Maintaining Speed Through Turns

Sunday morning in the Pine Barrens my palms were getting itchy. I just wanted to MOVE!

But the Batso is tight and twisty. I’d get a bit of speed up then have to negotiate a turn or three. Some were simple some were complex but they all slowed me down. Didn’t feel like slowing down.

So I used my freestyle/whitewater techniques where it was tight and switch where it opened up a bit.

The Axle (bow draw with an onside heel) slows you a bit but it’s really a duffek so you blend it into a forward stroke and BAM! you’re moving. The Post(bow draw with an offside heel)seemed to slow my Osprey less but it’s harder to blend in a good forward. Sometimes one worked better sometimes the other. I wish I knew why?

I liked the cross Post better than the cross Axle. Come back to my onside for the forward mostly. My cross forward isn’t near as strong.

More than once I went to a cross forward only to change hands and paddle righty after a few strokes. I guess I’ll really know I’m switch when I start doing righty cross forwards?

Sideslips were everywhere. Slip to the left, line up on the slot and paddle paddle paddle. Slip to the right, well, you know… But there’s no power in a slip. Would an S-Turn be faster?

Sometimes it felt really good, like I was carrying all of my momentum around the turn. Sometimes it felt like I was spinning down into oblivion. Not so good.

Some of that was the river I’m sure. I don’t guess it’s possible to do a tight 180 with momentum. But I’m thinking there’s room for improvement.

How do you maintain speed on a tight and twisty course?

How to maintain speed on twisty course
It depends on the boat, but if it has significant rocker, I usually find it best to try to get the boat carving circles (using and onside heel) and paddling with either forward strokes (with as little correction as possible) or cross-forwards.

I can tell by your post, that you need
to get a pro boat and take up racing !

Jack L

Try a wedge
placed a bit further aft than usual for the offside turns. Placed way forward you will get a very quick turn but will lose speed. If you try it a bit further back you can make a more gradual turn without so much speed loss. It works for me when placed just forward of amid ship. All hulls react differently to this, and it’s really a “feel” sort of thing.

It’s also easy to slice forward into a forward stroke or sweep as needed…particularly if your grip thumb is facing forward at placement.

For onside turns the post is nearly always your best bet. Just roll the hull back to level to make applying the forward stroke a bit easier.

Works for me, but to each his own!

Tommy I saw your bursts of speed.

– Last Updated: Nov-03-10 10:26 PM EST –

(I was ahead of him some of the time but just some then he'd rabbit ahead to get pictures of me getting stuck...aargh!)

Post and wedge it was for me. Remember my Nomad was stickier than your Osprey and it did not help me that I had that one big floppy bag in the stern and nada but a pot of wine in the front. The only problem with the wedge that I had is that I dared not fully engage it..a couple of times I hit a snag halfway around the turn and the paddle shaft headed toward my nose.. Axles and christies were out of the you I was looking for something to keep the momentum up.

JackL I am conjuring up visions of you in a race boat getting stuck across or inbetween snags. Been on the Batsto?..not so mighty..more looking like a plate of spaghetti. For you it would be posts and crossposts. Mind you I am not saying you can't do it!

Tommy I am confused about the difficulty you had from transitioning from an axle to a forward vs a post to a forward. Aside from the heel, both have the same placement, unless you are counting the conclusion. Axles have a bow draw and posts a slice bowward ( is that a word?) Just dont conclude and you should have no difficulty transitioning to a forward stroke.

So ends another comparison between practical FreeStyle and show FreeStyle.

The great Batsto Race
Paddled the Mullica last winter with Bowler1, who is very analytical about boats and paddle strokes. He kept talking about how interesting it would be to have a race on the Barren’s rivers. His point of view was that it would not necessarily be the fast boat or the fast paddler that would win. Rather, the paddler who is reasonably quick and has excellent boat control would likely win.

Like Tommy said, you can get going pretty well, but if you hit a snag or the bank in tight quarters, you are at a dead stop and then need to accelerate back to cruising speed. It’s challenging.

Other than acknowledge the challenge, I have nothing to add. I bounced my long, flat-bottomed barge off the banks and then raced to try to not fall too far behind Bowler1. At Raystown in 2008, Marc Ornstein demo’d the canoe I had on the Mullica. He showed the strokes, but the boat did not exactly pivot on a dime for him either. I’m sure more skill on my part would have helped keep me off the banks. Regardless of my skill (lack of), I just wanted to agree that paddling the Barrens is plenty challenging and calls for different choices of boat characteristics and paddling skills than most other places I’ve paddled.

When’s the race?


Perhaps the old roadracing rule applies
"In slow, out fast." Manage the boat conservatively until you are lined up for the next straight, and then accelerate. You probably know that when doing upstream gates in slalom, one doesn’t want to enter the eddy at full speed, and the “pivot” turn is mainly a way of letting the hull get the best turning action while decelerating. Then when squared at the gate, the power comes on.

when there is more water in the
Batsto. It wasnt the curves that were a challenge…It was the Joisey Devil grabbing our paddle from the black unseen depths of six inches.

Transverse Stance?

– Last Updated: Nov-04-10 6:24 AM EST –

Fiddling around in similar creeks... I have found a transverse stance to be quite effective in some of the really twisty bits, especially when the roots / weeds / overhanging branches to the off-side kinda force exclusive use of onside strokes.

