Freestyle How To: Flat Spin

I recently put together a short video tutorial on how to flat spin on a wave. I wanted to follow up with a few more details than I could fit into the video. First lets cover a few wave surfing basics. Typically you want to do your tricks starting at the top of the wave. You want to initiate the move as your boat slides down the wave toward the trough. How do you do this, though? First get familiar with moving your boat around on the wave. You’ll want to get good a put your boat at specific points on the wave. Steer the boat with your eyes. If you want your boat to carve left, look left. If you want to carve right, look right. As a general rule you want to lead all of your moves with your head. Your head follows your eyes. Your shoulders follow your head. Your hips follow your shoulders, and your boat follows your hips. Just by looking left or right you will naturally do the rest of whats necessary to carve your boat in that direction without ever thinking about “dropping an edge.”

Now the gas and brakes… Assuming your in a front surf (facing upstream), leaning forward with your body will make you slide down the wave. Leaning backward will create more drag on your stern and pull you up the wave. If you’re back surfing this will be the other way around. Now if you lean back a little and carve hard you will go up the wave toward the top. Be aware of the boundaries of the wave. You don’t want to go so far up that you fall off the back or carve so hard that you fly off the side. I recommend trying these techniques out and getting comfortable moving around on the wave before you start trying to spin. After all, we all need to crawl before we walk.

If you’ve been working on spins you have probably heard people say you need to keep your boat flat. What do they mean exactly? We all learned to lean downstream in the beginning. This is to avoid flipping and while it works, it is one of those rules that you get to take liberties with as you progress. Perhaps what we should say instead of keep your boat “flat,” is keep your boat parallel. You want the planing surface of your kayak to be parallel to the water under it in order to allow your boat to plane or slide. These means if you’re sideways on the wave you need to let that upstream edge down a bit. This is definitely the tricky part and it’ll take some practice to get the hang of. Let it down too much and you’ll be hanging out with the fish, but not enough and you won’t be able to spin and you’ll drag off the back of the wave. After you’re comfortable moving around on the wave practice this by side surfing on the wave. If you’re heavy on your downstream edge your boat will bounce and toss around and you will work your way up the wave and eventually off the back. Try to let your upstream edge relax some. When you hit the sweet spot your boat should slide down the wave sideways and feel really “loose.” If you go to far you’ll get some roll practice.

Ok. Now that you’re comfortable with those skills lets get into how to do a 360. I am going to break down the steps as if we are spinning to the left, but it works the same in either direction.

First Get to the top of the wave.

Right when you start to slide down the wave look over your left shoulder. Plant your left paddle blade back by your stern. You should be able to see your grab loop, your paddle, and whatever is going on downstream. Your shoulders should be parallel to your paddle shaft. This ensures your body is “wound up” which will maximize your stroke.

Take a back sweep. Not a back stroke but a sweep. Push your paddle blade directly away from your boat. Keep looking at the downstream part of the wave. As your boat gets to 90 degrees apply pressure with your left knee. This is going to keep you boat “flat” and loose making it much easier to spin.

When you get to 180 degrees you’ll need to “rewind” your body for the next stroke. Look over your left shoulder again and spot the bottom of the trough. Pick a point and stare at it. Put your right paddle blade in the water next to your bow and take a forward sweep. This needs to be a sweep so be sure to push away from your boat. Also you will need to switch which knee is holding pressure to keep the boat “flat.”

As you come all the way around to 360 take a couple strokes to make sure you stay on the wave. As you practice you may not need to take the forward sweep. This is called a clean spin. You initiate with the back sweep and hold your paddle out of the way as your boat goes all the way around.

I hope this helps you master that spin. If you have questions feel free ask me out on the water or stop in The River Store and ask about getting some instruction on your playboating. If you missed the video you can see it here….

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