Paddling a white water kayak

Just bought a new Dagger Mamba 8.5 and tried it today for the first time, I have been paddling rec Kayaks for 3 years and need to know, what is the secret to keep a white water kayak going straight? I actually have better luck in a an area with little current than I do in an area with almost no current. Any advice will be a help. I was getting better by the end of the day but was wondering if there is a trick, that I do not know, or if it just takes practice and time

WW kayaks DO go straight…
In white water…

They are a PITA on still water…

You’re using the wrong boat for the job.

(But you’ll get a good workout doing 10 lake miles in a WW boat… I know… :wink:

Edge, Body Balance & Stroke
I don’t know where you are located, but the best $$ you can spend now that you have a cool boat (btw…I have the same boat)is on LESSONS. Hopefully you have a friend that you will be paddling with. Two would be better, as it usually takes two besides yourself for a rescue, and if you paddle WW, you will need rescued.

To go straight, plant the paddle at a vertical angle forward and pull just to your hip (power is wasted after that), now feel the boat want to turn and keep your center of gravity over the center of the boat while edging with your hips to correct the turn. Now repeat on the other side. Bottom line. You want the boat to turn.

Congrats on the purchase. You are gonna love it.



Thank you
Yes thank you for the advice I have a class coming up in July, but I couldn’t wait to get this “toy” out on the water. I always paddle with friends and especially when I am trying a new boat,

Front half of the boat
Taking out the paddle too far back will give a turning force. A WW boat won’t let you get away with it. You are losing efficiency in your rec boat also but it isn’t as obvious. Also paddle with a high angle stroke. Same thing - any sweep away from the boat will make it spin. Torso rotation, torso rotation! You can let the paddle drift away as long as it is pulling straight back. WW paddlers use really short paddles for the most part - less than 200 cm.

It will be good for your stroke. I sure don’t have the most efficient forward stroke and am not a speed demon. But I am lazy, and if I can keep up the speed with less work that’s all for the good.

Good advice
from the above posters.

Something to keep in mind: sea kayaks are desinged for 90% tracking, 10% manueverability. WW boats are desinged for 10% tracking and 90% maueverability. The river is taking you the distance, the paddler justs really needs to put the boat in the right lines; 1ft toward river right may be the most fun you will have all day, while 1ft to river left may be a huge, man eating hole. You want the boat to respond with a single paddle stroke.

For flat water pools between current, don’t just float, practice your forward stroke. Smaller strokes and yes, many of them will be combination strokes; as the boat veers port and your portside stroke cannot by itself bring the bow back, throw in a stern draw at the end of that forward stroke, thn maybe still needed is a short bow sweep on the opposite side. You need to act quicker with your strokes take more of them, and think “smaller bites” (shorter) than in sea or rec boating.

WW slalom boaters do a lot of flatwater drills (including similar to jboyds post above) holding edges, etc.

Keep it up and post your learning curve for us.


Think Of “Pulling” Yourself…
along. Pick and focus on a spot out there. Catch the blade somewhere between the knee/foot and pull the blade close along side the boat with out hitting it. Exit the blade in line with the front of the hip. Anymore, you begin to introduce spin momentum to the boat.

If you are using a paddle that you currently use with your rec boat, it’s probably too long. You want a paddle just long enough for the blade tip to catch up there between knee and foot and submerged just over the back of the blade when it exits by you hip. Most paddles for rec boats will end up burying too deep (not efficient) or encourage catching and stroking way out there, introducing a sweep component and encouraging spin momentum.

In white water, keep a focus on where you want to go and not where you want to avoid. The body and boat tend to follow your focus.


Thanks for the advice
I will give this advice a try, thank you everybody and have a safe paddling season

What’s a season?

The secret
is just practice. It will come.

Check your body position, too
Some boats are very sensitive to slight shifts in body weight relative to the boat. I paddle a so-called WW SOT on flat water, and it is far more sensitive to such weight shifts than any sea kayak I’ve paddled.

As others have said, keep your strokes short and probably more vertical than what you used in your rec kayak. I also finally switched to a much shorter paddle, and that helps a little. Another thing: I can’t give it full power/torso rotation like in a longer boat.

But it’s kinda fun to take a 360-deg spin with just one sweep!

Going Straight
Mentioned here a few times, focus on a distant object then paddle toward it. Not too agressive at first as thats what will spin you around.

Try to maintain even power on both sides. Can apply more pressure as becomes second nature to you. Its a common problem with heavily rockered boats until you get the “feel” of them.