Newbie cant track straight

I have limited paddling experience on inflatable kayak like the tomcat, but not much on sit-in style hard top. I recently got an old, used 9’ single sit in kayak made from wave sport. I was told it was more a river kayak, the bottom is more or less rounded, and it has no separate compartments. I plan to do mostly lake until i am more confident to do open water.

I took it to the lake to try it out, but to my surprise it weathervane quite a bit. I felt like i was spinning more than paddling.

Is there anything on the kayak i can change to make it more stable? Or should i just get a more recent recreational kayak?

Thanks so much!

White water kayaks vs. flat water kayaks. WW kayaks are designed to change direction quickly to avoid rocks etc. They have very little directional stability by design, you don’t often paddle them the water moves you.

Flat water kayaks need to be able to move in a relative straight line while being paddled, are intended and designed with this in mind.

You are using the wrong boat for flat water. While it do that, it’s a lot more work. Short paddle strokes will minimize the amount of wandering, but not eliminate it.

Bill H.

it’s a whitewater kayak
Wavesport makes kayaks for use in whitewater rapids. As the previous answer explained, these short boats have hulls designed to be quickly maneuverable to negotiate rocks and narrow fastwater channels. They are not designed to track straight and there is not much you can do with technique to change that.

If your intention is to paddle flatwater rivers and large lakes or open water, this is the wrong kind of boat. You need a properly fitted and equipped touring kayak. Recreational style kayaks are also short and most lack flotation chambers and other safety features so they are not suitable for open and/or deep waters.

Thanks for the advice. Would a older Dagger Zydeco 9’ do any better in lakes?

Good news, bad news
You heard the bad news - that boat is specifically designed to be very maneuverable. So hard to make track straight.

Good news is that if you do learn to make that boat track straight, you will have an excellent forward stroke that you can take anywhere. Some ideas - keep the stroke short (just between your feet and seat) and try to have the paddle blade stay in as straight a line as possible close to your boat.

The Zydeco is more of a recreational style boat, so likely would track a little better. But pretty much no 9 foot boat will track well.

Try a shorter paddle:
People paddling whitewater kayaks typically use 195 to 205 cm long paddles to maintain a vertical stroke and reduce the sweep stroke that results from using a too-long paddle in a turny boat.

Good luck. Play with it a while and have some fun just messing around.

Course Keeping
Tracking, or course keeping is anticipated by block coefficient. The waterline length, width and depth form the block. The less of the block the boat fills the better it tends to stay on course.

A simpler version is compute length to width ratio. general purpose touring boats are over 6, marathon racers are 7, many kayaks are 8 or above. Whitewater kayaks run around 4.

Bow rocker in unimportant in tracking but stern rocker is a strong factor because most of us paddle so ineffectively. We angle the paddle over the side of the hull rather than employing a vertical paddle shaft. Worse, we bend elbows and carry the blade behind our bodies. Both flaws result in sweeps which turn the boat off course. Minimizing stern rocker provides some hull resistance to poor forward stroke technique.

Get a longer boat, use torso rotation to extend the top hand over the boat side for a vertical shaft angle. Using torso rotation for reach, start the stroke, or catch, as far forward as you can reach with a loose hand on the shaft and end the stroke mid thigh.

Horses for courses
you have a whitewater boat. The spinning is a feature, not a bug.

Sell it, and look for a minimum 11 to 12 foot rec boat with a relatively flat rocker line, and the problem will be solved. Hoping that what you have will become something it isn’t is like hoping your bicycle will turn into a Ferrari.

Considering i only invested about $150, not too bad, even if i sell it back next Spring. I just didn’t do enough homework on a relatively unknown yak to me.

I may choose a zydeco or a swifty islander.

This new site contains
lots of information on kayak selection. And other topics related to our favorite sport.

We briefly had an old river kayak when just starting to experiment with kayaking that ‘wandered’ …coming from sailing, I figured a skeg might help, so I duct-taped several variations made from 2" blue foam to the hull aft…last one steadied it up to a degree. Paddle shaft was a cut-down 2x3, blades were the tails of an old set of wooden cross-country skis glued and screwed on. Good times…

why keep making the same mistake?
The Zydeco 9 is (per Dagger) designed for “manueverability” and “twisty streams.” You already bought a boat designed for that and found out why it isn’t the greatest for tracking – and the Zydeco is limited even more in that being a rec boat, it isn’t safe for real whitewater.

If you want tracking and speed, you need longer and narrower boats with hulls designed to move in one direction. Read that link that Rookie sent you to get a better handle on what to look for in your boats and gear.

I gather you have a limited budget, but for the $400 to $500 you would pay for something as limited as a Zydeco, you could have a competent used touring kayak WITH paddle and maybe even a PFD thrown in once you know what to look for and have the patience to wait for one to become available in your area. I’ve bought several such boats for between $325 and $400 over the years.

certainly better boats for
"open water" but many people do learn to paddle ww boats straight on the flats. They are a bit slower, take more energy and technique but it is doable for most folks with some seat time.

Open Water???
I noticed you mentioned paddling on open water; do you mean paddling on exposed ocean coasts or great lakes?

If that is your plan your 9’ whitewater boat is actually a better boat than going with a rec boat. Get a good spray skirt a shorter paddle and learn to paddle so you can go in a straight line.

I paddle a 9’ kayak all the time on trips up and down the pacific coast playing in rock gardens and surfing - three or four miles of paddling at an easy pace. Learn to paddle your boat and you may find you have a great boat for playing on rivers and coasts.