Paddle Reverse

If your local river is getting too boring, or if low water has your bummed out, try to spice up your run by going backwards. Try to ferry in reverse, catch eddies, and surf while facing downstream. Paddling in reverse will give you a new perspective on your familiar run, and will increase your paddling skills.

reverse strokes

Working on backstrokes and paddling in reverse has two primary benefits. The first is your develop an effective stroke for moves like backferries and backsurfing. Secondly, you strengthen and toughen a lot of the muscles that paddlers tend to injure in the shoulder area.

On flatwater, gradually work up to being able to paddle for 5 - 10 minutes in reverse. Even this short time will be quite tiring. This is a good indication of your muscular imbalance, which can ultimately cause a shoulder injury.

reverse strokes

When you start to go reverse, you might find that you lose control of the boat’s direction. Just like learning to go forward, you will need to make corrections. Start with balanced pressure on each blade. You will also want to learn stroke corrections since these are important for reliable backsurfing control.

reverse strokes

As you are going backwards, practice corrections with both a bow rudder, andbow draw. The Bow draw moves the bow to your blade. The bow rudder moves the bow away.

Try to keep your speed when you make these corrections, otherwise the strokes may pull you off a wave once you are backsurfing. Be sure to learn both the rudder and the bow draw for correction on each side of the boat. Most people don’t think about steering in reverse until backsurfing, and then it is too late... and a tough place to learn!

You don’t need to limit your practice time to flatwater. Spend a lot of time on the river going backwards… this too will help you develop reliable backsurfing skills, as well as working on your balance. Paddle an easy rapid reverse. Catch eddies reverse, and make some easy ferries in reverse.

You may also realize that you usually fall off spins in a hole when you are backwards. This is because of weakness in your reverse paddling repertoire. So practice!

reverse strokes

If you want an extra challenge, and better control, try the compound reversestroke. The compound reverse stroke is quite difficult, but it is a nice exercise for shoulder strength & finesse. The extra control of a compound reverse can come in handy when you need to see where you are going, like catching an eddy in reverse. It helps you learn to keep your body and boat independent so the boat doesn’t wobble with each stroke. The stroke starts with lots of rotation, and a very gentle draw stroke reaching back to the stern. At your hip, flip the blade so you can take a normal reverse stroke. During the transition points you do not want any pressure on the blade.

Trying to paddle in reverse maybe frustrating initially, but over time with practice you will increase your stamina and boat control. Ultimately with this improvement in your paddling skills, you will become a better, more well-rounded paddler.