By Stephen Wright
As with any skill in life, all freestyle kayaking can be broken down into small, fun patterns of body movement. I think about all freestyle kayaking based on 3 FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS, which combine to do everything including enders, stern squirts, loops, air blunts, and even more advanced moves like helixes and phonix monkeys! You will find that you can learn anything in playboating much more quickly if you can dial-in these 3 fundamental skills, and learn to incoorperate them in your kayaking. It’s just like learning any other skill: if you want to be a better golfer, you practice your swing; if you want to become a concert pianist, you practice scales (for HOURS and hours until you wish for death…lol); If you want to become a better skateboarder, you practice ollying and balance; if you want to become a better climber, you practice leg-work. The 3 fundamental skills of freestyle are vertical force, balance (edge control), and torso rotation (strokes).
VERTICAL FORCE is simply your ability to push down on the bow or stern of your boat with your body. Many people mistakenly assume that pushing down on your bow is acheived by leaning forward, and that leaning back will sink your stern. Instead, this secret Jedi Technique has been handed down from generation to generation, and is FAR MORE EFFECTIVE: To push down on the bow, focus on your heels against the hull and push your feet down. Since there’s no part of your body in your stern, you can’t push down on anything to make your stern go down, so focus on pulling up on your knees–"crunching" the bow up will make the stern go down. So for a double pump, blunt, plugging a loop, or beginning a wave bounce, smash your feet down. To do a stern squirt, 2nd half of a cartwheel, back blunt, or to pull the boat off the wave, crunch your knees up.
This drill is fun, and doing it 5 – 10 times as part of your regular warm up will help your playboating immensely: To smash the bow, first wiggle your heels against your hull to activate those nerve endings and remember where you’re trying to push. With the boat totally flat, sit up, throw your body forward slightly, then focus on SMASHING your heels down quickly and aggressively. This should crate a large splash. Try it several times until you can sink your bow 1-2 feet under the surface. To practice smashing the stern, first rock yhour knees back and forth a bit to get used to lifting them. Now keep the boat flat, then throw your body back, and immediately CRUNCH your knees up quickly and aggressively to pull the bow up and smash the stern down. Once again, it should make a pretty good splash. You should be able to crunch the bow up a foot or two. The drill is to do each of these smashes 5 – 10 times–BUT NEVER ROCK BACK AND FORTH. Instead focus on each smash to isolate the feeling and body movement.
Enjoy the photos of Clay doing the flat smash drills at Rock Island. Enjoy faster learning and more fun!
Live from Reno, NV,