2.4 Rails

Each kayak differs on its position of optimal turning. That is for you to find.

The rails are the edges sharp or otherwise found on the underside of the kayak/canoe. Flat hulled kayaks may have them within reach under the water. Some older kayak models i.e Rotobats were so rotund the kayak had to be almost tipped over to utilise an edge.

Using the boat rail allows you to turn while moving without using any strokes and using the forward momentum of the boat. The steeper the angle of the kayak [lean] the tighter the turn.

This can allow you to turn tightly into a narrow eddy or to move across the river say through a boulder garden with speed and grace.

The faster you move the hull the steeper you can lean. The extreme if this is to dip elbows in water, when maybe coming into the beach big eddy, how much speed do you need to do this? At the other end is the slight hull lean when say ferry gliding or slightly altering course when paddling down stream and the course correction needs less than a paddle strokes input.

The knees are critical in the lean, see previous post in this series -> https://telfordcanoeclub.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/2-1-there-are-many-patellas-but-this-one-is-mine/

2.2 The eyes have it! [sic]

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well they do in unison with the knees [see post 2.1]

After practising with switching from one rail  [left or right side of kayaks hull] to another in an eddy the easiest way of getting onto the rail without thinking about the knees is to look and lift the opposite knee to the direction you are looking.

Drive the boat by looking where you wish to go,this will switch your bodyweight onto correct side. On a ferry glides look at the other other bank a little upstream, to break into current and go downstream look that way.


2.1 There are many patellas but this one is mine!

Sebastien Barre - http://barre.me/

The patella commonly known as the knee cap, it is integral to good kayak control. By lifting one knee more than the other it will change the hull position in the water from one side to the other.

If you do not have good contact with the knees with pressure into the boat shell its like trying to ride a bike and steer without hands on the handlebars.

Without applying pressure with the knee into the boat shell the craft will remain flat and the rails on the kayak cannot be used effectively for tight carving turns. You often see beginners trying to return craft immediately to a flat state after being on one rail or the other, this hurried movement often by letting go of the knee and the boat dropping is less controlled than lowering using reduced pressure with the knee and may result in boat instability.

Make friends with your knees, they set the boat up to be propelled by water or paddle. – CJL

2.0 Building the paddler.

Red Herring

Now we have the rolling out of the way,  it being the red herring of the paddling world. Plenty of people have paddled hard or technical rivers/water without an ability to roll. To paddle higher technical grade successfully is down to confidence and paddling ability.

The rest of the series 2 of posts will discuss the skills needed to navigate rivers with grace. – CJL