Reverse and Cross Reverse Manoeuvres My Ongoing Journey with FreeStyle
I was out with some FreeStyle friends recently and they gave me some pointers on reverse and cross reverse manoeuvres. I think I am at a point where I can provide some insight into my learning process.
I am paddling a WildFire with a central seat, this means weighting the leading stem (stern) is difficult and involves some adjustment in seating and kneeling for reverse strokes and manoeuvres. If you are doing a lot of reverse/cross reverse you might want to just turn to a transverse kneel - it is much easier using strange seating and full body rotation. Overall you should have a reliable reverse and cross reverse stroke before starting to work on specific manoeuvres. It is important to have enough control to maintain a straight line before moving to additional skills.
I don't have a separate cross-reverse video clip
I was reminded, more than once, to choke up on the shaft, and when nearing the completion of the manoeuvre, setup for the completion stroke (e.g. slice out, prior to draw in Axle). With a good initiation, weighting and heel, the placement of the static stern stroke need not be far back - it can be closer to the paddling station. This provides some room for adjustment for concluding dynamic stroke. In reality most manoeuvres and usually be completed without the paddle contacting the water - just initiate, weight, heel... hold....
All of my mentors have told me to be patient, let the canoe turn maintaining heel and static stroke, only completing with the dynamic portion when the is almost finished. "Wait"... Is the word... be patient.
To simplify the process I am using an Axle as an example for both reverse and cross reverse. I have provided some brief notes for wedge/christie/post as well.
Start with a good body rotation, point knees into paddling side chine.
Reverse stroke or far-back reverse (compound back) stroke.
Initiate Axle with moderate to strong reverse C, or J stroke.
Heel canoe by sliding knees into chine, rotate on seat and have 'onside' but cheek on seat and onside knee high in the tumblehome. Shoulders and upper body should be pointed to the paddling side of the canoe. If possible lean toward the bow (leading stem) - weighting.
Slice (or plant) the paddle out almost square to the canoe into a running draw with minimal pitch (augmenting the turn but don't slow motion). Choke up on shaft, keep hands stacked at this point, requires good body rotation.
As the canoe starts to slow rotate paddle and slice blade tip further out and back (toward leading stem).
Finish by drawing to the leading end of the canoe (stern), push the grip hand out so the blade pulls right to the canoe.
Slice the paddle back to the forward catch position. If necessary you can rotate the slice providing a draw - transitioning to slicing pry (power slice) in front of paddling position.
This is the same clip as below, just started at a specific time stamp
Alternatively using a transverse kneel is perfectly acceptable, although in my case I need to rotate to the transverse as close as possible to the seat since the trailing stem (stern) will not be released, and will not freely skid - the initiation needs to be fairly strong and intentional.
Building to Reverse Axle - each point is started with a reverse line, and may be repeated until comfortable with the motion of your body and the canoe.
Let can glide allowing it to run in a reverse straight line – canoe level
Initiate with reverse J - let canoe glide - canoe level - small turn.
Initiate with reverse J, shift weight and knees to heel canoe – moderate turn.
Initiate with reverse J, shift weight and knees to heel the canoe, plant paddle – moderate/strong turn.
Building off of a reverse axle a reverse wedge and christie will be relatively easy. A reverse post is more complicated as the weighting of your off side knee needs to be in the off-side chine, likely your onside knee will need to remain pointed to the onside (although unweighted).
Start by facing the bow (trailing stem) and paddling backward. An axle (or other manoeuvre) may be initiated at this point, or wait to initiate with cross stroke.
Cross the canoe after a reverse stroke with the back side of the blade facing the sky (as in a normal recovery) but continue low and slow over the bow of the canoe.
Continue to rotate body, sliding knees to point toward the chine, rotate seating position leaving off-side but cheek just on the edge of the seat, and shoulders and upper body facing the offside. In this position the cross-reverse stroke should almost feel like a forward stroke.
Plant paddle in 'far-back' position with grip-hand thumb pointing out, stack shaft and gip hands. The feeling is as if you are swinging up and then pushing the blade down into the water. Pull the canoe backward the through water and complete with a cross-reverse J (grip hand thumb rotating down - a partial palm roll may be required). If the turn was not initiated earlier, it may be initiated at this point (e.g. cross-reverse C or J)
Heel the canoe by shifting off-side knee high into the offside chine or even tumblehome, onside knee at least into chine fully. If possible lean back to add some weight shift toward the leading stem (stern).
Slice from cross-reverse J in a broad arc, rotating into cross static stroke (e.g. draw) more or less perpendicular to paddling station. Stack hands, and choke up on shaft of the paddle to provide more extension. HOLD - adjusting pitch as necessary to keep canoe turning.
As the canoe slows, continue to rotate blade adding more pitch, slice out and back to provide more reach for a concluding cross-stern draw. Rotate paddle (ZZ Top style) by moving grip-hand toward the bow, allowing you to punch grip out completing the draw close to the canoe.
Recover slicing through the water providing a cross-slice draw, then transitioning to a slicing pry to complete and start the recovery to the next cross-reverse catch (or swing low over the bow with the blade facing the sky) for a forward catch.
This is the same clip as below, just started at a specific time stamp
You may find it easier to transition to a transverse kneel and completing what amounts to an axle (post or wedge), except it was entered from reverse. The difficult part of this is ensuring there is enough initiation or heel to have the trailing stem (bow) skid through the turn. Initiation must be strong and intentional, the canoe well heeled over.
Build to a Cross Reverse Axle - Practice each point below until the outcome is comfortable and smooth.
Starting with a cross-reverse stroke Let can glide allowing it to run in a reverse straight line - canoe level
Initiate with cross-reverse J (or C) - let canoe glide - canoe level - small turn.
Initiate with cross-reverse J, shift weight and knees to heel canoe - moderate turn.
Initiate with cross-reverse J, shift weight and knees to heel the canoe, plant paddle - moderate/strong turn. Hold until canoe is almost 180 degrees and then complete with a stern draw.
In this example the manoeuvre was started with a cross-reverse stroke, there is no reason that you can't start with a reverse stroke and then transition to cross reverse. This would allow you to initiate with an onside sweep, instead of cross-reverse J (or C).
Building off of the axle completing a Wedge or Christie is a matter of working out where the paddle slices or is placed. Some people find a cross-reverse wedge is much easier one-handed. The cross-reverse christie is a weird beast with the grip hand (arm) crossed under the shaft hand (you need to do a weird palm roll under the grip and along the shaft). The Cross-reverse post involves keeping the onside knee in the onside chine, the offside knee likely needs to be pointed across the canoe (but not weighted) to get proper body rotation (it is easier to do a transverse kneel BTW).
A Final Note
Wow that was too much information... My suggestion is to start with completing one kind of manoeuvre (e.g. reverse axle), doing that well and then moving onto the next manoeuvre.
If you want some additional information on reverse and cross reverse see the Cross Post Articles by someone with much more developed skills than mine: