The first thing you learn when paddling a kayak is extra strokes on the left turn the boat right, and extra strokes on the right make it turn left. For a sharper turn, drag the paddle blade on the side you want to turn. That’s it, right? Wrong. Read on for three techniques to enhance your paddling prowess and let you turn on a dime.


How to Turn Your Kayak Like a Pro

Always practice these new techniques under controlled conditions in calm, shallow water.

1 Stern Rudder

The stern rudder may seem simple, but properly performing this move will make your turn more efficient without sacrificing forward momentum.

man in kayak demonstrates the stern rudder turning technique
The stern rudder technique makes your turn more efficient without sacrificing forward momentum. | Feature photo: Jeff Herman

Start by rotating your upper body until both hands are on the same side of the kayak. Then, slice the rear blade into the water parallel to the kayak behind your hip. Untwist your upper body to push out slightly with the backside of the rear blade.


2 Bow Rudder

To make a slight adjustment in direction while underway or to turn in a confined space, use a bow rudder.

man in kayak demonstrates the bow rudder turning technique
The bow rudder technique lets you make slight adjustments or turn in confined spaces. | Photo: Jeff Herman

Start by slicing the blade into the water at your foot with the power face towards the kayak. Your paddle shaft will be close to vertical with one arm crossing your face at about eye level. Slowly roll your lower wrist back to twist the blade open and catch the water. Brace the paddle by your foot to hold its position while the kayak is turning.


3 Edging

Tilting the kayak, or “edging,” is a powerful steering tool. Combine edging with the forward stroke or forward sweep to turn without losing speed.

man in kayak demonstrates the edging turning technique
Edging the kayak will help you turn with authority. | Photo: Jeff Herman

To tilt the kayak, start by shifting your weight away from the direction you want to turn. Keep your head and shoulders centered while transferring more weight to one of your butt cheeks and pressing down on the same-side foot pedal while lifting the opposite thigh.

The stern rudder technique makes your turn more efficient without sacrificing forward momentum. | Feature photo: Jeff Herman

 

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