If you learned your sweep while paddling a longer boat, you probably learned to sweep from your toes, to the very back of the boat, rotating your torso while watching the blade travel through the water. This stroke might have been helpful for turning long kayaks, but newer boats are designed specifically for turning. In fact, they can turn so quickly that one of the biggest challenges is staying ahead of your kayak’s progression to maintain control. Here’s another sweep stroke to use instead.
Start At The Toes
Still start at the toes. As you reach to the bow, focus on rotating your body and head in the direction you plan on spinning. When you plant your paddle and start sweeping in a wide arc, use your stomach muscles to pull your bow away from your sweeping blade. Your head should lead the way, looking to where you want to go. By looking ahead, you’ll actually prevent your sweep from reaching the back of the boat, and you’ll make it more difficult for your torso to unwind. This is a good thing! It allows you to stay ahead of your kayak’s progression, which is crucial for maintaining the control necessary for advanced moves.
Use Boat Tilt
Using the right boat tilts will also affect the success of your sweep. When you sweep with your boat flat to the water, you encounter a lot of resistance. By slicing your stern underwater, your bow will lift into the air, and you can spin more efficiently. But if you’re not using the right boat tilt, slicing your stern underwater can actually hurt your sweep stroke.
Here’s how that works. As you take your sweep, slice your stern underwater by throwing your weight back and tilting your kayak into the stroke. The key is understanding that you can only slice your stern underwater if you are actively pulling with your paddle. This means that when your stroke finishes, your kayak can no longer be tilted on edge. It must be leveled off.
Level The Tilt
Leveling your tilt will let the spin momentum you’ve built up continue to take you around. If you don’t level off you’ll ‘hit the wall,’ meaning your stern will pop back to the surface and you’ll kill your spin momentum. Understanding and applying this will make your sweep stroke more effective and open the doors to advanced play moves.
Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.