Beginner Precision Manoeuvring – handout

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Moving your boat in tight spaces; near a dock, other kayaks or obstacles in the water, such as rocks.


  • Keep a relaxed grip on the paddle
  • Align your knuckles with the top edge of the blade
  • 5 points of contact: balls of your feet on the foot braces, thighs in the thigh-braces, bum in your seat
  • Use torso rotation to power your strokes
  • Look where you’re going

Rafting up

Kayaks are side by side, paddles across the cockpits of two kayaks.

Circle Check

Hold on to the deck-lines and pull yourself around another kayak. Place your centre of mass over the centre line of the other kayak.


Forward Sweep Stroke

To turn left, sweep on the right. Turn your torso to face where you’re going. Place the paddle near your toes, close to your kayak with the power face pointing away from the hull. Keep your hands low. Unwind your torso, make a wide arc with your arm stretched out.

Reverse Sweep Stroke

Use to stop and turn, or combine with Forward Sweep Stroke to pivot. To turn left, sweep on the left. Place the paddle behind you near the stern, at 45ยบ ,then unwind your torso. For some extra stability, place the back face of the paddle flat on the water at first, then push the blade forward, with the leading edge at a climbing angle.


Pivoting is turning in place. To pivot, perform a forward sweep stroke on the opposite side of where you want to go. To turn left, forward sweep on the right, then switch sides and perform a Reverse Sweep Stroke on the left.

Moving sideways

To move sideways from a stationary position, use the Draw Stroke

Draw stroke

Rotate your torso, look where you’re going. Hold your top hand as if you’re looking at a watch. Place the blade away from your kayak, so that the power-face is oriented towards your kayak. Fully submerge the blade and pull the paddle toward you. Keep your lower hand very close to the water. Before the kayak reaches the paddle, rotate the blade with the wrist of your bottom arm, knuckles forward, and slide the blade away from your kayak. Rotate the blade back to the starting position. Repeat.

Common problems

If you don’t rotate and slice the blade out on time, your kayak may collide with the paddle and capsize the boat. If this happens, release your top hand and drop the paddle.

If your kayak rotates while you perform the draw stoke, you may need to place the paddle further aft, closer to the stern of your kayak.

Avoiding obstacles

Use a quick sweep stroke on the side of the obstacle to move away from it. Two quick Forward Sweep Strokes in the first quadrant (think one pizza slice), then two quick strokes after you have passed the obstacle to get back on course.

Hanging Draw

This only works if you have some good speed. Rotate to face the direction where you want to go. Hold the paddle parallel to your kayak. Slice the rear blade forward, and let the water run past it until the blade is fully immersed. Then “open” the blade by rotating it very slightly, turning the leading edge of the blade away from the kayak.

Common problems

If your kayak rotates while you perform the hanging draw, you may need to place the paddle further aft, closer to the stern of your kayak.


adjustable pegs for foot placement
low stretch cord along the perimeter of the deck to hold on to
the side of the paddle face that is oriented in the direction of travel
the concave side of the paddle blade
put pressure on the power face of the blade
put pressure on the back of the blade