Articles - How to Cartwheel Your Whitewater Freestyle Kayak

Whitewater Kayaker Ed Smith Cartwheels His Kayak In a River Hole
Whitewater Kayaker Ed Smith Cartwheels His Kayak In a River Hole
Ed Smith - Posted on 27 Sep 2010
Once you’ve got surfing and spinning down it’s time to take your playboating in to the three-dimensional and start to aim for some verticality. We’ve previously covered how to cartwheel your kayak on the flat, but the real deal comes when you start to use the power of the water to do it for you as you take the move to river features like holes. It’s a great way of really getting good rotation wired and once again it sets you up with the basic skills to move on to the more complicated modern combination moves. It’s also a useful skill to have up your dry sleeve just in case you find yourself stuck in a hole on the river. The more you play in them the more comfortable you’ll be moving about in them. CKUK’s resident freestyle fiend Ed Smith knows a thing or two about cartwheels so we asked him to explain the secrets of racking up multiple cartwheels with a heap of control and a dash of style

In learning the cartwheel you’ll spend plenty of time falling on your head. To kick you off with you’ll need to be comfortable spending time upside down, rolling up and being in retentive holes. Obviously a short or slicey boat will save your stomach muscles and the deeper the hole the better. Hitting your bow on the bottom can be a sure fire way of ruining your, and your boats, day!

The SetupHow to cartwheel a kayak
From a side surf keep your weight over your boat and tilt your kayak downstream, digging in your downstream edge. This will help pull you onto the back of the foam pile. If it doesn’t seem to be working keep the downstream edge on and rock back and forth a little to really dig it in. Your other option, which may work better depending on the feature is doing a 360 spin* on a shoulder to then cut back on the foam. When you’re in a nice and stable position on the back of the foam pile you’re looking good! From here imagine a clock face in front of you, with 12 o’clock being directly upstream. Position your boat so that the bow of your boat is pointing at 1 o’clock if you’re cartwheeling on your left or 11 o’clock if you’re cartwheeling on your right.

Keeping good posture with your head and body upright, plant a reverse sweep and place the boat on edge at about 45 degrees – not too much or you’ll fall on your head.
Rotate your body ahead of the boat, by this I mean shoulders should already be facing down towards the water with your paddle parallel to them, which means the power behind your stroke will come from your stomach muscles; think of your body as the axel, which your boat then rotates around. Keeping your upper body ahead of the boat makes it smooth with your legs and the boat following.
Your head should always be looking where you’re going, in this case you want to be staying in the hole so get your eyes on the seam of the hole where it meets the oncoming green water, which is the best place to initiate the bow and keep them on that How to cartwheel a kayakpoint!
In lest powerful features you may need to wind up the bow by lifting it in to the air with a forward stroke while your boat is on edge. As the bow falls this momentum gives you a bit of extra help slicing it in.

Entering the Vertical Realm
As you feel the bow slicing down transfer weight on to your foot pegs, this helps keep the boat stable as it elevates or goes vertical. On the front end it is best to have your body slightly back from centre as this helps bring the boat more vertical.
Keep your eyes looking over your upstream shoulder into the hole until the stern of your boat is falling and ready to be cut through the water for the second end.

The Second End
At this point whip you head around so you’re looking over your new upstream shoulder, once again looking back into the hole. When going for the second end you don’t need to reach and place your paddle at your feet. It is a common mistake and will cause the second end to go flat, instead just place the paddle at your hips and the momentum from keeping body rotation in front of boat will pull it through.
As leaning slightly back when the bow is down helps stability and verticality of the move, leaning slightly forwards when the stern is down is crucial to keeping balance and continuing on to more ends!

Rack’em UpHow to cartwheel a kayak
The third end in a cartwheel sequence is the key to racking lots of end, once you master it lots of ends follow and you should be able to cartwheel till the cows come home, or your arms fall off! It’s a case of commitment and practice! As you feel the back end coming through the water wind up shoulders once again and throw the bow down! Just remember that the boat doesn’t go from end to end – it rotates around an axel… Your torso!
So there it is, all you need to get those ends flying, but remember only play in a hole if you are sure that it’s safe and you can work your way out of it if it all goes a bit pair shaped.

Play Hard but Play Safe


• Get on the back of the foam pile
• Initiate at the seam lineHow to cartwheel a kayak
• Keep your weight over the boat, use hips to edge
• Keep your torso rotation ahead of the boat, you’re the axel
• Commit to the 3rd end and more will come

How to Cartwheel a Kayak

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