I just bought a Current Designs Sirocco and am having trouble keeping it going straight. I am inexperienced when it comes to paddling and have only paddled a Necky Zoar Sport which is much shorter and wider with harder chines. Will this boat get easier to paddle for me as my experience with it increases? I can easily correct the problem by dropping the skeg, but I would like to learn to keep it straight without dependence upon the skeg. I notice it responds nicely to edging, too. Advice? (I am a bigger guy- 6’3" 225#)


– Last Updated: Jul-07-06 3:57 PM EST –

Is the problem tracking or weathercocking?

If it's tracking, and you're coming from a wider boat, you might want to try(borrow, demo) a shorter paddle. A paddle that's too long turns every stroke into a sweep stroke, which turns the boat. Planting the blade closer to the hull will minimize the turning tendency.

Starting the stroke further forward(up by your toes) and not pulling as far back(stop at your hips) will also help keep the boat going straight.

Tracking is one of those characteristics -- like stability -- that seems to magically improve with time in a new boat.

One of the best ways to improve your ability to paddle straight is to borrow a whitewater boat and just play with it on flat water. If you can paddle a whitewater boat straight, almost any sea kayak will feel like it's on rails.

Well said !
You beat me to the punch, . . and said it better and more concisely than I might have.


It might get better
or you might find, as I seem to have this year, the 3rd with my current boat, that my time is better spent, and more enjoyed, paddling forward without resorting to correcting strokes and leans. Been giving less consideration to what direction the wind might be coming from, if there is any, and just leave the thing down most of the time, when I want to get somewhere along a straight course. I’ve been unable to detect any speed penalty via GPS to this practice, if anything there’s an improvement, over the long haul.

I change my attitude on this every month or two, but that’s where it is now.


I’ve been wondering…
how much forward thrust is lost on correcting strokes compared to leaving the skeg, or rudder in the neutral position, down and concentrating on moving forward? Obviously this would vary with conditions and how much thrust is expended correcting.

Correcting strokes?

– Last Updated: Jul-07-06 3:59 PM EST –

If the issue is flatwater tracking, and not weathercocking, correcting strokes shouldn't be an issue. As your skills improve your corrections get smaller and faster until they're an automatic part of every stroke. I'd argue that in most touring boats, using a skeg to correct a tracking problem is just disguising an inefficient stroke.

If the issue is weathercocking, it's a whole different story.

laughin’ with ya, bud, not at ya! Four years ago I was paddlin’ the same squigglies you are experiencing. And yours will go away, too.

Angstrom pretty much covered it. Great comments, those.

I would add the fact you’re a large one with a lot of power at the blade. Your upper body, lower body, and boat all have to achieve an harmonious relationship.

Practice using moderate power and focus your attention on a landmark that you want to paddle to. Don’t get locked into watching the bow of your boat.

Really watch the exit of your paddle. Too far aft will have a definite effect on a straightline forward stroke. Let that blade pop out just before your hands reach your hips.

Those pedals… When you plant the blade and start to drive with the same side leg, its easy at first to push too hard. This can effect the relationship of your body and the boat enough to cause a wandering effect. You might want to try simply locking BOTH legs moderately into the pegs and forgo the ‘bicycle’ motion while smoothing out your upper body stroke. Once you get better at this, re-implement the cycling motion if desired, for more power/control.

There are certain fundamentals of the forward stroke that must be honoured but each paddler will choreograph these into their own particular dance that best suits their individual physiology.

Pleasant waters to ya.


Thanks for the excellent advice; I will certainly take what you all are saying and put it into practice my next time out.

Now, another question…what exactly is weathercocking? I was having my problems on totally calm water with no wind.

When your boat
is on the water the stern has much less pressure on it than does the bow. This is more demonstrative when underway and the bow is cutting while the stern is trailing.

The wind catches your boat and the stern, being under much less pressure than the bow, gives up its hold, starts to slide, and the kayak turns like a weather vane. The bow ends up pointing into the wind.

Leecocking is the exact opposite.

Weathercocking can be diminished with the use of a skeg or rudder to ‘anchor’ the stern and prevent the slide. Edging the boat into the wind also has this effect but to a lesser degree.

Weathercocking can also be reduced by trimming the load in your boat, altering paddler’s seat position, and hull design.

Ain’t this kayakin’ stuff fun?!


You might want to try some lessons
on the forward stroke. One of my boats is a Gulfstream (composite version of the Sirocco), and it tracks like it’s on rails.

If there was no wind and the boat was still turning, it’s your technique that needs work. Spending a couple of hours with a good instructor will fix that in no time.

The Sirocco is a good boat and will handle just about anything you can throw at it. Learn to use it well, and you’ll have a lot of fun with it.

I would reccomend that
you take some lessons from a local instructor. They can show so much about paddle strokes, kayak handling and safety. It will be your best spent money.

Paddling Technique
I think Waterdoc hit it on the head; it is probably my paddling technique. I will work on it and get some help when I can find it. Thanks to you all for the kind advice. I am really looking forward to getting to know my Sirocco well!

My Current Designs did same thing…
…but it had nothing to do with the kayak itself. I too, was a new paddler…still am. The first problem was how I’d shift my weight around. I sometimes leaned ever so slightly but just did not know it. Could not figure why I was always turning left. Second problem was improper stroke methods. Third was understanding what weathercocking was.

Once I came to grips with thoses three issues…my CD Kestrel 140 tracks as good as I make it.

Rowing shells
Just got back from enjoying some rowing club action at the new Poughkeepsie Community Boathouse on the Hudson. The boats (even the single I saw) all had fixed skegs under them. FWIW.

The new boathouse is a really nice facility, check it out sometime if you are anywhere around the Mid-Hudson Valley.


Yoop, try this on for size, big guy.

– Last Updated: Jul-08-06 11:16 AM EST –

Entire series is superb. DVD #3 is the one you need in particular. Money well spent.

Nigel Foster
Thanks for the tip on the video. Nigel Foster is going to be a keynote speaker at the International Sea Kayak Symposium in Grand Marais, MI, which is my hometown. Think I might check it out.

I think there is something to shifting my body around, too, that is causing the boat to shift direction. Man, that thing must be sensitive!

Seat time.
Nothing that practice won’t cure. Enjoy your new boat!

all of the above
I’ve taught people using the Scirrocco. One of the things I did was have them deploy the skeg about an inch and leave it there.

In your case put the kayak up on blocks and make a couple markings next to the skeg control showing the skeg deployed 1" and 3" so you can use it a little and not just on/off.