Update from Team SK paddler Joe Crespi
The Stern Rudder, Pry & Draw
Learn these basic steering techniques to keep your Jacksonville kayak tour on course
As you devote more and more practice to Florida kayaking, all those braces, Eskimo rolls, forward strokes and sweeps will start to feel second nature. Before long, you’ll be enjoying a Jacksonville river tour without thinking about each technique you’re using, relying instead on the reflexes you’ve developed to keep your kayak upright and moving in the right direction.
But if you’re just getting ready to embark on your first Jacksonville kayak tour, you may be wondering: do I really need to learn all of these different strokes and techniques? Isn’t it just as simple as paddling on one side, paddling on the other and enjoying the ride?
You may be anxious to hit the water—and you should be—but practicing basic strokes and techniques is the only way to get them to start feeling natural. By learning how each action affects the movement of your boat, you’ll start to learn the best ways to move in each situation, the best techniques to employ when something sends you off course. Devoting time to the fundamentals of kayaking will ensure that you never forget how to do it well.
Once you’ve mastered the forward stroke and sweep, you’ll be ready to handle a few more basic kayak moves: the stern rudder, the pry and the draw.
The Stern Rudder
Easy to learn and use, this technique can be helpful for steering correction, especially if your kayak is moving quickly. However, you should be careful not to rely on it too much for steering—be sure that you aren’t using it to overcompensate for unbalanced forward strokes or sweeping difficulties.
Because this technique can only be effective when your kayak is moving forward against the resistance of the rudder, you’ll need to start with a few forward strokes to get your boat up to a good speed. After performing a normal forward stroke, allow your paddle to remain in the water behind your cockpit, staying at an angle almost parallel to the kayak.
If you tilt the paddle blade’s upper edge away from the kayak, it will turn to the side the paddle is on; tilt it towards the kayak and you’ll move in the opposite direction. Keeping the blade as vertical as possible will help you keep moving straight.
One drawback of the stern rudder is the drag, as using the technique may quickly sap your momentum. Keep in mind that, on water, momentum means stability: a misused stern rudder may put you off balance. Whenever possible, you should try to use a forward sweep instead of the stern rudder—this will help you control direction without sacrificing speed.
The Pry & Draw
When you find yourself drifting listlessly after entering your kayak from a dock, pier or rock, how do you get yourself out into the open water?
Your first thought may have been to push off that entry point with your paddle, or even to grab and push off with your hands. Many of us have done it this way, but there’s a much more efficient way to handle this situation, one that won’t feel quite as awkward or risk damage to your paddle: the pry.
Hold your paddle in a normal forward paddling position, but turn your torso to the side you want to push away from. With the power face away from and parallel to the boat, put the blade in the water about two to three feet from the kayak’s side. Push with your lower arm while lifting up with the knee on the opposite side—this will keep your boat from tipping. To perform a draw, you’ll just need to reverse this motion: put the power face towards the kayak, pull with your lower arm and lift your knee on the stroke side of the boat.
The pry, draw and stern rudder can be great for quick course correction on any Jacksonville tour or Florida kayaking trip. If you need some help learning these techniques in a hands-on environment, First Coast Outfitters offers strokes and maneuvers classes that can help you master them.