The wavewheel is a fun way to enjoy any size wave train on your way down the river. It’s basically a downriver cartwheel thrown using the energy of the waves, which makes for a good time! The wave will actually help you push the bow down, so you don’t need to be able to do a successful double-pump in flatwater to get the wavewheel. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a very big wave to wavewheel, anything around a foot tall and deep enough to be vertical can work, though bigger waves will give you a more dynamic move. Also, greener “hump” waves seem to work better than breaking waves, as the foam will stop you as you’re trying to do your trick. We shot these photos of Clay on a small wave train a few rapids below Iron Curtain on river right on the Gauley.
Here’s how to do the wavewheel:
1. Paddle forward downstream towards the wave to build-up some speed before you hit it. Aim for the steepest and tallest part of the wave.
2. As your bow starts to go up the wave, put the boat on edge, use a forward sweep, and crunch your bow up a little. Take that forward sweep all the way to the stern to be ready to push. Pull the bow up much earlier than you think–the goal is not to fly off the back of the wave with your bow up. Instead, pull the bow up on the way up the face, so that the peak hits your side, and pushes your stern up (which helps throw your bow down).
3. As the peak of the wave hits your side, and your forward sweep runs out, use a reverse sweep with the boat still on edge, and push your bow down into the depression behind the wave. This reverse sweep should be planted on the peak to make it easy to get the bow down. If you’re late, you’ll end-up trying to push your bow down into the hill of the next wave, rather than the air behind the first wave–which is the goal.
4. As you push the bow through the air and into the depression behind the wave, either begin to flatten your boat out and finish facing upstream, OR stay on edge and let it fall onto your stern for a full cartwheel. If you time the stern end like the first one, you can easily pull the stern through with a forward sweep.
Jedi mind tricks to make your life easy: -Focus more on throwing the bow down behind the wave than wheeling-up the bow hard on the way up the wave. -Timing is EVERYTHING with the wavewheel. It might take a few tries to get used to the feel of when to throw. Remember: the goal is that the peak of the wave hits your side and pushes your stern up to help you push the bow down. -Don’t edge so much that you lose your balance and fall over
Live from Deep Creek Lake, MD,