The Kayak "Trunk" Turn

Something that I have found to be very effective is what I will call the trunk turn. I guess you could also call it a bladeless rudder.

I use this when surfing and it works well. When on the face of a wave if I need to turn I rotate my trunk quickly toward the direction I want to turn, keeping my paddle parallel to the surface of the water and rotating fully so that it is parallel to the direction of travel and suspended over the water on the side of the boat.

This causes the boat to turn in that direction pretty effectively and does not slow the boat down since you don’t have a blade in the water. It is more effective with some edging and foot pressure on the outside of the turn. I have found that with my trunk fully rotated like this if I just lift my inside knee a bit and push with the outer foot that the boat turns very easily.

I have found this to be very effective when surfing because it is fast, effective, and does not slow down the boat. You can also dip the blade in the water as a stern rudder if the boat needs a little more encouragement to turn.

One place I have found this particularly effective is when being side surfed toward the beach in the foam pile. Once you start to slow down a bit a very quick rotation of the trunk can sometimes be enough to straighten the boat out and get you surfing straight again, which is a pretty cool move.

This has been an effective technique for me. Maybe you will find it helpful.


Thanks for the tip.
I’m going to give that a try next time I’m out.

It seems a bit of the same concept as a roll, so I can see where it would help by engaging those muscles that create a solid twisting force. I always appreciate all of the little things that get us to engage the best muscles for the job and put pressure on the best contact points.

It works for canoe too!
Thanks for bringing it up.

You should try a surf kayak…

??? Question on the details

– Last Updated: Sep-10-14 2:03 PM EST –

You said, "With my trunk fully rotated like this if I just lift my inside knee a bit and push with the outer foot that the boat turns very easily."

In the context of your example of coming in broached and turning from that position, does your technique of lifting the inside knee while pushing on the outer foot flatten the boat while turning (but NOT before it)?

I'll try to phrase my question in a specific way: Say you are coming in broached with the beach to your right. In that case, your boat would be edged toward the left (to the waves) while it is parallel to them (mooning the beach). Then, to turn left to head out again, you rotate torso to the left *at the same time* you push right foot and lift left knee to flatten the boat? I would think if you flattened the boat before the turn was initiated you would capsize while in the broach (or get shoved onto the beach). Am I correctly stating what you described?

EDIT: Ooops, I see your example is about coming in sideways and turning to CONTINUE surfing forward. Let's see...then in the description above of having your boat going sideways with beach on the right, you would rotate torso to the RIGHT instead, *at the same time* that you push the LEFT foot and lift the RIGHT knee???? Seems that the right knee might already be at least slightly lifted?

Depends on a few things though …

– Last Updated: Sep-10-14 6:59 PM EST –

What you are describing is essentially setting up the turn with torso rotation and the boat follows your head if you engage your lower body muscles and core to turn the boat.

Simon Hammond wrote a book on surf kayaking a few years ago, that describes this process like snow skiing in pretty good detail. I always feel like I am skiing in deep powder home in the Wasatch when I do this. Think in terms of edge -unedge -edge in linking turns.

Using your paddle as an outrigger not dragging it in the water can let you radically increase the amount of lean and edging you can employ. This is dependent on how large your boat is, the boat shape and how big the wave is.

When sing this method to come off foam piles, is more intuitive to help the bow of the kayak unedge, like in skiing and seek the fall-line by plunging the bow down during a side surf. Again depends on the boat, hull and wave size. This is a good way to get a dramatic window shade wipeout while learning . With a surf kayak or whitewater boat you can turn it into an ender for a more dramatic finish.

or waveski .
If you want some fun. Get on a wave ski or surf kayak and use this technique to surf in small waves. Throw away your paddle after you take off for a technique challenge.

Yes, that was what I was trying to say. Your right knee is already lifted b/c you are edging into the wave.



– Last Updated: Sep-11-14 5:49 AM EST –

I think there are various things that contribute to this technique'seffectiveness.

The first is what Cape Fear addresses above, in that this forces you to engage the "right" muscles. And as seadart describes, the rotation of the upper body causes your lower body to follow and it also makes it easier to edge since your upper body is acting as a counter balance and the rotation causes you to naturally weight your outer but cheek.

Last and perhaps most of all I believe that rotational energy of rotating your trunk with the paddle fully extended out in front of you is enough to cause the stern to break loose, especially when surfing where your stern should already be partially out of the water.

If attempting to do this while side surfing it takes a fairly good snap of the upper body to get the boat to come around.

I think it works well in the soup while side surfing because you are already edged in the right direction while edging into the wave, and it prevents you from having to plant your paddle on the down-wave side of the boat which can
be risky.

Once the boat does start to turn you are already in the "look where you want to go" position and the paddle is perfectly positioned for a stern rudder if you need to momentarily drop a blade in the water.

This technique works even better if you lean forward a bit after breaking the stern lose (which of course makes sense), and if you keep your arms fully extended (which also makes sense).