The Basic Peelout
There are some basic elements to leaving eddys in control. This article will review the fundamental recipe for graceful and stable peelouts.
Just as when catching an eddy, you need to have a game plan. Look downstream to determine where you want to go next. Will getting there require a wide peelout or a tight one? Visualize the turn you want as clearly as if someone just drew a dotted line on the surface of the river.
The strategy for successfully crossing into new currents requires you to identify the speed and direction of the current just beyond the eddyline. Being aware of how the current will affect your bow gives you time to anticipate the strokes you'll need to stay on line.
Next decide on a start position within the eddy that will put you on the dotted line of your peelout. This helps you determine the angle of departure. It helps to have speed when crossing the eddyline. So position yourself low enough in the eddy that you have time to build speed while controlling the angle you've set.
Once you've got your plan, keep your vision moving along the dotted line of your path. This will help you assess your progress. Even before you've crossed the eddyline, glance downstream at your desired trajectory then glance back at what's in front of you. This helps you choose the correct strokes to stay on line.
When first learning, set up to leave the eddy the same as you do for a ferry. This means you'll have very little angle to the first current you enter. Even with this conservative angle, the job of the eddyline is to spin you out. To control this, take strokes on the inside of the turn to keep your boat on course. The stern draw especially, stops the kayak from spinning out and drives the boat in a wider arc. It's ok to take two strokes in a row on the inside, one as you leave the eddy and one as you enter the current.
The other advantage of this departure angle is that it decreases the amount of boat tilt you need as you cross the eddyline, thus decreasing the chance of a flip. Slightly weight your inside butt cheek before you cross the eddyline. Once your boat is in the current with a ferry angle, shift your weight to tilt your boat more. As your boat glides through the turn, hold the edge longer than you think is necessary. If the boat flattens before your lateral momentum stops, you'll feel the river nibble at your outside edge. Since your lateral momentum continues after the bow points downstream, hold your edge for a second longer. This ensures a smooth turn with no wobbles. Here are some other drills to develop and test your skills. Choose a gentle yet distinct eddyline.
Can you peel out while paddling on both sides of the boat and maintain a steady edge? In order to do this, your upstream blade will barely get wet. As you gain strength in your edge muscles, you'll be able to take fuller strokes on the upstream side. Paddling on both sides makes for a fast and powerful peelout.
If you want a tighter turn, use a pry on the downstream side (see article on The Pry). Turn your chest and plant a streamline blade. Follow up with a forward stroke on the same side or a forward sweep on the outside.
While practicing at the same spot, vary the departure angle to see how that affects your peelouts.
If there's a wave off your eddy, peel out in the trough of a wave. This results in a wide, fast peelout.
The new awareness and experience you gain through doing these drills will add greater control and fun to your day on the river.