Which way is "into the current"???

I heard an instructor refer often to leaning “into the current”, and I still am not sure of which way “into the current” is. Can you explain?

My thinking is that “into the currrent” can be either upstream or downstream, and I wonder why “into the current” is used. Thank you.

Leaning into the current
The terms by themselves are not entirely clear.

When breaking out from an eddy one typically leans down-current (top of body towards where the water is going) so that the on-comming water hits the hull rather than the deck. The same thing happens when approaching an obstruction that could pin you. In this case you lean down-current so that the water does not build up on the deck (pinning you in place)

Leaning “into the current” sounds like leaning “up-current” which is ill advised in most situations. At any rate, get on some moving water and the results of leaning the wrong way will be readily apparent.


The phrase is ambiguous
But the principles are fairly clear. If you are leaving an eddy pointed upstream then the edge (side) of your boat that is upstream should be raised. That is an instance of moving downstream slower than the current is. If you lower the upstream edge you could be inspecting the bottom of the river. However, when you are moving downstream and travelling faster than the current (such as when you are paddling hard to catch an eddy) you can and should raise the downstream edge. You will then carve nicely into the eddy and not get flipped by the reverse flow.

I thought I had all this down. I’ve actually been in the middle of practicing some surf landings and returns recently. In preparation for this I have watched two surf videos concentrating on surf put ins and landings. I have also review information here on the guidelines section and on the expert kayaker website.

When being overtaken by a wave broadside everything I have read and have been practicing says that you lean into the wave, or edge into the wave and apply a low or high brace into the face, (or over the top if you can), of the incomming wave. This works for me and agrees with the instructional text and videos that I’ve seen.

Happy Paddling,


Holy Einstein… (frames of reference)
Both sides are right. It all depens on your frame of reference. In surf, the waves are moving while the water stands still. On a river, the water is moving while the waves stand still. Leaning into a wave in surf is the same as leaning downstream on a river. In both cases, the point is to make sure that the leading edge of your boat doesn’t get grabbed by water passing beneath it.

Yup, yup, yup. :slight_smile:

leaning into the wave …
yes, you DO lean INTO the wave. if you look at the dynamics of a wave, you’ll see that the surface of the water below the curl is actually moving TOWARD the wave, but the power of the wave curling at the top is moving TOWARD the shore. thus you lean INTO the power since leaning toward the shore is leaning in the same direction as that power and over you’ll go.

moon the current :wink:
like everyone has said, generally speaking, you shine your bum to the on-coming current or ‘moon’ the river.

I had one instructor candidate once say it’s a bit like sneaking a fart out the upstream side of your butt. just lift a cheek.

now all bets are off if you want to learn to squirt. stern squirts or pivot turns are systematically leaning upstream just enough to bury your leading edge, but not enough to flip. This sinks the stern and ‘pivots’ the boat round.

Jimmy Snyder once told us, in 1985, “Just remember to LEAN upstream”. This was at the first ever West Coast squirt boat clinic.

This can also work with a sea boat or canoe to speed up the turn. The stern doesn’t bury but the turning radius is shortened. A 'inside edge’spin instead of an ‘ouside edge’ carve.


I couldn’t resist!


You would need to ask the instructor
what he meant by “into the current.”

If I’m paddling into the current, I’m going upstream. If I’m paddling with the current, I’m going downstream. I don’t lean into current, I lean upstream or downstream.

“Into” the current or wave

– Last Updated: Feb-18-06 10:55 AM EST –

Myabe it's just me - but I find that "into the wave" just doesn't work well for me. And as above, once you are sitting in the boat in the water it all becomes very clear anyway. You will automatically find yourself opposing an eddy by lifting the (OOPS) downstream side in current, and on a wave face you will automatically find yourself lifting the edge towards the shore. Because if you don't you will automatically find yourself going over.

I may be a little too literal, but I have always found that talking about directions in terms of upstream, downstream and shoreward works better than the into the current description. The latter requires too much thought for me about water dynamics when I am in it.

(And we'll see if this post stays around - I made sure to click on the main Reply this time...)

Partly backwards
You said:

“You will automatically find yourself opposing an eddy by lifting the upstream side in current”

Eddy current flows upstream. If you are in an eddy you want to lift the edge that is technically downstream. Downstream and upstream are defined by the main flow of the river not the direction of flow in the eddy.

moon the shore
when surfing shorebreak one can ‘moon the shore’

this will allow the onshore knee/thigh/edge to come up and be secure when bongosliding (helpless sidesurf) to shore.


Ach! Talked backwards
Like I said in my two posts that have been deleted in this thread, I have incredible problems talking about this on dry land. But I’ve never edged the wrong way once in the eddy.

I fixed my post. Thanks for the catch. I’ll move on to my regular day here of getting names beginning with “B” backwards…

Ocean Waves On Automatic ?

– Last Updated: Feb-18-06 11:06 AM EST –

I don't think people automatically deal with waves hitting them from side correctly without a little experience and instruction. Most beginners you see who have a wave pushing at them from the side, let the wave lift the wrong edge of the boat, they lean away from the scary wave and over they go. The bigger the wave the more likely they will edge the boat wrong.

Exceptions to leaning into the wave....

Once you get past the survival skill of lifting the edge of the boat that is side surfing to the beach and leaning into the wave and bracing, you can go to a higher level. You can search for the edge position where the boat skims along flying in front of the wave (litterly just on the edge of disaster) and then you can use your paddle to rudder back into a forward or backward surfing direction spinning flat.

When paddling out and small to medium foam piles are hitting you, if you paddle about 45 degrees to the wave and edge so you lift the side of the boat with the wave coming towards you (or mooning the wave) if you set the angle right you can skim the boat up over the wave and simulataneously sweep on the opposite side to lift your boat up, and turn it while it pops over the foam pile. This works pretty well especially in whitewater play boats that have bows that tend to plow into the foam piles. Don't bother trying this in a Sit-On-Top, the wave will probably knock you over.

I did that…
when we hit real breaking surf, I got knocked over a few times before I found the grit to argue back, but that was in the foam pile which threw me at first because close up at boat height it was surprisingly disruptive visually. But I can’t say that it was because I lifted the wrong leg, it was because I failed to do anything at all. The foam pile took care of the rest.

Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t had as much trouble reacting correctly on open water with cresting waves. I’ve tended to find that the boat will hit its secondary stability point and, if you do nothing else, that moment will remind you that it is time to do something. But I’ve also had boats with real distinct secondary - the Explorer LV and before that a CD Squall.

The problem I had when I dumped as I actually caught a wave in RI this last fall was again really a failure to react. I ended up having rising water coming at me from the right, not sure how much of it was the boat turning broadside or a second surface to the wave, and instead of countering I let it grab my edge and throw me. The stuff was just big enough that I wanted some time to think about what I was doing, and of course that’s not a a practical in surf. (Especially in a Vela.)

It’s OK