Solo Reverse Sweep

The way the solo reverse sweep is described in “Canoeing: A Trailside Guide by Gordon Grant” differs from both my intuition as well as the way I’ve seen it described in other books. It involves switching from the backface to the powerface slightly behind your body (apparently to avoid backward thrust, although I don’t understand how that would be accomplished.) The relevant paragraph from the book:

Is the switch of the paddle face common practice for this stroke? Why would it not tend to “push the boat backwards”, as claimed in the book.

Some thoughts

– Last Updated: Jun-08-14 1:46 AM EST –

Well, the stroke that's described there is what the McGuffins call a compound reverse sweep (a name that's more proper, considering the power-face switch that is happening). Incidentally, the McGuffins also modify this stroke a bit to include a bracing action, apparently to support a greater amount of heel at the beginning of the stroke. The McGuffins describe that stroke as a way of doing a quick U-turn when traveling forward, while the normal reverse sweep that you are apparently thinking of is something they describe as being best used for a stationary pivot.

I haven't used either of these all that much, so take this for what it's worth. Actually, in thinking about it, I have used the compound version quite a bit - it took me a little while to realize it.

I think that a likely reason that author of your reference recommends reversing the blade orientation for the second half of the stroke is that doing so allows easy transition from from pushing the stern away from the paddle to then pulling the bow toward the paddle (if you were moving forward when doing this stroke, the second half of the stroke is just a Duffek). In addition, doing that switch eliminates the portion of the regular reverse sweep that's applying a push in the straight-ahead direction, which even though it contributes to the pivot due to its reach, it also contributes a component of reversing power which will tend to push the boat backward. No other part of the stroke has thrust in the rearward direction, so the only component of force that's not actually contributing most strongly to the pivoting action will make the boat move backward (just try to do a stationary pivot with a "pure" reverse sweep without producing some reverse travel - you won't succeed). Finally, as I partly hinted at above, it's actually a lot more efficient to draw the bow toward the paddle using the power face than when using the non-power face, simply on account of how the orientation of your arms and hands allows a stronger stroke and a better-aligned path of the paddle for drawing the bow.

I won't make any judgement about which stroke is "correct" or "more common". I'm thinking the stroke, as described in your reference, is simply mis-named, and NOT really the one you were expecting to be described. I think that both methods would have a preferred usage, depending on the situation.

Sounds like a christy + bow draw …
… in freestyle lingo. It’s an on-side turning move. You could call it a compound stroke or two linked strokes, I suppose.

You could do the entire sweep, from stern to bow, with just the power face. This could be better initiated from a forward goon stroke than a forward J stroke. It would probably slow the boat more than the christy + bow draw.

Now, is it “christie”, “Christie”, “christy” or “Christy”?

This is a hard stroke to
verbalize, but I essentially agree with GBG above. Start the stroke by rotating so that the shoulders are parallel to the gunwale. The paddle should be horizontal with the grip hand thumb pointed up, the shaft hand choked up and the blade edge pointed up and near the stern, and the power-face looking at the canoe. Begin the unwind the torso back toward the bow. When the paddle is about half way and perpendicular to the gunwale you will find the grip arm is against the stomach and the shaft hand straight out to the side. At this point the bio mechanics are such that the torso is less a factor and the grip hand is a pivot point with the shaft and supplying the power to move the paddle forward. This causes the canoe to start moving in reverse rather than continuing to spin in place. As pointed out flipping the grip thumb down at this point instead, begins a bow draw and smoothly continues the canoe pivot. This is really not some anal slavery to correctness as much as it is correct bio-mechanics to make a seamless pivot in place. HTH.


My Favorite Stroke For Getting Off The
Beach, in between sets of waves, in my ruddered solo outrigger canoe. Start by pushing the stern away from the blade, continue pushing the hull back past the blade, then draw the bow to the blade, where it passes over it and the stroke continues full circle until the canoe has spun a 180 turn. Now punch out through the waves before you get nailed.

I don’t switch that way, and other ww
paddlers who’ve posted video on don’t switch that way.

Read the OP
The request is for an explanation of Gordon Grant’s approach, not how you or a few folks on another forum paddle. This very question came up for me many years ago and in asking many professional paddlers, some of who claim to have paddled with GG, this is what I learned. What is the best way, is purely rhetorical, the question is what GG is describing and why. The OP of course is free to execute this maneuver in whatever way he desires.

