Reverse stroke (not sweep)

While trying to find a video to address a bow rudder edging question, I came across this excellent site:

Schumann’s video on the bow rudder answered my question (outside edge), but now I’m curious about the reverse/back stroke, as all the videos I’ve seen (as well as in my first ACA class) direct the catch at the hip, rather than fully rotating to the stern. I find his approach elegant and after trying it, more powerful with better control.

With so much emphasis placed on torso rotation and always facing your work, I can’t figure out why so many of the instructional videos don’t suggest full rotation for the reverse stroke, when they do for the forward stroke.

Any thoughts?

by gorry I been
doing it right all these years.

end the power at the hip and do any correcting by letting paddle drift to bow… same as canoe.

By powering through most of 180 you get no yaw initially but when the blade goes forward of your hip significant yaw.

Wonder why full sweeps are still taught . Makes way more work.

If it works for you, great
When paddling reverse in a kayak, I do tend to plant the blade behind my hip, but not that far back.

Planting the blade nearly flat on the water might enhance stability, but once you have some rearward momentum you don’t really need it.

On the other hand, planting the blade virtually flat on the water means that the initial portion of this stroke will be merely pushing the water down and lifting the stern of the boat, not propelling it back. If you watch the video carefully you can actually see this. The initial portion of the stroke is really not contributing much at all to moving the boat.

Where in the video do you see that?
I’ve looked at it a few times and can’t see any stern lift. Edging, yes.

I think the OP indicates
that the “catch” is at the hip. You start to apply power in the hip area. I am no expert but isn’t that the standard instruction?

You have to know what to watch for
Roger is pushing off of the back face of the blade. When the back face is parallel to the water (pointing down) the force from the blade is directed down.

What propels the boat backward is when the back face is facing toward the bow and the blade is pushed to the bow. Obviously a slight angle toward the bow would push the kayak backwards, but a lot of energy is spent pushing down as well.

You don’t see the stern lift in part because the stern is heavy (hard to lift) and in part because the bow is buoyant (lifting the stern causes the bow to be pushed down).

This happens at these intervals in the video :16 , :18, :20, :22, :33, :37, :40, :42, :45 - basically when the paddle blade is parallel to the water and pushed downward.

When using this method, I think of the blade entering the water behind me and sliding into position until it is perpendicular to the water. Then driving the blade forward.

Same as he far back

– Last Updated: Jul-22-15 9:54 PM EST –

In canoeing. Rotate so you are looking sideways and plant as far back as you can
The simple stroke ends at the hip not starts at the hip
It's very powerful due to extreme torso rotation.

The more commonly thought of from tip to bow is a wimp stroke due to less torso rotation

In canoeing the person running in cross reverse will beat the forward paddler for the same reason


– Last Updated: Jul-22-15 10:04 PM EST –

I think mine looks a bit like that. I may not reach quite as far back but keep my elbows in, so torso has to move a lot. And I usually don't power through leaning forward, blade is out of the water and preparing to plant the offside blade. I think I incline my blade just enough for a bit of stability, but not flat, and it rotates to vertical through the stroke.

I think I’ll try

– Last Updated: Jul-22-15 10:45 PM EST –

running some reverse figure-eights tomorrow, using both techniques.

I'm also curious if there's any difference in the arm/shoulder muscles used in each method. Am thinking there is, at least in my case, as torso rotation is reduced if the paddle enters the water slightly behind the hip.

Fun stuff to play with.

Reverse Stroke Should Resemble the
Forward Stroke. What you do going forward can also be performed identically (using the power face) going backward. Only difference is the blade enters the water in the direction towards the stern, rather than the bow. Of course, full rotation helps. Why use the back face, when there is a power face?

See if you can rotate …
… with the blade planted not so far back. I see this as a matter of body geometry, which is why I think those who point out the inefficiency of reaching far back are correct.

Think about this: A normal forward stroke, when done well, keeps the blade orientation within a range of alignments which is pretty efficient (that’s much of the reason for not carrying the stroke too far back). If you viewed a video of a good forward stroke played in reverse, would torso rotation be less? You should be able to do a reverse stroke within that same range of paddle positions that are dictated by your body’s geometry as you do with a forward stroke, and you should be able to rotate your torso in similar fashion as well. Of course, the use of different muscles probably makes it impractical to reverse your stroke as exactly as a video played in reverse, and finishing a reverse stroke as far forward (functionally rearward in terms of its position alongside the boat) as the forward-stroke plant may not be the best idea, but you get the idea behind this. The use of torso rotation need not be absent just because you’ve reversed your direction of force application, and likewise, I see no need to reach way behind you just to re-establish the ability to rotate.

depends on the noat
In one of my kayaks l can go behind my hip and the boat will not do a huge yaw. In another l have much less real estate available on either side of my hip before it yaws.

Its not just about torso rotation
Yes, utilizing the trunk muscles through torso rotation is great, but very exaggerated motions done just for the sake of torso rotation are not necessarily going to be productive.

A power stroke loses efficiency (in terms of propelling the boat) whenever the long axis of the paddle blade goes more than 20 degrees off vertical. With the stroke shown, the initial portion is nearly 90 degrees off vertical. It would be great if we could plant the paddle blade further back on the reverse stroke and still maintain a reasonably vertical paddle shaft, but unfortunately our arms and shoulders are not made that way. The vast majority of people don’t have the flexibility to plant the reverse stroke that far back while maintaining even a marginally efficient blade angle while still keeping their shoulders and arms in a safe position.

