A solid understanding of the relationship between boat and blade is one of the keys to becoming a fluid and efficient paddler.

In this article we will develop your understanding of how the the blade can widen or tighten a turn and assist tracking. We are going to explore two ends of a huge spectrum, then use this to develop our understanding of what sits in between.

Often, whilst observing a good boater executing a dynamic eddy turn important subtleties are missed. What visually looks like the boater doing everything in their power to spin the boat, can, in reality, be quite the opposite. With this in mind we are going to look at how to widen a turn first.

Before we look at this let's recap on what else will make a turn wider: a narrow angle in relation to the eddy line, bow light, a subtle initiation, a solid drive on the inside of the turn and a little edge. So what can the blade do?

The stern squeeze is a cool little stroke to have up your sleeve when driving deep into the flow or an eddy.

The boat needs to be driven across the eddy line for the stern squeeze to work.
Swing the blade out wide.
Squeeze the water against the hull with a sweep stroke towards the stern

The squeeze at the stern will help prevent the hull spinning out. It is worth noting that some spin momentum towards the paddle side is kept in this instance to add control to the turn. This is often used to enter the flow but can also give flexibility to entering an eddy, add this to the innies and outies drill below for some truly amazing results!

Good flexibility, blade awareness and commitment are needed for this to work on your offside.

Entering the flow and an eddy offside: note the blade stays behind the hip to prevent the stern skidding out.



Tight turns

Now let's look at the other end of the spectrum, spinning into a narrow eddy or entering the flow close to the eddy line.
By approaching the eddy with a wide downstream angle and little speed the eddy line spins the boat.
The blade is locked in deep towards the bow.
A combination of rotation and core strength are used to spin the boat into the eddy, a forward stroke on the inside is often used to prevent the hull stalling.


Entering the flow using a similar chain of events

Now we have looked at both ends of the large spectrum, what sits in the middle?
Let's go back to that good boater executing a dynamic eddy turn and analyse the subtleties.


Dynamic eddy turns
The eddy line is approached with an appropriate degree of speed and narrow downstream angle, as we know this will add up to a wide turn.
The boat is then driven across the eddy line with a powerful stroke on the inside, this also widens the turn.
The blade is then held momentary towards the stern, with the bow slightly light, again widening the turn.
The blade is then sliced forward and the edge and bow weight are increased, the turn is starting to tighten.
The bow is then pulled towards the blade; this tightens up the turn even more placing the paddler exactly where they want to be in the eddy.
A forward stroke is often used to finish, this sets the you up for the next manoeuvre.

I often think of this: you can always tighten up a turn, but when you have been spun you have been spun!


The aim of these drills is to develop a link between wide and tight turns and how we can blend them together to get exactly where we want to go on the river.


Using the concept of the dynamic eddy turn above let's look at crossing the flow.
The challenge of this drill is to move from eddy to eddy keeping the blade in the flow throughout the move.

Drive the boat across the eddy line into the flow.
Use the stern squeeze to control the turn.
Slice the blade closer to the boat and forwards to increase spin momentum.
The blade continues to slice forwards and away from the boat, the bow can then be drawn towards the paddle to create the appropriate angle to enter the eddy.
You are now in a position to drive the boat into the eddy.


Innies and outies
Carrying forward speed through a midstream eddy is a great way to develop your understanding of the relationship between hull and blade.
The wider the eddy the wider the turn will need to be to prevent the hull from stalling.