Makes perfect sense to me
though flipping the powerface with a symmetrical grip and blade seems not necessary.

As in the compound back ( of course that is a different stroke) you can change your grip (without moving and flipping the paddle) from thumbs up to thumbs down. An alternative method is of course to flip the paddle.

The intent is to make a full reverse sweep possible while not making your arms and hands become painful pretzels.

The next step is getting on the water and trying a full reverse sweep without changing grip of powerface… When your blade passes your hip enroute to the bow…don

things get uncomfortable?

There is no explanation. There’s no

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reason to flip power faces. And in fact I never, never use a reverse sweep.

I knew Gordon Grant at NOC. He knows a lot, but unfortunately some of what he knows is useless.

As for the J stroke, I grew out of that years ago.

Often when one does a reverse sweep,
slowing the boat is not only acceptable but desirable.

I’ve watched Gordon Grant race slalom, and he never had occasion to use a reverse sweep.

I don’t feel particularly uncomfortable or pretzely after the blade passes my hip. No more than when in the bow quadrant of the forward sweep, which is pretty much the reverse stroke with similar bio mechanics, isn’t it?

Do you switch your grip or paddle face during the stroke?

Had to…
go get a paddle and sit in the living room and try it to figure out how I do that stroke. I do it just as described in the book. I tried doing it keeping thumb up and non-power face leading the whole stroke, but even doing it in the air that way, I could see where it would push the canoe backwards a lot more during the middle part of the stroke. It’s all about the angle. If you keep the non-power face moving forward through the middle of the stroke, the position of your arms makes it move parallel to the canoe for a significant distance, while if you rotate the paddle in the middle of the stroke, you don’t have hardly any distance where the paddle is moving parallel to the canoe and providing power. It’s actually a very smooth stroke for me.

I’ve always been more of an intuitive paddler. I never read books on paddling, and in fact seldom even know the names of the strokes I use. I just move the paddle in such a way to get the bow, the stern, or the middle of the canoe to move the way I want it to in the most efficient way possible, and after 45 years or so of paddling, I’ve figured out what the most efficient ways are for me to do it. Also, most of the time in the solo canoe, I’m fishing, so in actuality a lot of my strokes are done one-handed while holding the fishing rod in the other hand. So instead of the reverse sweep as described, I’m often holding the paddle with one hand, gripping it down fairly near the blade, paddle shaft at a shallow angle with blade face vertical, thumb down, arm locked straight, and the shaft in contact with the back of my arm and the paddle grip in contact with the back of my shoulder. Rotate torso until nearly parallel to the canoe axis, insert paddle blade within inches of the stern, and rotate torso while sweeping paddle with shoulder and torso. Once I feel it starting to push the canoe backward instead of moving the stern, I take the paddle out of the water and repeat if necessary. And of course, the farther back you reach when inserting the paddle to begin the stroke, the more leverage you have.

I agree

– Last Updated: Jun-09-14 9:00 AM EST –

If you want to do an easy, relaxed pivot on flat water or easy current the full reverse sweep (loading the back face for the entire stroke) works fine, and if you don't overpower the stroke and keep the paddle shaft quite horizontal I find that the blade remains in nearly the same position in the water throughout the stroke, the boat pivots smoothly around the fixed blade, and the boat does not move backwards from its original heading much.

For a more aggressive pivot the compound reverse sweep is probably better as the draw to the bow using the power face at the conclusion of the stroke is probably ergonomically more powerful for most folks. I agree with GBG in that the primary advantage is having the blade face properly positioned for linking to an effective subsequent stroke, either a stationary draw/high brace or a forward stroke. An example in which this type of stroke might be very useful is after getting unintentionally spun upstream in the middle of a rapid. The compound reverse sweep powerfully pivots the boat and links a bit more seamlessly to a draw, high brace, or forward stroke as needed.

To answer a question posed by the OP and partially answered by others, this is accomplished by flipping the paddle blade by turning the grip hand from a thumbs up position to a thumbs down position. Just before the blade is flipped, unload the back face by taking the power off the stroke, and rotate the grip hand thumb towards your body (it would be pretty much impossible to rotate it the other way).

The alternative is to do a palm roll and not flip the paddle blade, but this can be awkward to do with a T grip, is not practical for a paddle with a dedicated power face, and relaxing the grip is not a good idea in fast current.

