Reverse Sweeping in Whitewater Kayaking

There are times on the river when you want to stop traveling in one direction and head toward a new destination. Sometimes this happens because your boat has gotten knocked off line. Other times it is part of your plan. For example, if there are two obstacles that you need to go between, a solid plan is to angle your boat and paddle to one side of the first object, then immediately change direction so as not to paddle into the second.



There are many strokes one can use to effect this change in direction. One of these is the last half of the reverse sweep. The advantages of this stroke are that it completely stops your momentum in the wrong direction, quickly changes your angle in just one stroke, and very important, keeps your posture in an aggressive forward position. This is the posture that maintains your balance, keeping you upright and in control. The reverse sweep is always followed by a forward stroke on the same side, to establish momentum in the new direction.


Practice this technique in flatwater first, so that your muscles can more quickly learn the reverse sweep properly. Slice your paddle blade completely into the water out from your knee. Your blade is most effective at turning the boat if it is vertical in the water. There is no need to reach far away. It is better to keep the paddle evenly distributed on both sides of the boat and maintain good balance than to overweight that side of the boat. On the river, the current will dictate how much you need to tilt your boat. Using your abdominal and core muscles, engage your legs to drive the bow of your boat toward the back side of the blade. While this is anatomically impossible, the image it offers is very effective in getting you to complete the stroke. As with most strokes, it is the final effort that creates results.


At the end of the sweep you will find yourself leaning slightly forward over your deck, completely balanced. In places on the river where you need greater stability, you can lean farther forward.

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