Reverse Stroke

Reverse strokes are used to propel the kayak backwards. This skill is useful to get away from hazards, into and out of narrow creeks, sea-caves, gauntlets, or in rescues. 




  • Maintain normal hand position. 
  • Place the back of the blade on the water as far back as your torso rotation allows (keeping your elbow tucked into your hip to protect your shoulder).
  • Keep your paddle shaft almost parallel with the kayak - you achieve this by torso rotation. 


  • Fully immerse the blade and bring the paddle forward by unwinding your torso. 
  • The path of the blade runs almost parallel to the kayak, instead of sweeping. 


  • Pull the working blade out of the water when the working hand is about mid-way between your knee and foot.
  • Repeat the stroke on the other side. 


  • In ruddered boats, neutralise the rudder either by keeping it square with the kayak or by retracting it.
  • It helps to keep pressure on the foot-peg on the opposite side of the stroke (the reverse of what you would do for a forward stroke). 
  • If you feel unstable you can take a slightly climbing blade a little wider to get support. 


  • Look behind you at least each alternate stroke. 
  • To protect your shoulder, don't let your elbow go above shoulder height or behind your hips.

Common mistakes

  • Insufficient torso rotation.
  • Turning the blade to use the face. You should power the stroke with the back of the blade. 


Practice drills

  • Find objects that form a gate for you to paddle through backwards, e.g. free mooring buoys, piers, etc.
  • Practice the stroke in a broad range of conditions. 
  • Increase the challenge by combining this with some steering strokes at the bow.