Reverse sweep during pivot

During a 360 pivot (in a 17.5’ kayak), my reverse sweeps feel substantially less stable than my forward sweeps. Using a forward sweep, I can lean further and more confidently. But during a reverse sweep, that un-nerving “point of no return” sensation appears without much lean at all.

Three questions:
[1] Is this a common sensation?
[2] Does using the back-face vs. power-face have anything to do with that perception of stability differential?
[3] Should the climbing angle of the leading edge be roughly the same when sweeping in either direction?

If the reverse inherently carries a bit less stability, so be it. But if other paddlers feel equally supported in either direction, I’d like to know that too, so I can try to figure out how to make the reverse feel as comfortable as the forward. Because looking at the mechanics of both, I’m stumped.

Can anyone school me up on this? Thanks for any insight.

I like to edge hard over, and it turns into a lean but I sweep forward with a good climbing angle to me blade so I can lean on it. By putting the hull on it’s side to some extent the kayak turns quite quickly and the climbing angle allows me to put a LOT of pressure on the sweeping blade. In doing that I can turn fast and not capsize. Leering the sculling motion and the bracing stokes make turning the kayak easy, and the feeling of instability is all gone because when you do it as opposed to the water doing it to you,. you are in full control
This vid shows it done by a real expert and it’s the one I first saw that explained how to do it. It looks very hard to do, but once I tried it and worker on it for about 1/2 an hour it cane to me fairly easily. Watch it as few times and go out and try it. This man explains the blade angles and the arc of the paddle blade very well.

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Yes, I know that vid quite well. What I am after is WHY there would be any feeling of less stability with a reverse in contrast to a forward. Thanks

You get a similar feeling in a solo canoe. When kneeling in a solo canoe your “base” for stability is a triangle formed by your knees and butt…kind of like sitting on a 3-legged stool with 2 legs in frint of you and one behind. On a forward sweep you lean forward a little and your center of gravity shifts forward towards a stable part of your base (your 2 knees) but if you lean back your center of gravity is shifting to a more unstable part of your base (supported by a single point…very unstable, like sitting on a pole). Similar to sitting in a 3 legged stool with 2 legs in front; if you lean forward it’s stable but if you reach behind you may get a thrill.

Plus if your boat has differential rocker the stern may be stickier than the bow so you need to apply a higher force to get a good sweep.

Just my thoughts

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My only guess is that you get the feeling of less stability because of a lack of lean with pressure in the sculling and bracing sweeps, not because of the lean itself.

As an example, if you were walking on a tight wire or the edge of a 2X4 you can feel as if you would fall because you try to stay upright (in perfect balance at the 12:00 position.) But if there was a rail out to the side where you must lean over to reach it, but when you do reach it you can lean all your body weight on that rail the action of leaning on it is what gives you the stability.
So unless I misunderstand, I think you are trying to stay upright and “in balance” as if you were walking, but a sea kayak is supposed to be edged and leaned---- with the paddle giving you the support in those dynamic leans and the control also being from the use of your thighs bracing inside the cockpit.
Many kayaks don’t feel perfectly upright when you sit in them on flat water and that’s what’s called primary stability, but the secondary stability is the important feature, and such hulls need to be edged and leaned to feel stable.
I hope I am not barking up the wrong tree here…but from what you wrote it sounds like that feeling is BECAUSE of too little lean, and not bracing with the paddle.
One kayak I had for a short time (too long and could not store it, so I sold it to a friend) was an 18 foot long P&H that was only 19" wide at the beam. It was really fast and if set on edge I could turn it nearly as well as my 17 foot Chatham. It forced me to quit trying to keep bolt-upright inside the cockpit. But in very little time I found I could lean or edge it to a point I had the spray skirt under water at the cockpit’s 3:00 and 9:00 positions by about 4 inches of flowing water, yet when I would use the paddle with a climbing angle I could easily stay in control. It was said to be a tippy boat, but I learned to use that tippiness instead of trying to fight it. Using the thigh braces and the paddle together made is easy to handle, even in pretty high waves.

So…I may be missing what you are saying and if I am I apologize, ---- but it sounds like you are trying to stay totally upright in a kayak that is designed to be edged and leaned. Like walking on the edge of a 2X4, if you lean your weight on the paddle with the top edge of that paddle always climbing and you use your thigh inside the cockpit, I believe in very little time you’ll get a feel for the balance of power being pressed down on the paddle in opposition to the hull angle of what would otherwise be a capsize.

In my first 3 months of kayaking I learned very well how to do a wet exit and reentry because I knew (correctly) that I was going to capsize many times if I were to learn the use or a kayak in the way it was supposed to be used. So I just made up my mind to do what I saw others do in the videos and if I capsize in the learning to do what I saw the experts do in the videos I’d just capsize. With a wet suit on and also my PFD I just got super comfortable going into the water and I’d capsize a lot pushing my limits of control. Kind of like riding a bike for the first time, but far less painful. When I do a wet exit (later a roll) it never hurt me like falling on the ground when you fall learning to ride a bike. Capsizing when learning a new kayak is nothing to fear.

Anyway… no need to go to the extreme limits of control if you don’t want to, but if you do press your limits and capsize it is not painful at all. If alone I used a paddle float many time and if I was with a partner I got to a point I could do a team rescue in very little time.

I like to learn all these drills in about 30 inches to 3 feet of water so when I tip over I simply lift the bow up to drain the cockpit, flip it upright again and jump back in.

Committing to the idea of learning how to lean and edge with sculling braces and sweeps was a fast and actually pretty easy set of skills to learn. Getting wet is a given.

Hypothetically lets say it takes 100 capsizes to learn the balance point in a boat with a certain paddle. If you do them all in a morning you learn the limits of the hull angle. If you do them all over 10 years you learn the limits of the hull angle. But it takes the number of attempts that it takes. I just got wet, and I learned in very short times So for me, I just assumed I had to learn by doing, and I did what it took to learn. I did a lot of short swims, but inside of just a few months I was able to edge all of my touring kayaks in tight turns when the hull was on the side to about 75 degrees and now I can turn my kayaks quickly and with not all that much effort by using my thighs inside the cockpit and my paddles to sweep in the water with a climbing blade angle, either moving forward or backward in those sweeps. Leaning what keeps me in control, not what causes me to loose control.

I hope that helps.

2 questions:
Exactly what kayak are you in?
Exactly what paddle are you using?

Thanks for your input, Szihn. No fear of capsizing. Leaning out on forward (and reverse) isn’t at issue. To try to put a finer point on it, during a reverse sweep, the boat itself feels as if it’s going to roll-over on me, whereas, I don’t get that feeling on a forward sweep. So, it’s not my leaning over near the water that gives the feeling, but more an issue of what’s going on (or not going on) beneath the deck. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so aggressive with my upper thigh.

I think you are onto something with the upper thigh. The mechanics of yow your feet and knees interact with the hull are different for forward and reverse sweeps. In the forward sweep, the downhill leg is pushing (pressure at foot), and the uphill leg is relaxed and able to fine tune pressure under the deck to help control the edge depth. In the reverse sweep the uphill leg is both pushing to bring the front of the boat around and controlling the depth of edge. This gives a more unstable feel. Consider also edging during forward strokes is routine for mild course correction, while I spend much less time paddling backwards, edged or not. So the edging for the reverse sweep is more technically difficult to perfect, with one leg doing two different things, and for me at least less practiced. Ultimately though, I think the solution will primarily be ~100 reverse sweep capsizes to find the perfect balance point.

That explanation makes sense. Looking forward to heated pool sessions!