Lean In! Keeping your boat on the correct edge throughout whitewater maneuvers is one of the most important skills you can learn as a kayaker. For many novice and intermediate kayakers, it is often the most difficult skill to learn as well.
Always tilting your boat “downstream” (or “showing the bottom of your boat to the current”) is common advice among whitewater paddlers but it can get confusing when you think about setting up properly for an eddy turn. Of course, in the eddy the water is flowing upstream, so it makes sense to be leaning up river there. However, if you set up properly ahead of time, you will often find yourself leaning upstream in the main current. This is exactly what they told you not to do! And it’s not wrong. Confused? You’re not alone.
Instead of thinking about edging your boat upstream or downstream you might try thinking about leaning into your turns (with the ferry being simply an extended version of a peel-out from the same spot). During a recent discussion with a student I advised, “Just lean into everything! Lean into your turns. Lean towards where you want to be. If you are about to crash into a rock or other obstacle, lean into that too. Don’t be afraid of it. Lean forward, lean in, and paddle hard.” A non-kayaking onlooker to my explanation commented, “Wow. Kayaking is kind of like life.” I agree.
Still confused? Keep at it, and know that it can also be just fine (and fun) to stop being so on edge and simply go with the flow of the river.
Photo by: Rich Reynolds Paddler: Caroline Hackett