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I’ve called this article “Active thoughts” simply because I wanted to get my thought process, along with the things I am learning or have discovered into writing while they are fresh. Hopefully they will give others some food for thought if they are trying to get this move.

For my own progress here are some things that I have identified as being a consistent hinderance to my own effective completion of the move.

  1. I reach too deep with my paddle during the bounce. This is a big hinderance because once the boat gets pulled as deep as it can it will naturally want to bounce back out of the water again. Having the paddle too deep causes two major problems. Firstly it will cause resistance to the momentum of the boat being rejected from the water, slowing down the take-off speed. The second is that I need to get my paddle out of the water, or at the very least above the surface in order to be able to throw my body into the loop. If I have to pull the paddle out, this causes resistance. The obvious way around this issue is to cock the wrists back so that the paddle slices out with minimal resistance. This is something I need to work on. Preferably a combination of shallower depth and slicing the paddle out.
  2. Bouncing too long.
  3. Throwing forward when the boat hasn’t reach the top of its bounce
  4. Sighting something in front of me to help keep the takeoff straight.
  5. Only throwing forward and forgetting the second part about throwing back.
A sequence showing what usually happens during my flat water loop. Notice my twist and how at the end I default to my roll position. This is a good example of what not to do!

There are a million other factors that cause a failed loop, including a wonky take-off, totally mistiming things etc. These are all things that can be chipped away at. But there are some things that have made a world of difference to me assuming all other factors come together on those very rare occasions.

The first of these is fundamental, but I’m not sure is explained enough. It also requires explosiveness of movement. Let’s use a Chinese martial art term, because it sounds all kung fuey and all that. Fa jin (fājìn, 發勁), or explosive power. I told you it sounded cool.

Kayak flat water loop
This loop was straighter. Or was it? There’s still a slight twist where you can see my paddles aren’t perpendicular to the boat. A small error that has big consequences in terms of not landing straight.

Anyway, ask anyone including me one of the main things I do wrong in a loop (apart from twisting, arrrgghh!) and it’s that I throw my body forward for the first part, and then totally and utterly forget, or at least remember half an hour later to throw my body back again.

Throwing the body back is important, but it isn’t what it seems, as my discovery recently has proven by improving my ‘hit count’.

Let me break down my discovery about this movement and thoughts down to encapsulate it.*

  1. The throwing forward and back should be thought of as one powerful movement, not two separate ones. This might seem odd given that technically it is two moves. But you have to think of it as one.
  2. You don’t need to throw your body anywhere near as far forward as you think you do. My success rate went up as soon as I did much shorter forward throws and went much, much sooner to the backward move. I can only assume that this is because once your body has been thrown forward a certain amount at a certain speed, any further movement doesn’t add any more useful momentum to the spin. I’ll leave this to the physicists to either confirm or deny.
  3. The throw back is a movement to serve the purpose of pushing your hips out, which opens your body again and makes the boat do the second half of the loop. I have found that the throw back needs to be performed at the very time you have thrown forward. Confused? Well, it goes like this, if you focus on the doing the throw back literally the moment you have thrown forward, by the time your limbs get the message the timing will be spot on! Sort of. Okay it doesn’t always work, but this goes back to that idea of the two movements being one single one.
  4. The lean back with the paddles behind the head (like a stern stall) is for the very last part if your loop was low, or your stern has become stalled. But although it is often needed in a flat water loop (I can’t do it when needed myself, I should add, and when my stern stalls at the end of a loop I usually just fall on my side. Another thing for me to practice!) it isn’t fundamental to the actual explosive loop movement itself. It’s just something to be used to help complete the move on the flat water if you didn’t quite get the boat fully round. That said, it is important to help stop you falling flat on your side at the end quite a lot of the time.
  5. You don’t need to look ‘up’ on the launch. Look up enough to sight the horizon. It helps you keep from twisting or going off level (emphasis on the word “helps”). Looking upwards doesn’t actually give you more height. Better timing on your forward throw at the height of the bounce does that, along with a deeper plug and rejection.

*I reserve the right to chop and change this advice as and when I have more eureka moments! I’m not saying any of this advice is necessarily correct either. As I say, these are my active thoughts as I make progress with it.

Thanks to Jude Kristian for taking the photos!

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