The air loop is probably the single most-attempted trick in playboating these days. And with good reason! It’s the easiest way to get your kayak in the air, and doing a front-flip just feels awesome. Even though other tricks are more complicated or harder, the Air Loop may still be the most fun to actually throw. It’s also a pre-requisite trick for other tricks like the McNasty, Phonix Monkey, and Macho Move. You can learn the motion in the flatwater, but this “how to” will focus on doing it in a hole where it’s easiest. Hopefully these thoughts will help you get higher in the air if you can already loop, or help you get your first loop if you’ve never made it happen before You need to have a deep enough hole, or steep wave to do the loop.
1. Get all the way on top of the foam pile by either carving to the outside corner and aggresively carving back on the top, OR by edging hard into the foam from the middle. Line-up the boat where you want to loop (generally where the hole is strongest and deepest) and spot your plugging target.
2. As you charge down the foam, think about almost lift your knees and, then stomping your feet (bow) deep and hard into the seam. I almost try to “bounce” into the plug. Also start to plug earlier than you think–you only get 1/2 a second from the top of the foam to the seam! The harder you plug, the more air you’re gonna get, AND the more retentive you will be. If you find that you push on your feet, then it pauses before actually plugging, you need to slam earlier. Some holes with flatter inflows may require you to start at a slight angle to the oncoming water, then straighten out and slice to bow in as you slam your feet. I call this method the “bounce and slice” technique. That will work in spots where going straight in often rejects the bow and you end-up front surfing or blasting rather than looping.
3. Keep a blade in the water to keep it straight as you drive the bow as deep as it’ll go, then stand up and reach for the sky as the boat starts to rise. If you fall on your head, you let it go a little too vert (or past vert) before you stood up. If you go straight up without flipping at all, you should let it go a little more vert before standing. Either way, REALLY REACH STRAIGHT UP WITH YOUR HANDS. This will stop the boat from rotating, and allow it to rise up and into the air.
4. After your quick stand-and-reach, aggressively throw your body back to the front deck to start the boat flipping. You should totally tuck up there almost like setting-up for a roll. Try to get one blade forward as you do this (almost into home-base roll position).
5. Quickly throw your body back to the back deck to flatten your boat out and finish the move. If you don’t go back, you may land on a vertical stern and stern stall your way out of the hole. I also try to use one blade with my body to grab the water and snap the move even harder. That’s why we reached forward with a blade when we tucked up in the last step. It ends-up being a forward sweep straight over the top, rather than out to the side. We call that a “loop stroke”. Works great.
6. Sit up and continue surfing!
Jedi secret tricks for more air and snap: -If you are generally falling over without any pop in a spot, think about plugging your bow farther upstream of the seam–this will allow more boat to sink before rotating (resulting in more pop!). If you’re going more up and falling on your head, think about plugging farther back in the backwash–this will give you more rotation.
-If you’re in a shallow hole where you hit the bottom every time, initiate WAY back in the foam and really steep on your angle of attack (slice it in back there). You need to get the boat pretty vert BEFORE hitting the bottom. Once it hits, THEN jump up huge like normal and flip it hard. Just be a little more vert and gentle on the plug.
-The flushier the hole, the harder you should plug to be retentive. Also think about letting the boat a hair past vert so that it jumps upstream a little more to stick.
Well, that’s about it. Go launch yourself into the air! The best part about the air loop is that it’s fun whether you actually flip or not! Enjoy the photos by Clay Wright of me @ Hungry Mother on the Upper Gauley.
Live from Cathedral Café in Fayetteville, WV,