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The Kayak Reverse Stroke

by Mike Aronoff

Sometimes you want to go backwards; maybe because you've explored a narrow creek that's so narrow you can't turn around, maybe because your buddy capsized and you want to go back to help him, maybe just to go backwards to see where it was you've been. When you do that, you use a reverse stroke.

The reverse stroke uses the back face of the paddle. You're going to plant the back face of the paddle between where you are and the end, the stern, of the boat. Look back, unwind. Same thing on the other side. Look back, unwind.

The reverse stroke, in order to propel the kayak backwards can be done a number of ways. The way that we're demonstrating shows the back face being flat against the water at the catch, and the position of the paddle is somewhere between the hip and the end of the stern of your boat. So it is look back, back face flat, unwind the torso back to where you are square again in the kayak. Then look back on the other side, unwind, and do the same thing. Don't be afraid to let your weight shift on each stroke. So as I take a stroke on my right, you'll see the kayak roll slightly to the right and when it goes to the left, you'll see it roll slightly to my left. That's a good thing.

Learning to do the reverse stroke efficiently so that you can move your kayak backwards with good control is very valuable for a number of obvious and specific reasons. Maybe just as important, is that it actually helps you paddle all your other strokes and maneuvers more efficiently.

This has been Mike Aronoff with Canoe Kayak and Paddle Company (CKAPCO). I hope we'll be seeing you on the water! 


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