Arcing Your Way to Success

So imagine this….you’re in a small eddy, the river is churning past and you’re thinking “ok, I need enough momentum to enter that raging current, I need to keep my angle in relation to the current, time my entry so I can use a trough, and not get blown away down river”.

Tall order.

You power forward with great effort, move your boat toward current, then throw in a correction stroke to keep your angle and…. kill your momentum.

Net result: your buddies are all downstream and you are going around in circles in a small eddy, frustrated as hell.

Entering the current with control is 90% of boating.  If you leave the eddy without boat control, you get blown downstream, you’re off your line and then things tend to go badly.  When you can enter with control, you are in control over your destiny.  You can make decisions.

So that begs the question.  How do we enter the current under control?

Entering under control

It always comes down to this: Good boating = the basics done well.

As in life, when we are faced with a challenge we tend to revert to old habits.  We go into survival mode.  We forget all those drills we practiced in an effort to get off our plateau.  We forget what we learned about the foundation of paddling a canoe in whitewater – that foundation is carving.  If you haven’t read my last post about carving, go back and read it.  Because learning to carve will truly change your life.

Now, back to the question at hand… how do you enter a current with boat control?  The answer: you carve.  Here’s the thing… when you’re negotiating white water, the quickest path to your destination is NEVER a straight line.  Mediate on that one for a while.

When you set up a carve under momentum, your boat wants to keep arcing in one direction.  Your forward strokes work against the boat’s tendency to keep turning into the carve.  When you are carving, your power strokes either straighten the arc or allow it to tighten, all without the momentum-robbing strokes we used to know and love (i.e without the stern pry).  Setting up a carve in the eddy allows you to generate momentum to enter current while controlling your angle of entry.

Here’s where the video blogging is going to be REALLY handy… I know… It’s coming, I just haven’t gotten there yet.

For now, here’s a drill to help you understand the concept of carving with a particular destination in mind:

1. Set up a buoy in flat water.

2. From a dead stop, set up an onside carve and try to run over the buoy.  This forces you to work with the arc to understand carving to reach a destination. In this case the destination is the buoy, on the river the destination is the point of entry into current.

There’s no longer a straight line between point A and point B, but rather there is a curved one.  Think if it like going from pole to pole on the earth.

3. Once you have that dialed, try carving just past the buoy without running it over.

4. Next, count back 3-4 strokes (usually all you get in those little eddies) and time your carve so that your last stroke is at the buoy.

5. Now do it all on your offside.

6. Take the same drill into gentle current.  Set up in an eddy, count back 3-4 strokes and generate a carve that sends you into current with momentum.  Your final stroke should be at the eddy line, powering you into current.  You will feel the glide entry.

7. Step it up into pushier current as you gain confidence.

Still getting blown away?  Ah yes, the remaining 10%.  Wave troughs, boofing the eddy line… so much more fun to add to the white water story.  Stay tuned.



Andy Convery is a Paddle Canada and ORCKA moving water instructor trainer and MKC instructor.  He can be found teaching on the rivers of Ontario and Quebec throughout the paddling season.  Check out the calendar of events for a course this season.

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