Forward Sweep

One of the Best Ways to Turn a Sea Kayak - The Forward Sweep with Edging

By Alex Matthews 

One of the best ways to turn a sea kayak is to use a forward sweep stroke combined with some boat tilt. While the forward sweep can be used when stationary, or when moving, the wonderful thing about using it while moving is that it lets you turn your boat effectively while keeping your forward speed going.

Just like so many other strokes, the power for sweeps comes from torso rotation, not independent arm movement. The forward sweep is initiated with your body wound up and your blade planted in the water at your toes. Your hands stay relatively low as your torso unwinds and drives the blade in an arcing path as far out to the side of your kayak as is comfortable. The blade continues on this sweeping path until it’s about 6 inches from the stern of your kayak. Make sure to slice your blade out of the water before it touches the stern though or your paddle will get pinned against the kayak making you very unstable.

To get the maximum turning potential out of a forward sweep add some ‘edging’ or boat tilt. To balance your kayak on edge while sweeping, tilt your boat in the direction of the stroke, while keeping your head over the kayak. If you want to turn to the left for instance, think in terms of weighting your right butt cheek and lifting your left knee while sweeping with the paddle on the right.

To help maintain your balance with the boat on edge, use a climbing angle on the sweeping blade to create lift and support. This means that the blade will be held on about a 45-degree angle as its power face is swept from the bow to the stern, effectively making it a combination sweep / high brace.

The recovery for the stroke is done in a low brace position. As you rewind your torso to repeat the stroke, (or to return to a neutral position) the back of the paddle blade sweeps above the water in a low brace position, ready in case you lose your balance and need a little extra support. As always, when skimming your blade across the water during the recovery phase, use a climbing angle on the leading edge of your blade to create lift, and to prevent the paddle from diving.

Once you’ve made your desired turn, smoothly level out the boat and plant your next forward stroke.


Forward Sweep 1
Step 1

Forward Sweep 2
Step 2

Forward Sweep 3
Step 3

Forward Sweep 4
Step 4

Forward Sweep 5
Step 5

Photos ©2006 Rochelle Relyea




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