjoy your new boat!

Make sure YOU are centered
Get your butt in the center of the boat. If sitting still make sure the boat is not leaning towards one side.

Check trim/balance
Another reason for veering could be the boat being out of trim. If you are carrying anything in your storage compartments, even a slight shift of “cargo” from one side to the other can cause you to veer. Likewise, as weird as it might sound, if you are not sitting in a balanced position, it can throw you off. Next time you paddle, check whether you are leaning to one side. Congratulations on the new boat. You are right to try not to rely on the rudder (altho the temptation can be great). Paddling without it will give you a faster learning curve of boat handling awareness, proper paddling strokes and turning, etc. Have fun!

right hand dominance
tends to make people turn to the left. Right handers have more power on the right side stroke, lean to the right a bit, and sit heavier on their right butt cheek. All of those things will make a kayak go to the left.

If you are a lefty…??

Going Straight

– Last Updated: May-27-07 8:45 AM EST –

If you continue having the same problem you might want to try some professional instruction. Basic courses are usually not to costly and will cover basic strokes. Another person will see problems you might not be aware of. Vaughn Fulton

these are primitive craft. Where you put the blade, how you apply power through your body, and where you remove the blade aren’t intuitive. You need to research basic stroke technique more. It’s more than dipping a blade on one side then the other side.

Most likely your right hand blade is staying in the water too long past your hips and you’re bending your right bicep while applying power imparting a slight turning moment. Basically there’s more oommph on the right side, even if it’s bad technique oomph.

Play with this by shifting your focus to PUSHING with your right hand as the left blade hits the water. In the beginning everyone focuses on the blade,you can see it so why not. Ok,put the blade here, take it out there, etc. Then the focus is on where the power is applied once you figure out where the blade should go,push/pull here, no power here, etc.

THEN the focus is on core body orientation and effort.

which is all kind of backwards,but what the heck. Basically in order for your paddle to be effective moving a couple feet through the water your torso needs to pivot at least through a 30degree range (making that up) so that your tiny,tiny wrist/elbow/shoulder joints can be lined up effectively to move a couple hundred pounds. Ankles, knees and hips have evolved for that, wrists, elbows and shoulder have not.

The non-intuitive part to learning good technique comes from the fact that you’re in a tippy boatJ(compared to standing on ground) and to maintain balance you like to sit straight forward,and NOT MOVE,eventually you might get flexible but the action of pivoting along the spine so your right shoulder can go forward and your left shoulder can move aft is not intuitive. But it’s FUNDAMENTAL for good technique for going forward, for turning, and corrections that enable you to go straight. Steerage is not direct,the boat slides and slews around with every stroke providing a slight or substantial corrective element as well as forward effort.

ok,that’s all abstract,keep researching and if you’re like the rest of us you’ll learn ten times faster with someone who teaches this stuff.

Somethign else to consider…
Check the position of your foot pegs. I had an issue with my kayak when I first got it, that I had the pegs one notch off. It was not immediately noticable, but it did cause me to veer left considerably.

no sweat. Extremely common
I can say that I have never met a paddler who has not said the same thing about there first boat. Heck, I brought my first boat back to the shop where I bought it from to return it for that very reason. Two months later and I was paddling much better.

Kestrel’s are very sensitive

– Last Updated: May-27-07 8:59 PM EST –

to body location, maybe other kayaks are also, I don't know. But as looneytick said make sure your butt is centered. I paddle a 120 Kestrel and have paddled the 140 and from experience the butt location off center will drastically keep the boat from tracking in a straight line. It could also be that one hand is stronger paddling. If you get the boat going in a straight line and stop paddling and the boat tracks right or left try shifting in the seat. You could ask someone to get directly behind you and see if you are or appear to be sitting crooked. Many people sit or drive sitting crooked in their car seat but kayaks won't let you get away with it.
Enjoy your kayak, great choice.
Just keep paddling and it will disappear, I'll bet money on it.
I would have posted earlier but "I" spent 10 hours paddling my Kestrel today.

Avoid the rudder
Your post brought a smile to my face as I remembered my first rec boat. I was certain it was warped! Eventually I got to where I could easily paddle it straight without thinking about it.

Make sure your in the center of the boat, your hands are centered on the paddle, and the footpegs are set at the same distance. It will get lots better until you get your first Whitewater boat!

Good news, more good news…
Good news, it’s not the boat…

Also good news, you can be easily fixed… :wink:

Keep the boat, it’s fine.

Here’s an article you may want to read

– Last Updated: May-29-07 8:42 AM EST –

Leaned turns:

Boats with a rudder are more rockered and do swivel around a bit without the rudder. Eventually you will do subtle corrections with a slight lean of the hull and a tiny bit of sweep in the paddle stroke.

Thanks ALL!
Thanks for getting back to me!

I really appreciate the feedback and look forward to trying my new skills and techniques in the following summer Months.


Ocean Township, NJ