Virtual Coach: Your First Rodeo

Adam Chappell guides you through your first freestyle event

This story is originally featured in C&K‘s 2012 Whitewater annual, available on newsstands now.

You Never Forget Your First Time: Chappell goes big on New York. Photos by John Rathwell

Five years ago, Adam Chappell had only dabbled in flatwater when he saw YouTube clips of kayakers at Buseater and taught himself to loop in his backyard pool. When the Stittsville, Ontario teen discovered that Buseater was just down the road, he decided to take his tricks to the river. By 2010, he’d earned an alternate spot as a junior on the Canadian national team. The following year, at 18, he competed as a senior in the ICF Freestyle Kayak World Championships, finishing 17th in a stacked international field. Yet Chappell considers his biggest win at a local Level Six Cup last spring against some of the planet’s best freestylers, who were in town from the inaugural Whitewater Grand Prix.

Chappell is still under the radar, working at an Ottawa Mr Lube to save money for his first run at this summer’s top freestyle events. The aspiring mechanic approaches the 45 seconds of an ICF-timed routine like a technician. He knows the time starts once you maintain a surf, and that each trick in a given direction will only be scored one time—do two right blunts and only the highest-scoring will count. Let Chappell walk you through his first go-to routine. Use it as a platform to build your own and you can finally tell yourself, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” — John Rathwell

See Chappell run through this routine HERE:

Headspace: It’s only 45 seconds, so it’s key to stay calm and know what you can do. Have your ride planned out, so you’re not doing the same tricks twice or running out. If you wash out, paddle back up and stick to the plan. Start with your most consistent trick to ensure points, and go to your least consistent. Know when to give up and move onto the next—if you don’t have the setup for a trick you like, don’t keep pushing for it, scratch it and move on, or go back to it. Start learning tricks outside of the feature’s sweet spot; throwing tricks anywhere will save setup times and help boost your score.

Spin: Pick the low-hanging fruit by beginning with a 360-degree spin. Use the feature’s shoulders or tongue to help you initiate. Start on the top of the feature to generate some speed down. Use a back-sweep stoke, and, leading with your head, front sweep on the opposite side to switch backward while keeping your boat as flat as possible. That’ll get you on the board with 10 points, more if you land a clean spin.

Cartwheel: Get back to a controlled front-surf. Time to turn on another axis. Let’s set up in the center, pointing to 1 o’clock for a left cartwheel (pictured). You don’t want much forward momentum to use a double-pump to slice your left bow edge in. The more edge you give, at the more vertical you go (it must be over 45 degrees to count). Focus upstream on a fixed point, and turn your heard fast once you can no longer spot it, and then search for that spot again. Lead the cartwheel with your torso and keep it in a neutral position over your boat to keep the rotation speed. After two ends, bring your boat down flat again. That’s 30 points. Bonus points: Go for two ends in the other direction.

Blunt: Your cartwheels will likely end at the top of the feature—your setup spot for a blunt. Point to 1 o’clock for a lefty blunt. Accelerate down the wave, take a quick, powerful righty stroke and pull you knees (and bow) up. Next step is a quick edge transfer into weighting your feet and standing tall with a lefty bow pivot stroke, looking upstream and spotting your landing. Keep yourself on the wave by flattening out and throwing a back-stroke. If it’s over 45 degrees, that’s 40 more points (15, and scored as a roundhouse if less).

Backstab: Okay, you’re in a back-surf. If you’re on the top of the pile, that’s the perfect time to backstab and link to your blunt. The elements are essentially a blunt performed in reverse: Take a back-stroke to initiate, blast down the wave, and plug you left edge for a right backstab (pictured). As your stern rises, pull your knees to your chest, lead with your head to rotate, and switch edges with a hard, righty forward stroke. Recover with a fast lefty stroke. 70 points.

Loop: Time to go vertical. Lean forward and stroke out of your backstab, ideally in the top, middle of the feature. Start your momentum gingerly down the feature—coming down slow will ensure you engage your bow straight. Lean forward and push your feet into the trough with a blade in the water for stability as you plug. Stand tall and reach for the sky once you’ve plugged deep; the taller you stand, the more pop you’ll get. Throw forward hard as soon as you feel your boat pop. You’ll want to lean back again and kick your feet forward to finish your rotation, but keeping one blade in the water helps you rotate faster and more consistently. 60 points. Bonus: Try a clean loop to finish the ride.

Salute the Crowd: You just racked up 210 points, right? Not bad for your first rodeo.

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