Of course, part of the appeal is that it works as well going backwards as going forwards when that's the easiest way through... but I like the way I can reach for a vertical placement for a heeled-sideslip either towards the bows or towards the stern - surely the best way of maintaining momentum, and pretty good for keeping the canoe positioned alongside clear water.

Maybe it just feels good / fun without actually being efficient: quite possible - but with a compound forward/reverse stroke the acceleration and speed between moves always seems good... and that's possible even with the boat heeled to the onside. To cap it all, that reach makes onside sweeps hugey effective - and heeled to the onside, you're also nice and high to try and spot those underwater obstructions :)

Interesting position to be in when the paddle snags though [whistle]

My experience

You are a better freestyler and stronger paddler than I,but your post reminds me of paddling the Osswagochie in the ADKs. When paddling upstream in my Flashfire,I found that doing the strokes you mentioned really slowed me in the strong current. I discovered that in the upstream current I could carve the turn with an outside heal and continue paddling almost normally with little steering correction necessary-steering with your knees. Unfortunatly,I don’t think this would work in an Osprey-you have a Wildfire don’t you?. This didn’t work for me going downstream at all,there I used the moves you mentioned.

Keep your paddle wet,Turtle

Axle vs Post

– Last Updated: Nov-04-10 7:01 AM EST –

First off Kim, Thank you so much for bringing and letting me try the Nomad. She is a sweet hull though not ideal on the Batso.
Transitioning from an Axle to a forward stroke doesn't require much change to the heel. I'm quite comfortable mixing the two as needed. But the Axle is all paddle no hull at least in the Osprey. Because the Post uses the hull it requires less paddle and holds my speed better through the turn.
The transition from the Post to a forward was where I had trouble. Holding the offside heel made it hard to get a good onside forward stroke and sometimes resulted in oversteer when the hull continued to carve harder than I expected. Leveling the heel, as Stevet suggests, worked best but still felt a bit awkward. Timing the heel change seemed to be my biggest challenge there. When I got it right it worked very well. When I got got it really wrong I crashed into the shore, brush or a tree. Most of the time was somewhere in between.


When, or maybe that should be if, I can get my Voyager up past 5.5 MPH sustained I’ll do more racing.

I’ve got a ways to go on that.

I was thinking about the same question
… on the same trip, and I also was experimenting with different techniques to go around the tight corners.

The issue raises a more fundamental one that, as a non-racer, I have always wondered about: Other things being equal, is it better to go around the outside of a river bend, where the water is faster but the distance longer, or the inside of the bend, where the water is slower but the distance shorter? I assume downriver racers already know the answers to these questions.

My general thought is that I lose speed and momentum during the part of the turn when my hull is skidding or drifting and not under forward stroke power.

To avoid this situation and to provide power more continuously throughout, I often found it effective to angle the boat in the straight current before (in anticipation of) the turn itself, and then forward power stroke across the inside of the turn. To maximize and sustain this forward power on offside turns, I often found it necessary to use continuous cross-forwards or, more simply, to switch hands.

This is all somewhat different from slalom turns in whitewater, where you are usually using eddy lines or current differentials to assist the turn. It’s also somewhat different from simple axle or post turns in non-moving water, where there is no current to increase the stall or slam you into the bank.

Finally, in the Pine Barrens, the purity of all these techniques is continuously compromised by the above- and sub-surface obstructions blocking the entrances and exits of many or most of the turns. Not to mention the overhanging branches and sticker bushes that rip hats off of heads in SRT’s, metal deck plates off the sterns of Ospreys, deposit tons of woody litter in Nomads, and reduce kayakers to paddling with half shafts.

It may have been no coincidence that a Curtis Dragonfly, a boat with a whitewater heritage, seemed to lead the entire flotilla on both days of the trip.

Gawd a lot of good info here !
Nothing to add, a LOT to learn. Thanks guys !

Ah’ missed all dat good stuff up front! Reckon’ ah’ wuz too busy roundin’ up strays at de back o’ de herd.


I love x-posts,
because I heel on my “strong” side.

I was on the Batsto a couple weeks before you were there, and it might have been a little deeper then. I found I was using a lot of cross-posts and wedges.

Later, I really started using a lot of power slices. Stroke forward, then do your in-water recovery loading the blade which ever way you want to move. Kind of a side slip on steroids. If I needed more rotation, I could link it into a post or a wedge -depending on which way I needed to turn. The power slice worked better in the shallow water (than a sideslip) because I could lift and submerge the blade as the water depth changed and still get “traction”. On side slips, the paddle often ran aground and then I was scrambling to get the boat back into position.

-Tim B.

It’s kind of like a real world slalom
course. I like the idea of a race. As previously noted, technique will likely be more important than power. Just to make it more fun, it should be an up and back. Going upstream you need to really work the eddies so as not to beat yourself up fighting the current.

Spring would be the ideal time with water levels being generally high. The Giant Slalom competition at the Florida Freestyle Symposium in March could be a sort of warm up exercise.

Marc Ornstein

not only that Marc have you talked to
the tide gods? Is it a full moon?

Ok we had our Joisey Devil and Marc…Got Gators(?)

Now I understand what happened to
your paddle Kayamedic. It must have been that darn Joisey Devil. I should have left the tooth marks. Too late now. It’s been fixed, good as new.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Canoe Paddles and Woodstrip Canoes

nope the devil did not eat it.
Actually that paddle was only used six times and I dont quite know what happened.

A for effort though!