What is the paddling circle drill?

No, couldn’t get to AFS

Wildfire, bow pin and Wind
IMO the Wildfire has a delicate capacity for the bow pin.

By that I mean that it does not take much to counter the bow pin or to exaggerate it.

I’m in the habit of taking mine to the pond at first light in hopes of perfect windless conditions. Sometimes I get those but more often I a very light breeze evidenced more by the mist moving across the pond than anything I can feel.

When it is dead calm I can paddle an onside inside circle with just a bit of heel.

With a very light breeze I find I need less heel to maintain the bow pin/carve when the breeze is coming from my offside, the outside of the circle. I need more heel and/or a more refined stroke to maintain the bow pin/carve when the breeze is coming from my onside, the inside of the circle.

As the breeze increases that effect is intensified. When the breeze is strong enough to raise small wavelets I find it difficult to impossible to maintain the carve/bow pin and must revert to J’s pry’s and bowdraws.

Carving is turning…

– Last Updated: Aug-01-10 7:54 AM EST –

but not all turns are carves. To me, carving is a controlled turn under power. The boat is heeled into the turn, and an uncorrected forward or cross forward stroke provides power. Once the carve is initiated, the boat will literally travel in a circle. By opening up the circle, you can approximate something that approaches a straight line, but the real advantage of carving is to be able to maintain momentum through a turn. Set the boat flat and the stern will skid. Add a duffec stroke to the skidding stern and you have the WW equivalent of an axel or cross axel.

I can get my Encore to carve pretty easily, and it carves a relatively tight circle. I have a hard time getting my Yellowstone Solo to carve anything.

So, back to your question about the paddling circle drill - to me, that describes carving.

Correction - in freestyle, heeling into the turn is an axel right? Healing outside is a post (?) which is less common in WW. I got a cross axel confused with a post. I fixed the post

It is dependent on the stern skidding
to start off…no skid no turning. Carving is an outside heeled technique to enhance turns.

I do the inside and outside circles with flat boat but then again the boat has considerable rocker. A heel might break some stems free. The free stem is essential…or at least a loose one.

WildFire…flat boat. Peregrine…circle wont happen unless heeled.

At least in WW
I learned an inside heel for carving turns - crossing an eddy line on outside heel could land you in the water. The stern may skid in a carving turn, I guess by definition that has to happen a little, but not to the extent that it skids in a flat turn. Different boats and different disciplines?

Would be interested in your comparison
… of the Wildfire’s behavior to bow pin stroking to the Osprey and Magic–on inside heels, outside heels and when level.

I like a touring boat that begins to go straight when you level it up from a heeled turn. Thus, I was a little disappointed as well as a little surprised when the Wildfire continued a mild turn.

Carving up arbitrary definitions
All canoe jargon definitions are arbitrary, and thus can mean different things to different people in different places at different times.

That said, I believe a ‘carve’ turn has pretty generally been used across several paddle disciplines to describe a turn where you heel to the outside of the turn. That has been my terminological observation in the fields of flatwater touring, seakayaking and even WW canoeing.

Carving on an outside heel is the most effective way to turn most hulls other than dedicated and highly rockered WW hulls. This came as a surprise to me when I moved from WW boating to flatwater boating on unrockered hulls.

The turn with an inside heel (now called an axle by flatwater freestylers)–which used to be the normal way to turn an open WW boat and probably still it–was called a pivot turn by some. However, as G2d said, the pivot turn took on another meaning in the hands of stern-submerging decked boaters.

Round and round we go, and where we
stop, nobody knows.

Authors: carving doesn’t exist

– Last Updated: Aug-01-10 1:20 PM EST –

Writing and language being one of my avocations along with canoeing, I am interested in terminology.

I have quite a library of paddling books from the 70's and 80's, so I looked at three of them to see what they called turning on inside heels vs. outside heels. These are all WW instructional books from the 70's:

-- Tom Foster's "Recreational Whitewater Canoeing"
-- John Urban's "A.M.C. White Water Handbook" [Is it two words or one, guys?]
-- Lito Tejada-Flores' Sierra Club guide to "Wildwater".

I couldn't find any reference in any of these books to turning a canoe or kayak on an outside heel. It's as if the move didn't exist. That's basically my recollection, too.

Therefore, I had a hard time when I started flatwater and ocean paddling and trying to turn with an inside heel--the only correct heel, as far as I then knew. I was told I was doing it wrong, that I must heel the long flatwater and ocean craft to the outside of the turn. These paddlers seemed to be convinced that no such thing as an inside heel existed.

