Sculling draw

This is a fun stroke to practice, but it’s driving me nuts. I have no problems moving sideways, but am having a devil of a time keeping my kayak from moving forward while moving sideways. I’m keeping my paddle vertical and trying to be careful with the angle of the blade, but in most cases, no joy. Any tips on how to find that sweet spot? Thanks.

I’m actually leaving for my 2-hour bracing/edging/sculling lesson in an hour. I’ll see if I encounter anything helpful!

If you’re maintaining proper blade angle
and pressure then you doing it in the wrong place, perhaps you’re not rotated completely to the side.

what dave said

– Last Updated: Sep-18-14 2:28 PM EST –

Make sure your shoulders are parallel with the boat. Picking your inside knee (and inside edge of the boat) up also counteracts the pull of the draw, allowing you to be more aggressive with the draw. Then you can adjust your torso fore and aft to find that spot.

Once you find it it'll become familiar because it's the same spot to make quick turns upon.

I like the reverse sculling draw (?) for even more fun and chances to get wet!

Is your boat yawing?
As you describe it, it sounds as if your bow is not yawing toward your paddle side but remaining aligned.

If the bow of your boat is yawing toward your paddle side, it means that the midpoint of excursion of your sculling stroke is centered to far forward.

If, on the other hand, the bow is not yawing to either side but the boat is making forward progress, in addition to lateral progress as you scull, it means that the forward and back components of your scull are not symmetrical. You may be applying more force to the portion of the scull in which the blade moves toward the stern, or the blade angle of the forward and back components may be different.

I would suggest that you start out with a fairly short stroke excursion of maybe a foot and a half, and a very conservative angle so that the paddle blade is angled no more than maybe 15 degrees off the keel line of the boat. Focus on using the same amount of pressure on the blade and exactly the same blade angle for the forward and back components, and find the ‘sweet spot’ of blade position that moves the boat directly laterally without yawing the bow in either direction.

Start out with gentle force and once you have the boat moving laterally with no forward, backward, or yawing movement, then you can increase the force and open the blade angle incrementally.

Do you mean the sculling pry?

yes, thanks. that’s the one.

Don’t worry about the angle.
Wind and, or current can influence the boat to move in a different direction than you desire, but the last thing I worry about is paddle angle. The boat will move sideways just fine with an angle that is far from vertical and you won’t have to worry about dumping the boat.

That’s possible
Not enough rotation. After I got off the water last night, I wondered I was paying to much attention to blade angle and forgot about getting completely rotated.

No yaw
The boat pretty much moves forward, although I have unintentionally made it yaw while changing the blade angle to try to make it go straight.

Will try your suggestions tonight, after work. Thanks.


Getting full control with the sculling draw takes a good bit of practice and builds great paddle dexterity. Keep at it and make sure you focus on something in the direction you want to go – it’ll come with time.

Boat differences
The one thing I didn’t mention in my original post was that before I pulled my Necky Rip 10 out of the water for the season, I played around with the sculling draw on that boat. Didn’t have as much forward movement with the Necky, but as it’s shorter, wider, and two pounds heavier than my Eddyline, I just figured that it didn’t react as quickly.

The wind has been out of the west for the past few days, so the surface water in front of my place is calm. That’s where I’ve been practicing, figuring if I dump, I don’t have far to run to get dry.

Thanks for all the tips. Will just keep at it till I get it right.

for the encouragement. It’s a fun stroke to practice, although I do mutter “dang it” on occasion.

Get the blade in deep…
So the water isn’t pushing against the side of the kayak. Try driving the motion with your core rather than the arms. Try sculling the boat forwards, sideways, and backwards. Repeat on opposite side. Keep the top hand open so if you flub it you can just release the top hand rather than swim. Good stroke for building up the core and opening up rotation.

Move stroke to the rear
With a simple draw to the hip, to counteract moving forward, you would just start the stroke more to the rear. For a skulling draw, I’d move the center of the stroke to the rear - move the paddle more rearward and less to the front. This basically moves the angle of movement to 90 degrees from the center line of your boat.

The folks who said “rotate more” were hitting the same point. Experiment with moving your stroke to the rear until the movement is right.

Cheers, Alan

Atlantic Kayak Tours

sculling does not transfer to kayak hulls. I was doing the rowboat scull with zero results working toward beam shore landings…having problems balancing to exit in deeper water after a hard day chasing orca.

Roger Schuman wrote a super draw scull explanation in Sea Kayaker solving the entry level scull for me. Thanks Roger !

Here’s a link with a scull video down the page from A Schuman search

You may enjoy the 30 second cowboy rentry on Utube.

Try using hips, abdominal muscles pulling toward paddle with awareness of hull position/foot pressure on braces relating to edging as balance for the paddle draw force.

Use ‘correct’ paddle work and body motions to ‘steer’ hull.

DK’s link is quite good.
go to the bottom of the page.

Some interesting responses…
I frequently use the sculling draw with a single blade in a solo canoe. Maybe kayaks are different but I doubt it. If your draw is too far forward, it moves the bow sideways, if it’s too far back, it moves the stern sideways, but neither will move the boat forward. If the boat is moving forward, it has to be one of two things. Either you’re not rotated enough and the general track of the paddle is not moving straight toward the side of the boat but moving to the rearward at an angle. More likely, in my opinion, is that you’re not putting the same amount of strength into the forward movement of the stroke that you are into the rearward movement. This is likely because it’s simply easier to put more power into the rearward part of the stroke. It’s easier to pull than push, and you’re pulling the paddle with the rearward part, pushing it with the forward part.

Mus’ be
one of dem thar river boaters.

There are a number of strokes that don’t make much sense on the ocean and this is one where I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience to use it once I learned it. Probably can’t even do it right now and if I did, the boat moving forward a bit wouldn’t bother me much at all.

I have used a draw stroke (rarely) when I didn’t set up perfectly for a rescue, but usually, the paddler in the water moves the boat toward mine and that is faster than trying to move a 17’ boat sideways the few inches required.

Still, a good reminder next time I’m out to refine an old skill that is more than a tad rusty.


I use it in confined spaces
Marinas, rock gardens, etc. Sometimes without thinking and just using a couple of rotations.