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Jackson Kayak Tip of the Week
By Emily Jackson

Tons of people I have had the pleasure of boating with talk about hitting a “plateau” or “hump” in their playboating. Doing the same moves for years can make us less excited to jump back into our local feature. As someone who spends a majority of her time playboating, I too have felt this plateau, but after getting pregnant with my son Tucker and encountering a different challenge while playboating, I was able to get out of my comfort zone and try different tricks with new techniques. This change sparked so much enthusiasm for me that I have been able to keep my playboating from getting stuck in a rut ever since.

Tip #1- There is no right order for learning new moves.
Grouping tricks by difficulty can really slow down your progression. For years I could only do a splitwheel in one direction. I could McNasty, Phonics Monkey and do other moves before I finally nailed down that left splitwheel. If I had gotten stuck on that one move and had not been willing to try other moves that seemed “above” my skill level, I might never have been able to get my split. Don’t be afraid to try, even if you are at the earlier stages of playboating. The beauty of freestyle paddling is you can try anything! Not sure how to start? Check out a video tutorial for the trick you want to learn. And remember — the sky is the limit.

[Related | Living without Compromise: Emily Jackson’s TEDx Talk]

Tip #2: Remember that each feature is different.
This is always tricky. You know you can loop in a certain hole, but when you visit another, it feels like you’re starting over. Instead of getting hung up on this frustrating moment, try to see what other people are doing in the feature. Every wave or hole is different so performing the same moves successfully will require certain adjustments. While the basic technique remains the same, there are small tweaks or modifications you can make that allow the trick to happen. Also, that it may be far easier to perform a move to the right or left on particular features. Be patient and remind yourself that are you learning how to do a trick in a new feature. This can be super exciting as it challenges you to try using different techniques.

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Tip #3- Take it to the flatwater
Sometimes paddling in river features makes it harder for us to focus on using the right technique or edge control. Paddling in flatwater removes this element and allows us to focus all of our energy on edge control. Whenever I want to try a trick in a hole, I like to “attempt” it in flatwater first. This allows me to visualize and feel what motions I am going to do. By being confident in my plan, I can enter the feature feeling that I know what I am doing. For instance, the lean clean plays into cartwheels, clean cartwheels, blunts, clean blunts, and many other moves done in flatwater. Having a solid lean clean will help you learn the trick when you move onto a feature.

Lean Clean:

Another move to try is the bow smash, which is what you use to initiate a loop. This drill can help us focus on keeping our boat flat while we’re learning how to get the front of the boat under the green water without dropping an edge.

Step 1: Have your boat completely flat while sitting upright, imagine sitting in an armchair, don’t lean to either side. Keep your butt flat.

Step 2: While throwing your body forward focus on slamming your feet under the surface of the water. You should have a splash come up off the front of your kayak. As you get better at it, focus on using less of your body motion and more on your feet to push. If you feel you aren’t staying flat, this will correlate with flipping off to the side when you try to loop in a feature.

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Tip #4- Play games with a buddy
Having someone to goof off with at a feature makes playboating much more fun! I love the challenge of trying to perform tricks that other people are better at. One way to challenge yourself and your buddy is to play PIG or HORSE. Rock-paper-scissors to see who starts. The winner calls out a move and a direction (for instance, left cartwheel). Both of you have to try it. The person who calls it out goes first. If they complete the move then the next person has to try it, and if they don’t complete it, they get their first letter. If the person does get the move, then it’s still a blank slate. If you call a move and miss it, it also counts as nothing and moves onto the next player. This is great because your friend will try to pick moves they think they know better than you. This challenge allows you to try new things while playing a fun game.

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Tip #5- Power of Positivity
There are two parts to being positive, one is visualizing yourself performing the move in they way you are hoping to complete it and the second part is how you talk to yourself. Before peeling out into the feature, imagine yourself doing the move exactly how you want to do it. This positive image in your head goes a long way towards helping you complete the trick.

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Secondly, when you are getting feedback or telling yourself how to do something, always go positive. What I mean by that is instead of saying “don’t lean back” to yourself say, “lean forward.” If we keep saying “don’t, don’t, don’t,” then all we are thinking about is the thing we aren’t supposed to do. Think about what you are supposed to do, and tell yourself that over and over.

I hope these tips help you get out of our playboating rut and put the excitement back into your next surf session. I personally have found that using these tips, regardless of how many times I have surfed a feature or tried a certain trick, puts the enthusiasm back into my paddling and gets me excited for the next time out.

— Emily Jackson is Jackson Kayak’s Factory Team manager

More Tips of the Week

Finding a New Paddling Crew

How to Take Your Whitewater Game to the Next Level

How to Boof

How to Lift your Kayak without Injuring your Back

How to Mooch a Shuttle

How to Flatwater Loop