What a dilemma! I caved, and began carving those boring, large radius outside heel turns. But I never liked it. I always wanted a hard tracking flatwater boat that could turn snappily on an inside heel.

Wishful thinking said the experts of the day.

Then the wish-fulfilling Mike Galt invented the magical Lotus Caper, which could do exactly what I wanted ... so long as the paddler remained under about 165 pounds.

The first WW open canoeists I ever saw using outside heel turns regularly were the slalom racing champions Dave Paton and Mark Clark. They designed their own solo and tandem canoes, later made by Rainbow Boatworks, that had flat bottoms and sharp chines. About 10 years later Frankie Hubbard designed WW hulls of this type that became commercially successful.

Carving is carving on an edge-either
edge, and you are correct, carving was historically applied only to inside edge use. Back then, most kayaks and most canoes really didn’t have a lot in the way of edges. My old '82 Noah kayak looked totally radical then because of its prominent edges and tumblehome sides.

If I had an afternoon to spend on the bank by a strong eddy, I would like to see a lot of those who have learned outside edge carving on lakes try to apply that skill crossing an eddy line.

In his 1992 video, “Whitewater Bound” Tom Foster uses the terms “onside inside circle” and “offside inside circle” to describe a maneuver in which the canoe is paddled in circles of various radius by heeling the boat toward the paddle side (onside heel with forward strokes for the onside inside circle and offside heel with cross-forward strokes for the offside inside circle).

In his 2006 video “Solo Open Whitewater Canoeing” Tom uses the terms “carving onside and offside circles” to describe exactly the same maneuver.

In the Performance Video “Drill Time” produced by Kent Ford (I believe in 2005) Kent, Wayne Dickert, and Bob Foote use the term “carving” to describe the same maneuver both onside and offside, but again with the boat heeled to the paddling side.

I feel that carving applies best to a inside circle maneuver done in a hard-chined boat, but the boats used by Tom Foster (Dagger Encore and Bell Outraged) and by Kent, Wayne, and Bob (Dagger Ovation and Rival) in those videos were not sharp-chined designs, although Karen Knight was briefly seen paddling a Mohawk Viper 12 and Shaun Lund a Dagger Ocoee in the last video mentioned.

So it is clear that leading instructors are not only using the term “carving”, they are using it to describe something other than a turn with an offside heel done away from the paddling side.

That’s why I’m reluctant to call an
outside lean in an upstream gate turn a “carve”, but logic suggests that if a boat has two discernible edges, to use either one to turn toward the paddling side is a sort of carving.

It was only when I bought a Necky sea kayak that I learned about leaning to the outside to carve a smooth curve. Most ww boats won’t do this, but if the edge is used to pile up water against the chine, it helps the boat turn. Hence a carve of sorts.

Thanks for the more modern sources
I don’t have any of this century’s books or videos, and, as I said, terms change with time, location and author.

I’ll be talking in the context of mildly rockered touring hulls in the rest of this post.

If you are going to call turns ‘carves’ for either on-side or off-side heels, so be it. But if you want to apply ‘carve’ to just one of those heels, I think it more accurately should be applied to the off-side heel turn.

Why? Because the verb ‘carve’ to me connotes more of a constant radial force turn than a stern skid turn. And the outside heel turn does that; it relies more on following a natural hull arc and less on stern skidding than does the inside heel turn.

Why? Because of the shape of the waterline of a heeled hull. Tom MacKenzie has traces and diagrams of this. The heeled hull has an arc shape waterline on the heeled side and a straight waterline shape on the raised side. The entire shape is like a watermelon slice.

Thus, when you turn on-side you have to push that entire straight line shape around in the water–and that is mostly done by brute stern skidding. When you turn off-side you can follow the natural arc of the waterline with less stern skidding.

Thus the off-side turn is more efficient and snappier. The natural arc of the off-side heeled waterline “bites in” better, providing more constant radial turning force, even with a soft chined hull.

That’s my terminological rationale. No one has to bite on it.

This may or may not be of interest

– Last Updated: Aug-01-10 4:25 PM EST –


This little outline describes carving (defined as paddling an arcing path) utilizing either forward or cross forward strokes and boat heel. Note that the author does not indicate the direction of boat heel.

He does point out 4 elements any or all of which might be subtly altered simultaneously in order to control the radius of arc. The 4 elements are stroke cadence, stroke position and length, degree of boat heel, and angle on the paddle shaft (ie, how far out from the keel line the stroke is placed and executed).

If the boat is tending to follow too tight an arc and one wishes to increase the circle radius, one can apply more power on the stroke either by increasing the stroke rate, or carrying the stroke a bit further back toward the hip, and/or by placing the stroke a bit further out from the hull which tends to apply a greater vector of turning force than when the paddle is kept close in. One could possibly also relax the degree of boat heel a bit.

