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Recreational kayaking: How do I turn?

Kayak turn
File photo credit: pinkandgeek.wordpress.com

MASTER YOUR KAYAKING TECHNIQUE (2): TURNING

by Hevina Kaur

One of the first essential skills you'll learn in kayaking is the ability to turn. Constantly going straight would be a lot easier but it also means that you have no way of coming back!

Now when I first picked up Kayaking, I was under the misconception that in order to turn my kayak, I simply had to paddle harder on the side opposite from the one I would turn to. Unfortunately, as I had to learn the hard way, it isn’t that simple.

There are several different ways you can turn once you’ve mastered the proper technique of paddling and going straight in the kayak.

The first involves using the kayak as an anchor of sorts. Basically what you have to do is stick the paddle into the water and the paddle serves as a fulcrum around which the kayak will turn. Here are 4 easy steps to do this.

  1. Stick the paddle in the water, gripping it tightly.
  1. The sharper the angle of the paddle from the cockpit the wider your turning angle and the more the kayak will turn.
  1. Remember the kayak will turn the same side as you stick the paddle so if you wish to go right, stick the paddle on the right side of the kayak.
  1. One downside to this stroke is that it slows down the kayak considerably so once you’ve turned, work on picking up speed and moving forward again.

The second turning technique is much simpler. It’s called the Forward Sweep Stroke and as its name would suggest it involves the forward stroke tweaked a little bit. All you have to do is the regular forward stroke but instead of simply pulling the paddle back straight, move it in more of a semi-circle path along the boat, ending further back toward the stern of the boat. You can also see a video of this demonstrating the forward sweep stroke here.


So there you have it, you should now understand how to turn in a kayak! In order to become a master of the kayak, you need to practice in person. So go grab a couple friends and put your newfound knowledge to the test!

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