A fish hits and runs for the deadfall, dock pilings or mangrove roots. I frantically throw the kayak in reverse with my arms and legs waving, water flying and curses streaming. It’s easy to go forward, but backing up counts when the game is on the line. Turn the tables on fish by practicing these moves on how to go backwards by paddle, pedal or SUP.

How to Paddle Backwards in a Kayak

As an Ocean Kayak pro who has completed a half dozen long-distance fishing tours, Kayak Kevin Whitley has probably paddled more miles in reverse than most of us paddle forward. “Whether I’m pulling a big redfish out of bridge pilings or backing into the launch, quickly going into a controlled reverse is one of the advantages of paddling over pedals and motors,” Whitley says. Here are his tips for paddling backwards.

man paddles backwards in a fishing kayak
Paddle (backwards) forever. | Photo: Roberto Westbrook

5 Easy Steps to Paddle Backwards

  1. Spin the paddle so the logo on the blade is facing forward.
  2. Grip the paddle as close as possible to the blade.
  3. When paddling with one hand, use your body as the second fulcrum.
  1. Practice paddling in reverse so you’re ready when it counts.
  2. Don’t go too fast. Speed will cause the boat to turn.

How to Pedal Backwards in a Kayak

Few anglers spend more time in a kayak than Morgan Promnitz. As Hobie’s director of product development, Promnitz not only drives the new MirageDrive 180, he helped to design it. “One of the advantages is the fins don’t lose power in reverse,” he says.

angler puts feet in pedals on a fishing kayak
Use pedal power to back that boat up. | Photo: Roberto Westbrook

4 Easy Steps to Pedal Backwards

  1. If you anticipate needing reverse, start with the fins in 180-degree position.
  2. To turn the boat, angle the rudder slowly. Kick the pedals, then pause while the boat swings around.
  1. Pedal at a steady pace, too fast could turn or pin the rudder.
  2. Unlike fins, a propeller spinning in reverse inherently turns the boat. Compensate by angling the rudder and pausing after each turn of the pedals.


How to Go Backwards on a Paddleboard

BOTE paddleboard pro, Stephen Ferrell chases trout and reds in the backwaters of Florida. “I have to get the fish away from dock pilings, wood and mangroves,” he says. Reversing the paddleboard quickly can mean the difference between catch or long-line release.

man stands and paddles backwards on a SUP
One stroke forward, two strokes back. | Photo: Roberto Westbrook

5 Easy Steps to SUP Backwards

  1. Push off structure or the bottom with the paddle blade.
  2. Moving towards the nose brings the tail out of the water making it easier to turn the board.
  3. Rotate your torso to spin the board.
  4. Don’t dip the paddle past the blade, submerging the shaft doesn’t add power to the stroke.
  5. To cover longer distances in reverse, turn around and face the tail.

This article was first published in the Fall 2018 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Don’t forget to check over your shoulder when you paddle or pedal backwards. | Feature photo: Jeffrey Fortuna




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