If you are about to fall off of the circle to your opposite side and you want to tighten up the arc (decrease the circle radius, you would probably increase the boat heel, but also place the stroke a bit further forward, possibly adding a mild C-component to the forward stroke and keeping the blade very close in to the boat, perhaps even underneath the hull edge.

If you really need to tighten up the circle, you can recover the blade feathered and in-water but slightly open-angled like a very subtle Duffek, to pull the bow a little into the on-side turn.

In reality, you are consciously or unconsciously adjusting all of these elements at the same time, especially when you are trying to straighten out the arc to approximate a straight course.

Regarding off-side leans to initiate a turn to the onside, this link shows a little video clip in which a slalom C-1 boater is paddling forward with the hull flat (not carving) but using subtle intermittent off-side leans to course correct and keep the boat going straight: http://www.slalomtechnique.co.uk/view-c1technique.php?skill=40

Carved Turns
The term carving a turn comes to paddlesport from skiing, where the ski is placed on edge and the deformed shape of the sidecut turns the skier. In paddlesport, we heel the boat to one side or another, inside or outside the intended turn to “carve” a turn.

Most paddlecraft, say 90%, are designed with their stems in the water. It is instructive to block any average hull into a heeling angle in a driveway or parking lot and run a piece of chalk around the hull indexing it at, at both dimension with a 2X4 stub. The resulting banana shapes traced on the ground leave no doubt as to which way the hull will turn most easily.

Art, after T MacKenzie

This tendency is also observable on water. Once achieving neutral forward motion, remove the paddle from the water and heel the hull to one side. Touring and recreational hulls may take a few seconds to respond, but invariably turn away from the heel. [Note that any yaw from straight ahead always induces a yaw couple and a turn towards the yaw.] The banana shape is only one aspect of carved turns, and no turn is a pure carve for long.

Another factor in carving touring hull turns is bow plane deflection. When the hull is level, both bow planes exert equal deflection away from the plane as it is angled to the water at a negative angle of attack. As the deflections counter each other, hulls tend to run straight. [There’s more to course keeping than that, but let’s move on.]

When a touring hull is heeled, the down-side bow plane’s surface area increases and the up-side bow planes surface area in the water decreases. The imbalance in forces deflects the bow towards the up-side bow plane. In combination with the curved shape of an outside heeled hull, the “Carved turn” becomes aggressive. As the bow continues to offset or carve inside the turn a Yaw Couple is initiated. The paddler’s mass, located at the Center of Gravity of a solo boat, continues on course. [Newton was pretty much right about that.] The stern breaks into a skid. This is illustrated on water if the paddler holds the unpowered heel long enough.

Carving turns always end in a skidded turn as the bow moves to one side of the direction of travel, the paddlers mass moves forward in the direction of travel and the stern skids around the Center.

Whitewater and some recreational hulls may carve differently, carving on an exaggerated chine, even a stern chine, and the bow planes are often clear of the water. This is boat situational, but chalk on the driveway will always tell.

Developing the paddle sensitivity to initiate a yaw couple and drive the hull in a circle towards the paddle side or in a straight line without correction is the goal of the Inside Circle Etude.

Yeah, well
I just dragged a boat out to the driveway and was tracing around it with yellow chalk when my wife opened the garage door to back the car out. She took one look at me and went back inside.

Now she is talking to someone on the phone with a very anxious expression on her face.

Should I be concerned?

SNORT! :wink:
Yeah you should be concerned.

But thanks for the carving references. I was trying to remember why I always thought of carving as an inside circle, heeled to the center, when the touring kayakers think of carving as an outside circle, heeled to the outside. Learned it from Foster, reinforced by “Drilltime”. Good enough for me.

Wildfire vs Osprey
The Wildfire tends to a definate but non robust inside carve (bow pin).

The Osprey does not carve on the inside as far as I can tell. It does carve on an outside heel but who wants to paddle over the high side? Not me. In the Osprey I use J’s, pry’s and bowdraws to turn to my onside. Or I switch.

I’ll have to get back to you on the Magic.

Not at All
Divorce is a common thing and tends to open horizons.

Arrest for drawing chalk lines on the driveway very rare, although it kinda depends on what you draw!

Best not to play Chuck Berry CDs until the chalk fades!

The way slalom boats are designed,
it’s more a matter of leaning back a speck and tipping the hips. The stern cuts in immediately. One doesn’t want to overdo it, because submerging the stern farther than necessary to control the turn and preserve speed will actually cost momentum.