turning a kayak by leaning

Should I lean towards the turn or away. Will leaning offer any sort of turn with out the paddle?


Most sea kayaks turn best on an outside edge. Most ww kayaks turn best on an inside edge. Once edged, most boats will turn without paddle assistance (providing they have momentum), but all boats turn better (tighter, faster) with the assistance of the paddle.

Get your boat moving forward and try edging it both ways. You’ll find one works better than the other.

only on wave do I turn on inside edge
or if doing a low brace turn. When just making minor turns on mostly flat water the outside does seem to work better. Also if you’re doing a sweep (on outside of turn) then the paddle serves as a brace as you edge toward the same side as the sweeping blade.

Carving a turn

– Last Updated: Mar-23-12 5:31 PM EST –

The analogy to dirt track auto racing might help some visualize the process

Pretend your boat is a stock car sliding
around the dirt track.
A stock car driver breaks his back tires
loose to make his car go into the slide.
He is picking his angle.
Do that first, angle your boat.
Now he holds that correct angle with
good acceleration through the bend
as he slides around the bend at the track.
You can do exactly the same thing with
your canoe or kayak.

What if the dirt track racer has an angle too tight ?
He spins out in the infield.
What if his angle is not tight enough going around that bend ?
He will hit the wall.
What if he doesn't give it enough gas or
lets off the accelerator ?
Again, hit the wall.

So pick your angle first.
Then accelerate the right amount around
the bend by paddling,
and keep adjusting that angle towards the
inside the correct amount.
Lastly, straighten out early enough to
not spin out at the end.

For most kayaks, putting it on edge reduces the turning resistance. Think of a kayak with a V shaped bottom. When the kayak is in normal position there is a lot of surface opposing the turn. If you edge the kayak it is more like sliding the kayak around. Both WW and sea kayaks will turn easier and faster on edge when paddled. But as Wilsonj indicates, a WW boat, when moving will naturally turn as if you are leaning into the turn. A sea kayak will naturally turn as if you are leaning away from the turn. Depending on the circumstance you may need to lean the boat in the “wrong” direction to do the turn. So, for example, if you lean a WW boat to the left and do a forward sweep on the left side the boat will turn to the right and you will be leaning away from the turn.

here’s a vid of basic strokes

bow and stern rudders, draw strokes, etc.

Why did I read this ??
… I paddle a canoe .

I heel left , paddle left … to turn right . Helps cut a tighter turn in our canoe .

edge away…
assume your just going straight on flat water…no other factors…to turn right, you simultaneously bend your right leg and straighten or push with your left leg/foot. this cants the boat towards the outside leg…your bow is turning to the right to “get away” from the force being applied by your left foot. if your just going straight and do this, the boat will turn right…you do this and apply a sweep on that left side and the turn is more dramatic.

watch a video, take a class, explore on your own and have fun!

Time for physics again

– Last Updated: Mar-23-12 11:43 PM EST –

When you say "your bow is turning to the right to "get away" from the force being applied by your left foot", are you saying that simply pushing hard on one of the foot pegs will shove the bow in the opposite direction? Are you saying this is due simply to the push of your foot, rather than due to how the boat's curvature on each side become effectively different from each other when the boat is leaning?

If so, think again. You can lean your boat to make it act differently as it moves through the water, so that one "side" of the boat effectively becomes more curved than the other, but you can't cause your boat to change its heading simply by pushing it in one direction or another from inside. A person outside the boat could push on it to make it turn, but from inside the boat? Well, that's like standing in bushel basket, grabbing the two handles, and lifting yourself off the ground.

Next time you are on the water, bring your boat to a stop and float dead in the water. Push on any part of the inside of the boat that you choose (foot pegs, sidewalls, whatever), and see what the result will be. You won't be able to make the bow move right or left by pushing on anything.

Basket Case
>>that’s like standing in bushel basket, grabbing the two handles, and lifting yourself off the ground.

I have practiced this repeatedly, and as soon as I have it down I will upload a video.

It depends on your kayak and it
depends on you.

Get your self on some nice calm water and propel yourself forward. Now hold your paddle out of the water and cross wise. Lean a bit to the right and you should turn a bit left. Then lean a bit to the left and you should turn a bit to the right.

jack L

Guideboatguy. Rick is stating that the boat is in motion when he manipulates his lowerbody. The difference in pressures applied by this motion causes the boat to turn. The kayak is not standing still.

First on leaning…

– Last Updated: Mar-24-12 10:20 AM EST –

What you should really be doing is edging - the diff between that and leaning is about your upper body. In a good edge, for the most part your torso is still over the center of balance in the boat. The edging of the boat is ideally happening from what is below your waist. Hence the need for good contact points and fit in a kayak. In a well-fitting boat, with decent flexibility and rotation, you can have the boat at or past the capsize point with your lower body and still be over the center of the boat's balance with your torso.

You can lean your torso out, most do when they are starting to learn how to paddle, as long as you are careful at the outer edges of your balance. It is impressive how much just the weight of your head can affect things when you are near the boat's capsize point.

That said, paddlers just learning to use edges rarely get anywhere near a capsize point.It takes a while to figure out how far over a boat can go before capsizing, which is usually much more than the paddler expects.

As to your question, you should be able to get any kayak moving and do nothing but drop an edge, and see the boat respond by turning without the paddle. If you haven't experienced this already I suspect that you are sitting back too far rather than upright - that can inhibit this response from the boat.

The outside edge works distinctly better in most longer kayaks, but there are some like the Romany where it doesn't seem to matter. What you are doing is altering the profile of the hull to the water and getting the stern clear of the water so it can't inhibit the turning action.

