Turning in wind: Night Heron

Submitted bybohszy onMon, 05/21/2018 - 03:03

I'm guessing the technique forum hasn't carried over to the new platform? Anyhow, I'll ask my question here on the builder's forum - there's sure to be some knowledge here.

I was out with a group of local paddlers (Plimmerton, Wellington, New Zealand) in some very strong windy conditions with a strong incoming tide funnelled into a channel in the same direction as the wind this last weekend. I was paddling my Night Heron s&g - this is a really great boat to surf waves but on this occasion I was having some difficulty with managing to execute turns both up into the wind and then heading down wind. Going up or down was fine naturally, sitting horizontal was easy but getting the bow around was hard unless I had a fair bit of speed going into the turn. Lifting the edge to get the turn going was a bit tricky with the wind - I've previously found this much easier in wind if I could use the waves - but on this occasion the current moving with the wind was flattening the water out. I'm going to practice a bit more but any tips would be appreciated.

Night Heron

Picture of the conditions


Mon, 05/21/2018 - 13:30

Not sure if you mean turning while traveling or turning your boat around 180 degrees so you can ride waves with the wind.

Can you scull or do a sculling brace where you do put some weight on the paddle. When I learned to scull, a whole world of boat control opened up for me. Then you can do sweep turns from the front or back and lean the boat much more which is often needed in windy conditions. Having that confidence to lean more is dependent on knowing the sculling brace. Otherwise its just scary to lean the boat too far. Practice in flat water and try to turn your boat right around in a circle on both sides using really strong leans. And practice the sculling brace and hopefully until you can get down to the water and up. Playing in strong winds and water is just often going to demand that skill. After a while it will just be easy and natural.

If you're talking about turns while traveling, I learned to love the bow rudder and use it a lot.

I find sculling brace ok in calmer conditions but it's much more difficult in high winds, similar to rolling in strong wind. Going with the wind much easier than against it. I think I need to practise. Unfortunately where I live it's very windy? I noticed some of the other kayakers were using the rudders effectively for longer turns but for a tight turn with wind and waves bearing down on you, well I found it quite hard. Tempted to change back to a euro paddle to get a stronger stroke.

Have you tried using an extended grip to turn - hold the paddle right at the end, so one hand is on the very end of the blade, the other at the 2wrong" end of the loom or thereabouts, so the whole paddle is on one side - gives you a huge leverage for a couple of strong turning strokes if you're not going fast.


Tue, 05/22/2018 - 09:08

There is no course, workshop or book on experience. And... there's not a paddler alive who hasn't been over their head in some conditions. Its part of the fun of kayaking. Just paddle with others whenever possible and always take a little time to practice skills. The fact that you asked on the forum shows you care. Learning happens by doing. Best wishes.

Agree it's about having fun and trying different things. I mostly paddle with a conventional paddle playing canoe polo and occasionally on the rivers. The Greenland style is something I've only spent limited time with. Will be trying out different ideas. The local paddlers have a group to try to push our limits on the 3rd Saturday of each month. A chance to paddle in conditions we might otherwise avoid. It's proving a great learning tool.


Rob Macks Laug…

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 12:16

Boats designed to turn usually have a high amount of rocker and flat hull bottom, like whitewater boats. Paddling a boat like this on flatwater with a wind is difficult. Boats designed to tack well have little or no rocker but only turn when strongly edged.

All Greenland based designs (99-7/8%) suffer weathercocking more or less depending on keel rocker and hull cross section.

This is where a rudder or retractable skeg is of value.

The Skeg - Why a skeg? A skeg is a device which increases tracking in certain sea conditions.

If you're paddling in open water with a strong beam (side) wind, your kayak will want to weathercock (turn nose into the wind). Even if your kayak is normally a good tracking (goes straight) kayak you may experience difficulty in keeping the kayak on course with a strong beam wind. When you're paddling forward the deep foot of the Greenland bow stem is cutting into waves and is firmly planted in the water. However, the stern is not and a side wind can blow it away, causing weathercocking. A skeg can firmly plant the stern in place in a beam wind and keep the kayak tracking straight so the paddler can focus energy on paddling forward and not waste energy on course correction strokes.


