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How to Do the Reverse Sweep Stroke in a Kayak


Kayaker Reverse Sweep Stroke

This kayaker demonstrates the reverse sweep stroke.

Photo © by George E. Sayour
While kayaking there are times when the paddler might need to adjust the direction they are facing by a drastic angle. The kayaking reverse sweep stroke is the perfect manuever to do just that. This how-to explains the proper technique to use when doing the reverse sweep stroke in a kayak.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: A few minutes of practice each time.

Here's How:

  1. Hold the Paddle Properly:
    The reverse sweep stroke can only be executed properly and ergonomically correct as long as you are holding your paddle properly. Your hands should be about shoulder width apart, the paddle should be facing the right direction and oriented properly.
  2. Maintain Proper Posture in the Kayak
    You should maintain an aggressive, yet comfortable, position in the kayak. Sit upright or ever-so-slightly forward with your back against the backrest, your legs securely in the thigh braces, and the balls of your feet against the foot supports. Be sure to setup your kayak properly to support you in this position.
  3. Kayaking Reverse Sweep Stroke Torso Rotation
    To take a reverse sweep stroke on the right side of your kayak, rotate your torso clockwise so that you are facing to the right and that your shoulders are parallel with the kayak. The right paddle blade will be moving toward the back of the kayak. Be sure to maintain the paddler's box through the rotation. The paddler’s body needs to be rotated in the direction they will place the paddle blade and not facing forward.
  4. The Catch Phase of the Kayaking Reverse Sweep Stroke
    Look to the rear and with the back face of the paddle facing down place the blade in the water at the rear of the kayak. Initially, push down (before slicing out). This is to ensure you don’t slide down into the water which could cause you to lose your balance. Once the blade is in the water, rotate the back face away from the kayak. This is the one stroke that uses the back part of the blade rather than the power face of the kayak paddle.
  5. The Power Phase of the Reverse Sweep Stroke:
    With the blade in the water, rotate the torso so as to push the blade through the water in an arc, first away from the stern of the kayak then forward toward the bow of the kayak. Keep the top hand level throughout the rotation at about eye level. Again, the stroke is powered by the rotation of the torso and not by pulling and pushing with the arms.
  6. Reverse Sweep Stroke Length
    Continue the stroke all the way to the bow of the kayak. The length of the reverse sweep stroke is simply "tip to tip." The blade enters toward the rear tip of the kayak and is removed near the front tip.

  7. The Recovery Phase of the Reverse Sweep Stroke The Recovery Phase
    As soon as the stroke is over snap the blade out of the water. Your paddle should be setup for a forward stroke on the right side of the boat.


  1. The nature of this stroke makes it easy for the paddler to violate the paddler's box by reaching out as the paddle arcs away from the kayak. Don't do that. Be sure to keep the paddler's box throughout the stroke and to use the torso to drive the stroke.
  2. There are a number of different design features to consider when buying a paddle. Make sure you buy and use the right length and thickness paddle.
  3. Don't hold the paddle too tightly, even with your control grip. This will cause fatigue and possibly undue long-term stress.

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