The first thing you learn when paddling a kayak is extra strokes on the left turn the boat right, and extra strokes on the right make it turn left. For a sharper turn, drag the paddle blade on the side you want to turn. That’s it, right? Wrong.
The stern rudder may seem simple, but properly performing this move will make your turn more efficient without sacrificing forward momentum. Start by rotating your upper body until both hands are on the same side of the kayak. Then, slice the rear blade into the water parallel to the kayak behind your hip. Untwist your upper body to push out slightly with the backside of the rear blade.
To make a slight adjustment in direction while underway or to turn in a confined space, use a bow rudder. Start by slicing the blade into the water at your foot with the power face towards the kayak. Your paddle shaft will be close to vertical with one arm crossing your face at about eye level. Slowly roll your lower wrist back to twist the blade open and catch the water. Brace the paddle by your foot to hold its position while the kayak is turning.
Tilting the kayak or edging is a powerful steering tool. To tilt the kayak, start by shifting your weight away from the direction you want to turn. Keep your head and shoulders centered while transferring more weight to one of your butt cheeks and pressing down on the same-side foot pedal while lifting the opposite thigh. Combine this edge with the forward stroke or forward sweep to turn without losing speed.
Always practice these new techniques under controlled conditions in calm, shallow water.