Another sea condition which is aided by use of a skeg is in a following sea. In certain sea conditions of just the right wave height and frequency, when you are running with the waves, you may experience your kayak starting to broach (turn sideways parallel to waves) with every wave crest hitting your stern. It can be tiring and no fun, to constantly need correction strokes to stay on course. Here, the deep foot of the Greenland kayak bow stem is planted in the slow water of the wave trough, while the stern is pushed aside by the faster moving wave crest. A skeg will keep the wave crest from sweeping the stern to the side and make the kayak ride smoother, going forward in a straight line.

It's not all or nothing either. The skeg can be deployed to different depths to adjust the tracking in varying sea conditions.

Rob Macks Laug…

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 12:23

I realized I presented only half an answer.

If you have a skeg deployed, you can use the energy that would be wasted on trying to just fight the wind to stay on course,

to make your turns.

All the best,

Rob Macks

Laughing Loon Custom Canoes & Kayaks




“Persistent people begin their success where others end in failures.” - Edward Eggleston

So i noticed the other kayakers finding it a little quicker to turn and apart from the riders a common factor was they had more rounded displacement hulls. I was the only one with a sharp chine hull. I do a lot of short boat paddling, mostly canoe polo but also a little whitewater so my paddle technique and strength is pretty good although saying that i was using a greenland paddle which is unfamiliar to me. Maybe there's a bit easier release sto the rounded hulls you said I've paddled in wind and waves before and found the MY turns fine when the bow is out of the water.

I'm currently finishing off a Frej, will be interesting to compare when it's done.


Cheers all

Etienne Muller

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 04:14

If your maximum hull speed is 5mph, then you would not bother paddling against a tide running at 5mph, unless you wanted to just remain in the same place. A 7mph tide would see you losing ground at -2mph. It just does not make sense to try to win ground in such conditions.

Even moderate headwinds have a noticible effect on a slow moving craft like a kayak. There comes a point where one can no longer win ground upwind and, long before the zero progress point is reached, the point is reached where one is expending too much energy for too little progress.

In catabatic conditions, where the wind is very strong, and very constant, and offshore, you can experience strong wind without much in the way of waves, and the water can even be remarkably flat. The effect can reach a point that any difference in windage along the boat is exaggerated, and the weather cocking effect gets overpowered and, unless you are pointed directly into the wind, the bow gets blown away from the wind.

This can happen in waves too, where a very strong wind blows the bow downwind every time it pokes up above a wave crest. It is still possible to paddle directly into the wind but, the moment you are a few degrees off the wind, the bow gets blown off course.

Usually, in these conditions, paddling directly into the wind has no purpose; one is trying to cross at an angle to the wind, and it can take an inordinate amount of time and energy to cover some lateral ground with very little headway. A ferry glide becomes a hellish one sided endurance paddle, so instead one paddles directly upwind for a while to gain a little ground, then turns sideways and paddles like hell across the wind, losing ground all the time, then repeats the process.... Phew! ... It is only worth it if one simply has to reach a specific destination, or the effort is going to result in a big fun reward.

I have paddled in such conditions on a number of occasions, and the only reason I do so is to round a point after which I intend to have the reward of a fabulous downwind blast.

There are times when we are having a hard time on the water. We look around and it seems that others are managing the conditions with more aplomb. Things are not always what they seem. If you ask, you may find that those others are experiencing something very similar to what you are.

I guess my basic point with all this rambling is that, if one is out paddling for fun, their comes a point when wind strength cancels out the fun, unless you plan on going downwind.


Brian Nystrom

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 07:36

The best instruction I've seen for dealing with turning is Nigel Foster's "Wind and Waves" course. The key is that he took the time to analyze how to work with the wind and waves to turn the boat, rather than working against them. For example, instead of using sweep strokes to try to force the bow to turn into the wind, he recommends using a bow rudder combined with edging to lock the bow in place and guide it in the right directi0n, and allow the wind to help push the stern around. It's simple and very effective. He has specific techniques for turning upwind, downwind and across the wind that work brilliantly. I highly recommend checking it out.