Whitewater Kayaking: The Secret to Beautiful Lines

If you’ve taken kayak instruction from me you know that I’m a big believer in the importance of boat angle in running beautiful lines. The ability to set and maintain your angle when running a rapid can make or break your line, and the amount of control you have going in and out of eddies is directly related to angle.

Angle is more important than speed, especially when running lower volume, technical rivers. The crux is how well you can maintain your angle because setting your angle is the easy part! Here are two POV videos of the same rapid (the right line at Boof or Consequence on the Narrows of the Green). One where I maintain angle and one where I let my angle drop too far downstream.

What to Watch For

You’ll notice that in the second video where I am able to hold my angle I start much closer to the rock on the right. From there I drive across from right to left with lateral momentum. This lateral momentum allows me to easily maintain my angle toward the left for a smooth landing.

In the first video I start further left and end up too far left, shanking off a rock. This video demonstrates how important it is, not only to set your angle, but also to set your start position. Starting too close to the feature you want to drive across or toward doesn’t give you the space to drive and carry lateral momentum.

Momentum is our friend, especially when it’s being carried in the direction we want to go. Without enough room to carry that momentum our kayak is more easily thrown off by obstacles such as rocks or a strong current moving in the opposite or different direction.

How to Maintain Your Boat Angle

  • Set your start position with enough space and time to drive across and create lateral momentum behind your angle.
  • Use your strokes wisely. As we move from beginner to more intermediate and advanced techniques the timing of our strokes matter. Time to let go of the ‘just keep paddling’ mentality and move toward taking he right strokes at the right time.
  • Look for your landing so that you stay focused on where you want to end up.

I’d love to hear what other differences you saw between the two videos. Please post in the comments below and also include any strategies you use for maintaining boat angle!

If you’d like to explore these strategies on the water check out my private instruction offerings!




  1. Natalie

    Awesome post! Thank you!

    It looks like I’m the first video your last Paddle stroke was one the right which pushed you further left into the rock. The second video it looks like your last stroke is on the left. Is that right? If so, can you speak to that a little? The left stroke worked better but I would’ve defaulted to doing the stroke on the right to help keep my angle left – but I’m still learning! 🙂 Is there a good rule of thumb to know when which side is appropriate?

    • Anna Levesque

      Hi Natalie! Thanks for the question! If you watch again, my last stroke in both videos was on the right.

      In the first video my last stroke was on the right because I wanted to ‘save’ my line. I knew I was off line due to my angle and start position. I was pointed right instead of pointed left. I wanted to make sure that I got in a good boof stroke to raise my bow and also to attempt to turn my angle back to the left. In the second video my last stroke is also on the right to complete the move, but I didn’t need to try to turn my bow so much because my angle and start position had lined me up well for the drop.

      Smooth lines are set up by boat angle and start position. The last stroke is either a save or a completion stroke. The real takeaway is that in the first video I started too far left and drove too far left which resulted in my bow shanking off a rock and getting deflected to the right. In the second video I start further right and have time to drive just far enough left to get a nice right boof stroke off the drop and maintain my line.

      To your question of boof stroke – in general your boof stroke should be on the downstream side. If you want your boat to angle left then your last stroke should be on the right and if you want your boat to angle right then you’re last stroke would be on your left. I hope that helps!

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Meet Anna Levesque

Anna Levesque is the leading expert on paddling instruction for women and yoga for paddling, including SUP Yoga. Named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine, Anna’s twenty-plus years of experience as an accomplished international competitor, instructor, coach and author has landed her in mainstream publications such as TIME, SHAPE and SELF.

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