Turning a kayak quickly....

Quick question…I’ve been kayaking about a year now and was considering entering my first race for some fun. The race is 6 miles on a circular course around a series of buoys. I’ve been trying to find the quickest way to change course after rounding a buoy without loosing forward speed. So far, the quickest way I’ve found is to edge the kayak on the side opposite the way I want to turn and give a good sweeping stroke to the same side I’m leaning. Is this the correct way to make a direction change? If I edge into the direction of the turn, I can’t get the power into my turning stroke…which is obviously on the high side of the boat…not to mention that it’s more difficult to maintain my balance on edge while taking a powerful stroke on the high side of the boat.

I’m kinda self taught so any pointers would be appreciated :slight_smile:

Wish I could help
In my CD Solstice gts I have to lean until the skirt is awash and still it won’t turn. Even the rudder doesn’t help.

It sure goes fast in a straight line though.

Outside edge works well with many boats.

yup carving a turn
You can accentuate the turn by heeling to the outside taking a sweep and then planting the paddle on the high side in a turning high brace position with the paddle edge that is forward a little farther from the hull than the rear edge…

and hang on

I like to
Lean outside and hold that edge through the following strokes - Start with a strong sweep on the outside of your turn, and concentrate on rotating around and pulling water under your butt at the end of the sweep. Then plant your inside blade into a bow rudder for a couple seconds, link that into an inside forward stroke real close to that high side and then repeat the outside sweep, bow-rudder, tight inside forward stroke again.

By this point you’ll be turned 360 degrees, so keep turning until you come back around to the course the rest of the racers just took off on. :stuck_out_tongue:

bow rudder
sounds like a bow rudder which I think would work well though it requires good practice to get it fast and smooth. The other good stroke is a sweep followed by a good low brace turn. I think the bow rudder would lose less speed. You can find videos for these strokes on youtube. Practice a lot or your be swimming on your turns.

You’re on the Right Track
There are a couple of things you can do to get more turn out of that sweep. You can plant the paddle way up at the bow and focus on pushing out at 90 degrees. With a GP you can extend the paddle and get some more leverage out of it. I think you can do the same thing with a Euro but if feels really awkward.

(don’t tell my bastard friends. i want to keep whipping up on 'em)

You are doing everything right, but
hopefully you also have a rudder.

The ruddered boats beat the non ruddered ones hands down on the bouy turns.

A couple of other points:

On a U turn one, don’t try to come directly up to the bouy and then make your turn.

Come to it from about a boat lengths away, so you can be already turning when you get to it.

Watch the pack. If they are bunching up tight at the bouy don’t get caught in the mess. Take it wide.

If you are to it first, cut it tight, or someone on your tail will cut you off and force you to go wide.

Good luck and have fun



Extended Sweep
I like to use the extended sweep stroke for sharp turns. If you are going left, shoot the paddle out to the right and actually grab the base of the left blade with your left hand. You end up with lots of leverage. Some folks complain about the stress on their shoulders.

As Jakl said …

– Last Updated: Aug-07-09 1:05 PM EST –

... approach from a little distance to make a nice pparabola like turn rather than a sharp angled turn. But that may not be the fastest way if you need to do full U-turn. Depending on the length and specifics of your boat and the tightness of the turm, you may start this way but end with a very strong lean on the inside side with paddle fully extended - this will spin your boat on its center side and get you into your direction. But will also stop your momentum. (of course, that does not work well in some boats but is easily done in others). So between this "on the spot" turn and a wide turn only leaning on the outside of the turn while maintaining speed and paddling, somewhere b/w these two extremes is the compromise that might work better for tight turns or for wide turns...

A bow rudder also helps to maintain your momentum while still leaning away from the turn. But does not work with all boats equally well - for my kayalk a stern rudder turns it much faster as my stern is more loose than the bow: when I do a bow rudder the boat moves sideways as in hanging draw just as much as it turns (and no, it's not the way I do it - the same bow rudder works much better in another kayak I have).

Here is the way I passed someone during my one and only race so far. I was a boat length behind that guy, it was the first 1/3 of the race and he was able to maintain the same speed as I was (he was stronger, i was in a marginally faster boat, both had mediocre techique so we were about equal at that point). Since I could just about keep up with him I figured I did not have enough speed to pass him before the turn in a straight line. So I took a longer path up-wind and against the waves going a little up-wind from the turn point. He was paddling parallel to the waves and perpendicular to the wind while proceeding directly to the turn point. We were thus moving at about the same speed. His path was shorter, mine longer. However, not too far from and upwind from the buoy I turned downwind and was moving with the waves surfing them down. Turned out on the average I ended-up moving faster and reached the turn first a few boat lengths before him. Of course, I had to make a somewhat sharper turn, but still I had the advantage of being there first and ahead of him.

So, the strategy for the next turn can start a lot earlier than the actual turn -;)

Another tip: If you’re going to do two or more sweeps on one side while edging, make sure you recover for each stroke (recovery = when you come around for the next sweep after finishing the previous) in a low brace position. This will give you some support should you need it so that you don’t capsize, which would lose you some time.

Also, sweep vs. “L” stroke

– Last Updated: Aug-07-09 1:11 PM EST –

A sweep is fine for gentle turns, but I think an "L" stroke may keep the speed high better with less effort, provided one can edge comfortably without relying on an outside sweep for the balance.

The "L" stroke (there was a video link posted some time ago) is essentially a normal forward stroke but at the end of the stroke, instead of exiting the water, the paddle performs a stern draw. because the path of the paddle is (should be) from close to the hull in the front to away from the hull in the rear, there is a nice foot or two of travel for the stern draw.

The reason this is more effective for turning is that you maintain full forward momentum, which combined with an outside lean makes for a fast turn in itself, but on top of that, the stern draw moves the part of the boat that is most loose (usually) - the stern - in the most efficient way (drawing the vectors for the forces at play helps understand this even better).

do yo have a rudder…
…this may start another religious war, but for racing it seems to me that a rudder would be quite useful.

Turning a Solstice
Is only a little bit harder than turning a supertanker. Quit complaining!

But I would add that they go in a straight line with 200lbs of gear great!


The fastest way I have to change direction in a sea kayak is a bow pry. Opposite of a bow rudder and it can be done one handed. A short video clip is available at www.secondwindsports.net/keyelements From there scroll down to Bow pry.

it can be done after the sweep
but takes a little practice since its an unbraced turn. In canoe parlance its a wedge…and famous for fishfinding.

Have a good roll.

What I described is in canoeing a post and the second fastest turn…it however has an advantage of a brace.

Link corrected

Although I do not see how this is any better than [cross]bow rudder, except that it can be done with 1 hand but seems more tricky in terms of balance… Fun move, I’ll have to try it

bow pry
You can use both hands if you want.The more vertical the paddle shaft is the sharper the turn. Very fun

for all of the awesome tips and suggestions! You guys/gals are awesome.

A running pry acts differently
hydroynamically than a cross bow rudder bec

cause it acts on the side of the boat that is carving the turn and accnetuates the boats shape. Water looks at that carving paddle and thinks the boat is shorter and with a more pronounced carving radius.

The cross bow rudder, acting on a straighter side hull when heeled (your bow makes an airfoil shape when heeled and is no longer symmetrical) thinks it is an anchor that you are spinning around.