Jackson Kayak Tip of the Week
By Zofia Tula
Flatwater paddling allows us to focus on the small things, which in turn improves our freestyle kayaking. I think this is especially true for women who have a harder time covering up improper technique with strength. And all paddlers can benefit from learning symmetry and proper angles.
Below I give you some tips which I use during my flatwater training sessions. I hope they will help you learn new moves faster, both on the river and at the pool.
Make a training plan
Before you start paddling, think about what you want to learn and focus on that during your flatwater session. Repetition is your friend. Focus on 1-2 new moves during each session, not more. Start with easy moves you already know to warm up your body, but save 50-60 percent of your session time for learning new moves. When you start to getting tired, mix it up by trying combination moves or just messing around.
For example, a one-hour flatwater training session might look like this:
10 minutes of warm-up on shore.
10 minutes of warm-up in the water. (Paddle forward and backward. Try easy moves with attention to angle control.)
30 minutes spent focusing on the two new moves you want to learn.
For the final 10 minutes, mix it up.
And don’t forget to stretch afterward.
The key to learning vertical moves is using a marker, such as a landmark on shore or the lines along the bottom of a pool. Why is this so important? A marker teaches you to start and finish your moves in the same direction. For example, on flatwater you can learn to cartwheel fairly easily, but good cartwheeling technic comes only when you can stay on the same line through the end of the move. This is important in the hole where if you get offline, you’ll flush from the feature. Your stern should be in line with the marker as you finish your cartwheel. Once you’ve learned to control your rotation, try split wheeling. Remember you need to pivot exactly 180 degrees on your bow before you reverse and throw your stern down. A marker will help you see where 180 degrees is.
Learning to Loop
There are a couple of ways how to learn to loop. I recommend starting on flatwater with a starting block in the pool or some kind of step. Using a fixed point instead of your paddle makes it easier to perfect your bow dig, the step before you pop out and initiate a loop. This method allows you to try a loop even if you don’t know how to bow stall yet. With all your flatwater loop training, focus on small details like timing and going huge.
Paddle with friends
Even on the flatwater, it is good to paddle with someone. It’s always safer than paddling alone. Plus, you can help push each other to learn new tricks. Your partner can tell you what you are doing right and wrong. It is very helpful to have an outside perspective when you are learning something new. Also, it’s good to take video of your training session and later analyze your technique compared to an instructional video. Most importantly, paddling with friends it is more fun and keeps you motivated. I paddle a lot with Tomasz Czaplicki and during every session, we watch each other’s progress, share tips, and find new ways to challenge each other.
Take your flatwater training to the river
Even when you’re paddling in a hole or on a wave, it’s good to warm up by doing freestyle moves in the eddy. Focus on the moves you want to do on the river. If you already have the skills to make a move on flatwater, learning it in the hole will be easier.
Keep coming back to the eddy throughout your river session, especially when something starts to go wrong with your move. Take a breather, think about what went wrong, and try to find the solution on the flatwater. Have fun.
— Zofia Tula of Wrocław, Poland, is a member of Jackson Kayak’s Regional Team
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