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The stroke I'm going to present now has been one of the most complicated maneuver to teach and to learn. The aim of this post is to put order and, why not, physics, to understand what I call the draw rudder. I use basically only this stroke to change direction because is the most efficient way not to loose speed and to avoid the drifting effect.

For most kayakers this theory could sound quite different to what they learned in the kayak courses. I built up this theory to give a good explanation of what I really do in the river. I also tested this scheme to teach the "draw rudder" and seem to work with lots of people (class III paddlers).

The draw rudder technique

In order to understand the draw rudder you have obviously to master the static rudder.

The starting point is the central rudder, with the paddle vertical close to your body and the blade facing the kayak. The torso is rotated as much as possible toward the inside of the curve and the low arm is perpendicular with both paddle and kayak (see the figure). When I use the rudder I feel I have to hold the shaft in the direction of the arrow (centrifugal force). The static central rudder controls curves allowing the boat turning a bit and prevents the side drifting. This rudder is a good and effortless stroke when you need a curve with large radius of curvature (4-8 m).

However most of the time in the river I need to change direction quickly but without loss of speed and side drifting. This is exactly the aim of the draw rudder. While I'm doing a central rudder I rotate the kayak simply turning back my torso and moving the legs towards the direction where I want to go. The point of force application is the same I feel when I do the central rudder (indicated by the arrow).
Thus the paddle doesn't have to go towards the bow but it has to stay close to your body. The blade has also to keep sliding into the water like in the rudder. This point makes a big difference because, if the blade is sliding forward, the boat speed is maintained. The blade has to works as a wing.
This stroke can easily change the direction up to 90 degrees. It's important to note that for smaller angles the initial torso rotation has to be the same in order to put the paddle in the right place. In this case I just stop the rotation earlier with the shoulder not yet in line with the boat.

A common mistake is to have the blade facing forward. This will definitely turn the boat but you'll loose all the speed. If you do this stroke correctly you should even don't need a forward stroke after the turn because all the speed is maintained and the effect of the over-rotation after the curve tend to be null.

In order to make an efficient draw rudder you need to be able to also turn properly your torso (remember that the rotation comes from the back-rotation). This means that your body is completely rotated with your shoulder at almost 90 degree with the kayak. Looking to the inside of the curve could help to rotate the shoulder.

I'm looking for a better way to define this stroke, so any comment is more than welcome.


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Comment by Michele Ramazza on September 12, 2010 at 10:36am
I've got your point,

I think you have a really good idea of what you can do with your blade.
This stroke is nothing really different from your idea.
I just tried to explain that the hanging draw can be done with the paddle sliding into the water like in a central rudder. I think the hanging draw start with the blade facing forward with the blade hanging the water. This stroke infact turn efficienlty the boat but doesn't act as fin in the water.

The bow rudder has the same problem of the hanging draw, it doesn't work as a fin in the middle.
Without a central fin the boat slide sidewise and obliviolsy it loose speed.

For example I never need a forward internal stroke after a "draw rudder" because the boat is already fast as before.
Probably you think the same.
thanks for your reply.
Comment by Malcolm Vincent on September 12, 2010 at 5:54am
Very interesting topic.

Not sure I understand completely why the bow draw makes you slow down. The bow rudder, yes. I would have said that the bow draw not only control the radius of the turn effectively, without losing speed when feathered correctly, but it also puts your paddle in position for the next stroke.

Frequently when beginning with either a hanging draw or a stern rudder at the seat, feathering the blade up to the front and finishing with a bow draw into the next stroke makes things flow very smoothly?

When you learn to turn you start with sweep & low brace. This would be your primary turning stroke.

At some point you learn to add a secondary turning stroke after the sweep, usually the bow rudder (45-90 deg out). This introduces you to the idea of using the legs when turning. Then you stop using it except when dropping over something to break out at the top of an eddy.

You stop using the low brace turn because it doesn't give you control. All you can do is carve a turn using your initial forward momentum from your speed and spin momentum from the sweep, controlling it with your edge.

You stop using the bow rudder because it stops the kayak dead, except where you want to do this.

When you learn to use compound strokes you add more useful secondary turning strokes to the sweep, i.e. ruddering and feathering on the inside of the turn. This usually involves the paddle entry on the inside of the turn as either what I would call a stern rudder (paddle horizontal, rotate shoulders, drop rear hand into water => paddle at say 45 degrees, rear arm bent at elbow to absorb shocks) or a hanging draw (rotate shoulders, paddle vertical in water, control angle and feather).

Most of the time, even if starting with a rudder, I would feather the blade through a hanging draw, up to the front of the kayak, ending with a bow draw which puts the blade in a perfect position to take the next stroke.

I suppose my question is how is this stroke different from the common names we use for these things? It sounds very like a stern-rudder up close to the seat feathered into a hanging draw.
Comment by Michele Ramazza on September 11, 2010 at 3:15am
I understand there are a lot of things you can do with the blade acting as a rudder. What I'm trying to say here is that this specific movement is very powerful for creek boats. This stroke and the stern rudder are basically the most efficients movement to change direction in the river. For example I believe the bow draw is really inefficient in changing direction because it slow down too much.
Comment by Malcolm Vincent on September 10, 2010 at 9:02am
I wouldn't call it a draw rudder, but IMHO the difference between beginner and intermediate paddlers is that control of the blade in the water which allows the paddle to act as a keel and a rudder, feathering along the length of the kayak. There are lots of things you can do with it from the bow draw, the hanging draw, the ferry glide with the stern draw ... even adding open canoe strokes.
Comment by Greg Loftus on September 5, 2010 at 1:46pm
sounds very interesting and thisn is the first time i have heard of this method. I will have to try it now and see where I end up.

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