Not that there is anything wrong with paddling backwards as shown in the video. But by dispensing with the inefficient initial portion of the stroke it would probably be possible to get three reverse strokes in instead of two. What difference does it make? Not much paddling around on a lake. But if one needs to execute a quick back ferry in strong current it becomes necessary to ditch any counterproductive portions of the strokes.

stability and directional control
I would suggest that the reasons for entering at the hip, starting with the back face on top of the water, is a combination of stability and directional control. I think I’ve found it easiest to maintain directional control - with fairly limited experimentation, and it’s certainly very stable starting each stroke with a low brace.

It seems obvious to me that this isn’t going to be particularly efficient. If we all started doing 10 mile backwards paddles, people would lay off of the concept of starting with a flatter paddle blade at entry in a quick hurry I suspect. I think the challenge for instructors is recognizing when someone is suffering from lack of directional control and stability when paddling backwards, and therefore will benefit from styles favoring these things, and recognizing when someone could maybe move on to a higher level, and still have this to fall back on if stability or directional control becomes an issue.

then you have to reposition the blade or paddle. Unless you’re paddling a distance backward, not really worth it.

I Paddle Into Fairly Stiff Winds
A couple times a week. That means powering forward for usually at least an hour or more. Sometimes I’m towing my daughter because the conditions are too much for her.

A short stroke is the most energy efficient stroke. Efficiency is key paddling into wind. Forget speed! Forced on how much energy you are burning. I don’t need to rotate my torso. I see no benefit from doing so.

My back stroke depends on what my needs are. Sometimes I need to go straight back. Sometimes I need to turn.

I paddle a Tarpon 160. I match my technique to the design of the boat.

Sometimes I find myself in water so shallow I can’t even fully immerse my blade.

Why Would Directional Control
Be much of an issue? About the only time I can thing of is when you back ferry in a WW play boat.

In current on the Salmon River I’d use a huge arching backstroke to turn and land on the bank. That worked sweet.

when you’re backpaddling

– Last Updated: Jul-23-15 2:11 PM EST –

into a quartering gale wind, with clapotis underneath you and rocks around you?

To me this is more of an academic discussion than anything else. Backpaddling is a corrective stroke. No one goes distances from point A to point B backpaddling the entire time. Because forward paddling is more efficient. So all this talk about form relative to the forward stroke is a bit overboard.

One may combine the backpaddle with a draw or scull or brace on one side, or whatever the situation merits.

interesting topic

– Last Updated: Jul-23-15 3:31 PM EST –

did some skill practice this spring with a buddy of mine who let his aca whitewater instructor status lapse.

So we're talking ww boats here. We did a drill where we practiced looking at the stern of our boats, reaching back with the paddle. My flexibility wasn't very good. The general idea was to expand the zone your paddle normally goes in and to see how your strokes at the very end of your boat affect the boat. We did the same thing with both the bow and stern. I don't think of these movements as momentum skills.

I do use some similar but less exaggerated motions on creeks when you need to get one end of the boat around in a hurry, boating in tight quarters so the reaching "far forward" and "way back" drills help with that.

Back stroke was practiced just beyond the hip extending past it, with adjusts at the end of the strokes. We spent almost as much time paddling backward as we did forward. When we mastered something going forward then we attempted the same movement backward- be it an eddy turn or peel out.

I can tell you from creeking yesterday that many times I found myself reach forward or backward to get an end of the boat around before hitting a rock or doing a twisting drop. Lots of backpaddling as well, mostly to buy time to figure how to dodge the rocks. This type of boating requires "loose hips" and the ability to bounce over and around stuff. Squirt boaters have these exaggerated end of the boat movements down to an art form.

Now as far as the whole shoulder rotation thing goes this has always interested me. On the one hand we want to use our stronger back muscles but when I look at the best ww paddlers I've ever seen (with the exception of Jon Lugbill) their upper body is kind of quiet and not fully rotated. Hands on the kayak shaft rarely cross over the center axis of the boat. Hard to do that though and get good rotation. I can't even conceptualize how all of this works going backward- I'm just trying to go straight if I'm practicing. My arms get "cooked" pretty quick if I practice lots of backstrokes- so I'd say my shoulder rotation is pretty poor.

In the end, if my neck and shoulder muscles are a little tired and my arms feel like they haven't done anything I figure I must have done something right.

Some canoe racers look like little wind up toys. Lots of rotation going on there but not my cup of tea.

I got no idea how you turn one of them big long ocean kayaks around. They're made to go straight, that much I do know. Heck, I was afraid to turn my head around in one of them boats or I'd tip over. I got a lot of respect for you ocean boaters.

I really enjoyed the ocean rock garden video, especially the slot moves.

All just for fun.
I think some people just have a lot of fun in an endless attempt to master the art of handling their paddlecraft. I figure I fall into this category to some extent.

So someone suggests that we launch and land our kayaks through the surf zone in reverse. Sounds like a fun challenge to me. If you can’t keep your kayak paddling a straight line, your challenge is more difficult. You might end up veering off in the break zone and taking one broadside, or just spending a lot more time there than necessary. Or waves are breaking right into shore, and the easiest way back out after a ride, without getting hung up on the sand, is to back through that first shorebreak before spinning yourself around.

This actually creates real useful skills, as referred to above, in rocky situations, where you’re worried about controlling your ride among rocks. If you’re trying to do surf landings without getting carried in by the waves, these reverse paddling skills are good. You don’t need the same reverse directional control here, because you’re not traveling backwards. Still, it can take some serious doing to prevent being taken by waves, so developing controlled strength and coordination in this department goes a long way. But it just goes back to mastering control of your paddle craft. And that just goes back to something that you enjoy.

I use the reverse stroke fairly frequently just playing around in waves. You can easily attach practicality to it if you start putting capsize victims around you in different orientations. But honestly, for me, it just feels good to iron out new levels of control for the sake of a deeper enjoyment of my time out there.