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Perfecting turns on the move

Perfecting turns by Paul Bull Coaching

By Paul Bull – UKCC Level 3 Coach at Paul Bull Coaching

Paul Bull coachingIn the last article I described some methods for turning a canoe whilst remaining in a static position. This time I’d like to concentrate on how to complete turns whilst the boat is on the move and hopefully give you some insights that will make it easier for you to achieve a range of different outcomes.

Firstly, lets dispel the myth that it’s all about the paddle. In the context of open canoeing, it’s all about TRIM, TRIM and more TRIM! Sure the paddle will make a difference but the overriding factor is the set up of trim — let me explain further…

The Initiation
In order to complete a turn on the move we need momentum. I like to use the Goon Stroke (or Power Pry) to generate this forward momentum or accelerating the boat from a static position. Once we have achieved a good level of forward momentum, after maybe four or five good strokes, we then need to initiate the turn.

  • If turning to my onside (i.e. towards the paddle side), I initiate the turn using another Power Pry, making sure it’s a really strong pry stroke at the end to kick the back of the canoe around and start the turn.
  • If turning to the offside (i.e. away from the paddle side) I initiate the turn using a stroke that’s somewhere between a power stroke and a sweep stroke, pushing the bow of the canoe away from the paddle.

Trimming for different shaped turns
Trimming the boat differently changes the shape of the boat in the water. When we trim towards the back of the boat we deepen the skeg of the stern in the water and the boat wants to go straighter. If we trim forwards, we release that skeg and the bow bites into the water and the boat pivots around more quickly.

Perfecting turns by Paul Bull Coaching

Once we have initiated our turn we can then micro-trim the boat to achieve different outcomes, or shapes of turns. If we want to achieve a wide turn, we can trim ourselves towards the stern of the boat, accentuating the skeg effect. If we want a tighter turn we can trim ourselves towards the bow.

Perfecting turns by Paul Bull Coaching

Tightening a turn by applying the paddle blade
Once we have initiated and trimmed according to the type of turn we desire to achieve, we can then tighten up a turn using a bow rudder for example. Note though, that a bow rudder will not make a wide turn into a tight turn, it will only make a wide (or tight turn) tighter.

Perfecting turns by Paul Bull Coaching

It’s all in the planning
To put this into context, when we are journeying down a river and come to a set of rapids, it’s worth bearing in mind where our eddies are, how wide the eddies are and therefore what sort of turn I might need to complete to achieve my eddy turn. If I see a big, wide eddy then I can set my trim before I leave my current eddy, ready for the wide gliding turn I need at the bottom of the rapid.

Perfecting turns by Paul Bull Coaching

If on the other hand the eddy is quite narrow, I’ll need to set up my trim forward to achieve a tight turn. 20kgs of well trained Border Collie who will move forwards and back on command would be a great addition to anyone’s paddling kit. Alternatively consider one big kit bag to put all your kit for the day into which you can move around the boat to change your trim!

Perfecting turns by Paul Bull Coaching

Playing with edge
Why not go and explore how the degrees of edge (or heel) impact your turns…? Happy paddling and I hope to see you on the water soon!

Paul BullPaul Bull Paul is an enthusiastic full time UKCC Level 3 Coach who’s passionate about helping people to develop and enjoy kayaking and canoeing whether that’s more advanced skills on the more technical or bigger volume rivers of the UK and Europe or grass root sessions nearer to home. Paul delivers a range of BCU and personal skills courses in both canoe and kayak. More information about Paul and the courses he offers can be found at or via Facebook at

About thepaddlerezine (654 Articles)
Editor of The Paddler magazine and Publisher of Stand Up Paddle Mag UK.

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