But ultimately I think the best option has been proposed by al_a. The most effective portions of the reverse sweep are the first foot of paddle travel at the stern, and the last foot at the bow. By starting the reverse sweep right at the boat (with the torso fully rotated, the blade well back, and the paddle shaft fairly horizontal) and ending it no more than a foot from the hull, the boat can be powerfully pivoted. This is the active stern pry and with practice three (or more) stern pries can be done in the same time as one reverse sweep. It might not look as relaxed and graceful, but it is more effective.

Don’t get alarmed cuz you don’t use

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the particular ezwater's. One can be pretty inventive with a canoe paddle without needing the maneuver itemized in author_X's Anthology of Paddling.
I think anytime you put the shoulder and/or elbow in a position of having to produce most of the isolated run the risk of asking for all depends on the situation(water's resistance and hull efficiency). Often a short pry, with your torso being the main power source, can produce much more result....leading to somekind of stroke with your arms and paddle in front of the paddler. Much easier to tilt the hull for efficient travel if your upperbody is upright, keeping everthing balanced.

That might be of interest if I ever
had occasion to do a reverse sweep.

Perhaps because I’m very tall and get everything done from a considerable vertical angle, I seldom get the paddle horizontal enough to do a sweep of any sort.

But analyze it however you will, I find it hard to believe that switching power face in the middle of a stroke will be a more effective use of paddle-in-the-water.

by switching the power face in the middle of the stroke, you’re essentially doing two strokes, a stern pry and a bow draw, without lifting the paddle from the water. You’re mostly skipping the part of any sweep where the paddle is providing power parallel to the canoe. To me, a sweep is meant to make the canoe inscribe an arc. If the canoe is more or less sitting still, the sweep, whether forward or reverse, will make it move forward or backward while turning. If you do the reverse sweep without switching power faces, that’s what the canoe will do. If you switch power faces, it comes a lot closer to pivoting in place rather than moving backward. If the canoe is moving forward, switching power faces makes it turn quickly while maintaining at least some of its forward momentum, while not switching kills the momentum completely…it’s like applying brakes and one wheel locks up. The canoe stops forward motion while turning quickly.

Of course, it all depends upon what you want to accomplish, since both ways do different things, either of which can be useful in a given situation

In freestyle its called a christie
and accomplished best by a palm roll which leaves the powerface always on duty…there is a micro second during a flip when you have nothing except pushing down and pulling up water while the blade rotates.

If you have a grip that allows it the former is easier. The latter if you have a unidirectional or t grip.

I find in compound back strokes (another beast I know) I have become too set in flipping the blade rather than palm rolling.

I was thinking about freestyle as
a venue that would force me into many strokes I never use. And freestyle is in some ways the ultimate of what one can do with a solo canoe.

But when I’m just running rapids and rivers, even when the need for maneuvering comes thick and fast, I find myself getting everything done with slalom technique, and that means 85 % directed forward strokes. My boats are so responsive that there’s seldom a need for sweep strokes, or fancy compound strokes either. Keep the boat moving forward, and adjust its forward motion as needed.

That’s one reason I never understood the discussions of compound backstrokes. Backstrokes? Real whitewater boats don’t do backstrokes, not since reverse gates were abolished from racecourses!

I agree with Bs, et. al.
If one looks back at how traditionally the Solo Bow Draw was taught, the grip hand is almost in the opposite armpit with the thumb down. This locks in the arms and allows almost total use of the more powerful torso. Additionally the shaft hand also changes angles, bringing the large latissimus dorsi muscle into play. It naturally follows that in a Rev Sweep by the time the paddle is almost perpendicular to the centerline the maneuver needs to become a Bow Draw, thus eliminating any Reverse possibility and bringing in the stronger Bow Draw stroke.

If a paddler wants to hold the grip between his butt cheeks and do the Hula to complete a maneuver, its fine by me, whatever floats your boat. I’m trying to respond to the OP’s question. I do not endorse or reject anyone else’s methods.

FS is quiet water
and compound backstrokes good tools for getting into the wrong bog when there is no way to turn around.

Despite the emphasis in the US on canoeing being a river oriented sport, the farther North you move the more important lakes become and the less documented some routes are.

Backing up is often done as a result of a route finding error.

There are some moves in FS that you should absolutely not do in whitewater.