Bow Rudder Picture Book
The bow rudder is that mystical move that takes what we were doing before with the stern rudder/draw and brings it up to the front of the kayak. Why would want to do that? Well, it makes you look pretty cool and that’s important of course. Maybe more useful is that you may find a bow rudder is also the best way to make a fast, sharp turn in your kayak while on the move. In addition a bow rudder is often the solution to turning kayak into the wind on those days a stern rudder results in your kayak simply going straight. There’s more too.. but that’s for another day… Oh, and have a look at that grip in the picture above because it will not appear in the rest of the pictures..
This is what a bow rudder looks like from the side. Yep, the bow rudder only works when you are moving but for the sake of demonstration I’m sitting still. The point of today’s post is really to re-enforce some touch points for my students who’ve already taken a class.. What I’m not trying to do is create an insanely officious “how to” guide. To learn this or any other skill properly I’d suggest finding a class, instructor, or someone who has this thing down and is willing to share…
So from this picture the things I’d like you to note would be how the blade goes in the water on the side of the boat where you want to turn. To turn left (for this example) the blade goes in on the left side of the kayak. I lean forward and place the blade as forward (toward the bow or nose) as possible. Leaning forward also takes some weight off the tail of the kayak which allows the kayak to turn more freely as well. The right arm comes across my forehead. Some folks do a bow rudder by putting that right arm across the chest, or placing their inside fist on their shoulder. That’s fine too. Variety is the spice of life! You may notice however, that placing the arm across the forehead will help you get the blade just a bit more forward than you could otherwise. Important: I do NOT change my hand position on the paddle itself. I simply bring that right arm around like I’m blocking the sun from my eyes. The paddle goes along for the ride, but does not change position in my hands.
From the front you can see that how that arm goes across my head again. This picture demonstrates what it looks like when the kayak is in motion and turning. To get this show started I would paddle along with a bit of momentum and decide to turn (left) using a bow rudder. To begin the turn I edge the kayak, (out or away from the direction I want to turn, remember) then do a forward sweep on the right side which starts the kayak turning left in this case. Then I set up in the position in the picture (above). The blade goes in the water in line with the kayak (neutral) then opens, causing the kayak to turn. You’ll find that with speed, the blade in the water actually supports you as you make the turn.
Let’s take a look at blade position in the water… shall we!?
The photograph might make this look a bit odd at first but the blade is in a neutral position. Meaning that if I were to paddle along and drop the blade in the water like this, the kayak would continue straight turning neither left of right. (Well, it would if I weren’t edging so much…) Practicing placing your blade in the water at a neutral position is a good thing.. If the blade is not neutral when it goes into moving water you’ll know it.
Once the blade goes into the water in a neutral position you can begin the turn by opening up the blade. Basically turning the blade away from the kayak toward the place you want to go. A slight turn in a fast kayak will go along way. As the kayak’s momentum slows down you will open the blade progressively more and more. You may also find that as the boat slows, sliding the whole paddle back a bit more toward center will keep the turn going.
Just for fun: Once the kayak really begins to slow down, and with a little practice, you can slide the paddle to the rear of the kayak at initiate a stern rudder and add a bit of kick to the end of your turn.
The blade always goes in at “neutral” as I said, but must you turn the blade away from the kayak? What about this? Well, you can turn the blade toward the hull and turn the kayak the opposite way too but it’s pretty tricky. You may even want to change the edge as well.. HOWEVER …..
If you are un-prepared the move may result in something that looks like this… Good thing you already know how to roll. Right?
So here I am at the end of a bow rudder turn. I’m bringing the kayak around toward the camera. By now the kayak has slowed enough that I’m opening up the blade quite a way to force a tight turn. Opening the blade so far creates a lot of turbulence ( the splashy bit) which while forcing the tighter turn also has the effect of continuing to slow the kayak.
Look at how the water is kicking up off the bow as the inflexible kayak tries to make the tight turn I’m asking it to accomplish. The shot you don’t see is as the turn continues and Mary jumps out of the way just avoiding getting tagged.
I was going to talk about that grip too wasn’t I!? Well, as you may know you use the hand near the “working blade” to turn the paddle. Your upper hand takes the supporting role. Most of the time when you paddle it’s a good idea to keep a loose, free grip on the shaft. In time you find “grip” is a great gauge of stress. The more stressed you are, the tighter you tend to grip the paddle shaft. The bow rudder at times will require a good grip on the paddle, much more than I use here. However if you are at ease in your kayak and comfortable with this or many other moves you may find yourself using a much lighter touch.
And for 10 extra points… Who the heck was Milo Duffek? And how does he relate to this subject?