The low brace lean turn is the most basic and fundamental of moving turns. And it’s a skill that will come in handy in all types of water conditions.
The low brace lean turn combines the motions of a reverse sweep with the support of a low brace to make a smooth and effective turn. It should be noted that while this stroke does generate a tight turning radius, it will seriously slow your forward speed, often stopping you altogether.
The low brace lean turn starts with forward speed and is initiated with a forward sweep stroke on the opposite side to the lean turn itself. This means that if you want to turn to the right, you’ll initiate the move with a forward sweep stroke on the left. With the turn initiated, you’ll then rotate your upper body as if to take a reverse sweep on your right, and tilt your boat into this same direction.
Unlike the reverse sweep that is used when the kayak is sitting flat on the water, the primary focus of your paddle is now to provide bracing support, while its secondary purpose is to provide turning power. This means that your blade will be almost flat to the water surface, although it will need a slight amount of climbing angle so that it stays on the surface without diving, and can be used to help turn your boat. Climbing angle refers to the leading edge of your paddle blade being higher than the trailing edge. It’s the same as spreading jam on toast: picture the knife blade’s angle as it glides over the bread’s surface, leading edge higher than the trailing edge.
As your boat begins to turn, hang on your low brace and slowly sweep your bracing ‘reverse sweep’ forward while keeping your boat on edge. As your boat reaches the end of its turn, your blade should have swept forward to a point directly out to the side from your hip.
As a final note, it’s important to realize that as your kayak slows down, the amount of support you’ll get from your brace drops considerably. This means that you’ll need to flatten out the tilt on your kayak towards the end of the turn, before you’ve scrubbed all your forward speed, and support is lost.