What is your Webster’s Dictionary definition of a Full Sweep?

All agreed: It is three strokes in one: the forward sweep, continued into a stern draw, the two together equaling a full 180-degree sweep from bow to stern. Added to that:

Ryan: It is a stroke used to start a turn in the direction you want to go. It starts with the paddle but 95% of the stroke is in your torso.

Ken: The forward sweep is powered by the rotation of your body – not your arms. So the end of your body rotation is the end of the sweep. It is an arcing stroke. The stern draw is done by pushing and pulling with your arms, bringing the paddle to the stern of the boat.

Do you change your presentation of the sweep between a beginning paddler and an advanced paddler?

All: Yes! Because there is a BIG difference between teaching a beginner a stroke and teaching an advanced paddler the same stroke. Technique is refined as a boater becomes more competent.

Ken: I use teaching tools with a beginner. For example, having a beginning boater look at their paddle through the sweep is a teaching tool. And a good instructor can differentiate between what it takes to teach a beginner versus an advanced boater. A good instructor understands when to use a specific teaching tool to help teach someone how to do a skill correctly.

Ryan: I don’t as much change my presentation as much as my definition of the uses of the sweep. Example: with a beginner I would show them how to use the stroke to do a ferry or avoid rocks. With an advanced boater, I would show them how to use it to flat spin, cartwheel or stern squirt – all of which are executed with one of the choices of sweep strokes.

Trevor: With a beginner, they do not have the “always look where you want to go” baggage, so it is easy to explain the importance of good torso rotation. With an advanced paddler, I spend time reminding them that it is okay to take your eyes off where you want to go to make sure you are getting there!

Craig: With an advanced paddler I will usually review arc, function and safety features of the sweep, but I then present sweeps as a way of having more balance and power during playboating moves.

Juliet: With a beginning boater, I focus on the torso rotation so that they do not end up out of the box. I have learned that if they are not watching the paddle, they will never wind their torso through the stroke. And on top of that, they have no clue what their paddle is even doing during the execution of the stroke because the technique is not memorized. With an advanced boater, I introduce using your abs to make the stroke happen–using the imagery that they are more “planting” the paddle in the water and kicking their feet away from the blade rather than pushing the paddle through the water.

Why do you encourage a beginning student to watch their paddle when learning the sweep?

Trevor: Torso rotation/keeping in the box.

Craig: To teach rotation of the upper torso on turning strokes. This is so they have more powerful strokes and the shoulders are less stressed.

Juliet: Torso rotation – keeping the shoulders parallel with the paddle so that they do not end up out of the box and in a sling because of shoulder dislocation.

Ken: So that they twist the body and do not get the arms/shoulders out of position.

What is the primary mistake you see experienced boaters doing wrong with their sweep stroke?

Ryan: Not using the water correctly. For example, if you are not surfing over a wave and try to correct with a sweep, it is going to be harder to do that correction (more friction).

Trevor: Allowing the torso to follow the head as the head looks where it wants to go, rather than differentiating and separating head rotation from torso rotation.

Craig: The arc. The wider the arc of the paddle, the more the boat turns. I see folks start the sweep out beside their knee, turning their “arc” into a parallel stroke and it is not very effective. It also leads to folks pulling their arms too far behind their torso.

Juliet: Having no clue what a stern draw is. I think it is the most efficient turning stroke there is. But quite often an untrained paddler thinks of a “full sweep” as a continual forward sweep. Wrong! And second, allowing the non-working hand to punch out during the forward sweep rather than using that hand as a pivot anchor through the rotation of the stroke.

Ken: Using the sweep on the upstream side of the boat (i.e., a mangled form of a reverse sweep on the upstream side of the boat in a ferry move, or a big forward sweep on the upstream side of the boat in a wave train instead of a reverse sweep). Also, turning the body away from the sweep. This encourages the arm to trail behind the hip, which will force incorrect blade rotation, making the stroke finish ineffectively.

What is your take on the concept of “vision” (where you are looking) and correction strokes?

Trevor: How about taking your eyes off where you want to go for the time (maybe a second?) that it takes to make sure you actually get there?

Ryan: I always try to look where I want to go, not where I don’t want to go, but that is while I am on line. If my boat moves in the wrong direction, I will use a proper correction stroke to turn my boat back to where I want to go, which might mean taking my eyes off-line in order to gain control of my boat once again.

Craig: I always watch where I want to go. My strokes are an effort to get the boat pointed where I am looking, which is why I am forward-oriented. I try to paddle from feet to hips, except for stern draws. Since I turn my head and torso on my strokes, I try to keep these strokes in the hemisphere forward of my hips, so I can look where I am going and steer effectively.

Juliet: I recently heard someone say “If you look where you want to go, your boat will automatically go that way.” I wish that was true! This whole argument is semantics. Kayaking 101 is: Your boat goes where it is pointed. You can look all day, but if your boat is not pointing where it needs to go – you are not going to get there. So you better do something besides looking to fix the problem.

Ken: If you do not look where you want to go, you have no perspective as to where you want to go. But to use a flying analogy, “you look where you need to go, but you scan the gauges on the way there to make sure the engine has not failed on you!”