On the pedal thing - I can enhance a turn by pushing on the bulkhead with one foot, just a bit, in my boats when I hit it with decent speed. But it is not the pushing on the bulkhead block that is making this happen, it is the small increase in weighting on that side which automatically happens.

The point is…
…that if unless you lean the boat, you cannot turn it with pressure on a foot peg. However, if you re-read Rick’s description where he references bending the right leg and straightening the left, it would result in the boat leaning toward the left side. THAT’s what causes the boat to turn. Perhaps a better way to put it would be that you “lift” with the right leg and push with the left.

If you want to do a simple test, paddle your boat with your feet OFF the foot pegs, lift one leg while straightening the other, which will cause the boat to lean toward the straightened leg and turn toward the lifting leg. Turning has nothing to do with foot pressure directly; using the foot pegs simply makes it easier to edge the boat.

Even with sea kayaks, it can vary
If your boat is really low volume and aggressive leaning causes the aft gunwales to “dig in”, turning with an inside lean can be more effective. Nigel Foster pointed this out to me in a boat handling class I was taking with him (I was “cheating” by using my Pintail). We tried it and it definitely worked better, but it’s a very specific circumstance and only pertains to rather aggressive turns. Leans for course correction and moderate turns should still be toward the outside for best results.

I’m just learning to do this myself and
my subjective feel for this is as Celia says. For example, if I want to turn right I can put the boat on its left edge with my lower body and at the same time put a light brace on the right side of the boat but keeping most of my weight centered over the hull which is up on edge, or even put a fair amount of weight on the right using the brace, and get a very nice turn. But in some situations it just feels “right” to put the boat on its right edge to turn right - for example if I am doing an eddy turn to the right in moving water I feel much more secure coming into the eddy with the right edge down and a nice big brace on the right side. I agree that the design of the hull make a significant difference and this is one of the things yo need to get used to when you change boats. I have a WS Zephyr now and it is significantly more responsive to turning generally I assume largely because it has a lot of rocker compared to many sea kayaks. I find with this boat that it turns very well using the edge on the side of the turn and so I find myself using the outside edge less than I did with the Tsunami I owned before this boat. I’ve never paddled a Romany (I sure would love to some day) but I wonder if the Zephyr and the Romany both might share this characteristic.

As an exercise when paddling on flat water I will try to paddle ahead for a half a mile or so and alternately drop the left edge and then the right edge for a short distance over and over zig zagging along to the “off” side to get a feel for quick and secure weight shifts and the paddle work needed to provide support (mostly psychological support really). I find that this exercise helps me quite a bit. I also practice eddy turn or peel outs from eddy into current in flowing - but fairly gentle - water, maybe class 1. I use the “onside” edge for these turns and this practice is helping get a feel for how much I can lean off center - the tipping point.

Don’t know if this makes any sense - but it seems to be helping me get plugged into my boat so that I can paddle intuitively rather than thinking my way through every situation. That is my goal right now.

gbg cracked me up “basket case” lol

Moving water considerations
In any moving water, you want to moon the direction of the water flow with the bottom of your boat. That is, get the upstream edge clear so that water can’t pile up against it and capsize you.

But - and most have their own personal way of keeping this straight - this means that the paddler is edging both upstream and downstream to get into and complete an eddy turn.

You are still always mooning the water in the same direction to its flow. However, the water changes its direction of flow as you cross the eddy - so you have to switch the edge.

To someone standing on the shore, it will look as though you used both an inside and an outside edge because they are looking at this in terms of the shoreline features. But what the paddler realizes happened from the seat of their boat is that they reacted to the change in the water flow.

So for example to leave the main flow from the green line and head to an eddy, the boat is edged upstream. As you hit the eddy line itself, the direction of the water flow reverses and the paddler switches edge. To leave an eddy the same thing goes in reverse.

The same principles apply in a tidal race, where the force of the flow can run from the equivalent of class 2 to class 4 WW forces (not the same in terms of obstacles and drops usually).

Yes, but no amount of pressure …

– Last Updated: Mar-24-12 12:28 PM EST –

... applied between two points within the boat itself (between the seat and one foot peg in this case) will do anything except apply stress to the hull. The bow is not pushed to one side by foot pressure, it is pushed to one side by the differential flow of water along the two sides, because when the boat is leaned, the two sides are not symmetrical. You could replace your foot pressure with a car jack and apply tremendous pressure to the foot peg but it would not push the bow to one side, whether the boat is moving or not. The turn is caused by leaning the boat, and ANY method of leaning the boat (like simply putting all your weight on one butt cheek instead of both) would create the same result.

My point about trying this when not moving was to isolate and identify the mechanism that causes the bow to shift sideways. The cause that he listed for the bow shifting toward one side is wrong, and if you can't see that, you are not understanding the situation any more than he does.

You are heeling downstream
relative to the current as you enter an eddy during an eddy turn since the current is reversed relative to the main flow.

When the boat is moving at the same speed as the current, boat stability is relatively indifferent to boat heel. Water won’t pile up on either side of the hull since the hull is moving right along at the same velocity as the mass of water it is in.

It is when the boat, or a portion of it enters current moving in a different direction or at a different velocity that boat heel become critical. If, for example, you are moving downstream at the velocity of the current with the boat sideways and go over a little pour over and enter a hydraulic with current reversal, if you do not anticipate by heeling the boat in a downstream direction you will very likely flip upstream.

When setting up to eddy out of strong current if the boat speed approximates that of the current it is in it is fine to anticipate the eddy turn by heeling the boat upstream as the eddy is approached. You won’t flip upstream. The boat will be heeled downstream relative to the current you are about to enter.