Forward Sweep Kayak Technique

This kayak technique article on how to sweep turn while edging was originally published in Adventure Kayak magazine.

We sea kayakers earn every mile we travel, so we need all the paddling efficiency we can get. For turning, a forward sweep, which generates forward momentum as well as turning power, is more efficient than a stroke that has a braking effect on your kayak’s forward speed.

The power for sweep strokes comes from torso rotation, not independent arm movement. Initiate the forward sweep with your body wound up and your blade planted in the water at your toes. Keep your hands relatively low as your torso unwinds, pulling your paddle blade in an arcing path as far out to the side of your kayak as is comfortable, and ending within six inches of the stern of your kayak. Slice your blade out of the water before it touches the stern or it will get pinned against the kayak.

While the first third of the stroke is most effective for turning, concentrate on full, long sweeps, especially when practicing, to encourage torso rotation. Follow your sweeping blade with your eyes to make sure that you are actively twisting from the waist. As your skills evolve, you will naturally start to lead your turns with your head—looking where you are going, rather than watching your blade—but be sure to continue to use full and powerful torso rotation and not just arm movement.

For even greater turning potential, introduce some edging. Tilt your boat toward the side of the stroke (in the opposite direction that you’ll be turning), while keeping your head over the kayak. If you want to turn to the left, for example, think about weighting your right butt cheek and lifting your left knee while sweeping with the paddle on the right.

To balance with the boat on edge, use a climbing angle on your sweeping blade to create lift and support. This means that you hold the blade on about a 45-degree angle (power face downward) while sweeping it from the bow to the stern, effectively making it a combination sweep and high brace. Then recover the blade in a low-brace position, skimming the back of the paddle blade flat above the water, ready to supply support should you need it.


This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak, Summer/Fall 2009. Download our freeiPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.


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