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The double pump is the gateway to many freestyle moves, both on flat water and in a feature, here are some tips to achieve it and get your boat vertical.

Want to bow stall so that you can do a flat water loop, or get your boat vertical onto its bow so that you can do cartwheels on the flat and in a feature? Well, if that’s the case you’ll need to know how to do a double pump.

What’s a double pump?

A double pump is a method of putting the boat on edge and lifting the bow out of the water so that it can be slammed down again, hopefully resulting in your boat going vertical on its bow end. I’m not going to go into the full details of how to do the move here. For that I recommend Bartosz Czauderna’s incredible “Freestyle Unlocked” book. However I am going to offer some learned tips for those of you who have started to try and do it, but who are getting frustrated at being able to achieve it.

Boat size

Boat size is important, although it’s important to say that having a boat that’s too big won’t necceserily prevent you getting it on end. I recently tried a medium Rock Star, which I’m on the lower end of the weight for, and while it took me a few goes to achieve it, I did it in the end. All I had to do was make absolutely sure my technique was bang on. If you’re light in the boat you will need to use every tool at your disposal to drive the nose into the water to get vertical.

Likewise, once you are in a bow stall, if you are on the lighter end of the boat weight range you can still balance it. It’s just that you will need to be much more active and your balancing skills need to be that much better. You will also have to feather the paddle and the boat hull more to retain the vertical position.

In other words, if you are learning, it is better to be in a boat you are on the upper end of the weight for. You *can* still do it in a boat that you are on the light side for, but it will take more practice and more attention to detail so that you don’t waste any available energy during the movement.

Tips for the double pump

Don’t rush the first stroke

Everything starts at the beginning, or so the saying goes. And it’s right, quite obviously. One of the things I see the most is paddlers rushing or cutting the first stroke and part of the double pump short. The key to the double pump, particularly on flat water, is getting the bow out of the water as much as you possible can.

In reality, you aren’t so much lifting the bow as you are sinking the stern. Think of all that buoyancy in the stern. As you lift the bow the stern sinks under the water. The higher you can lift the bow, the deeper the stern will sink, and the bigger the buoyancy rejection from the back of your boat for the second part of the double pump.

So, make sure that you bring the first lifting stroke all the way to the back of your boat until it naturally comes out of the water completely. You need every inch of it, so don’t cut it short. I see a lot of people transitioning into the back stroke when the paddle is only just past half the length of their boat. Don’t. Continue it to get maximum lift on the bow. But also remember that the paddle is being used mainly as leverage for your legs.

Another way to think of the first stroke is like this. Sit with the boat flat and perform a sweep stroke. If you are doing the sweep stroke properly your boat will rotate while your paddle blade remains roughly in the same place in the water. In other words you are rotating your boat around your paddle, not the other way around. Another aspect of kayaking basics that is usually forgotten is that when doing the sweep stroke you should push with your leg on the same side you are taking the stroke with in a forward stroke, and the opposite leg in a back sweep stroke.

The double pump is no different. In fact you can think of a double pump as taking a forward sweep stroke until the paddle blade hits the back of your boat, then immediately doing a reverse sweep stroke until it hits the front, all the while using your legs as described above, but with the boat on an edge rather than flat.

Using your legs

As I just mentioned you must use your legs. Because we watch people who are in their kayaks rotating their torsos and using their paddles, we miss what we can’t see. Despite what we see outwardly, freestyle moves involve the entire body, and the double pump is the same. You absolutely *must* involve your legs in helping you perform the movement. If you rely on your upper body rotation and the paddle, particularly if you are light in the boat, you will not complete the move.

In the lifting the bow stage of the double pump, you need to try and scissor your legs up in the air, so you should imagine the sweep stroke example I gave above. You use your paddle to give you the leverage to really push your lower leg (the one closest to the water when you’re on edge) into the end of the bow.

Likewise, when you come to perform the back stroke, as the bow starts to fall towards the water you need to slam your upper leg into the end of the bow. Remember, you are using the back stroke as a lever to help use your legs to slam the bow down in conjunction with body rotation.

Keep your body neutral

During the entire movement your body should remain as neutral as possible with no leaning back or leaning forward. Most people lean too far forward, flattening the boat out. You’d be amazed at where the neutral position *isn’t*. A lot of boaters think they are being neutral, but they end up going too far forward or backwards, so it is worth practicing while sitting flat to get an idea of where neutral really is.

Don’t rush the second stroke

As you get better at the double pump you can sometimes have off days where the boat teeters between becoming vertical or not. With more skill you learn that you can keep the pressure on the second stroke for quite some time to rescue the situation, particularly if you have been using your legs as well.

So, just as with the first stroke, I do see a lot of people attempting the double pump and rushing the second stroke. Remember, it’s there to give you leverage for your legs to ‘pump’. This is why, with more time and skill, it’s possible to do a single stroke double pump, and even a no paddle double pump, because it’s more about your legs and body rotation than it is about the paddle. But to begin with you *will* need that paddle.

Sometimes I’ve seen paddlers get the boat vertical, but it then twists and they fall over. This is a due to a combination of not using the legs, but also pushing the back stroke away and out to the side of the boat as it rises up, creating the twist. Great for a kick flip over a wave, but not so much for a double pump.

Don’t look down

Try not to look down at your paddle as this is a sure fire way to tip over. Remember, you go where you look.

Over rotate

On the second part of the double pump, try to rotate your torso more than you think you need to as you reach the end of your first stroke. Create as much rotational torque for the boat as possible by doing this.

Getting the paddle away from the boat

If you want a bow stall, then as the boat becomes vertical you need to get the paddle horizontally away from the boat, just under the surface of the water. If you keep the paddle too close to the boat as the boat comes up, you will fall on your head. An easy way to do this is, as the boat becomes truly vertical, move your front blade away from the boat first, followed quickly by the back blade.

Split up the moves

All of this is a lot to think about in one go, so make things easy on yourself and practice the first part of the double pump on its own until you are using your body and paddle correctly, then isolate the second part.

If you have a pool, hold onto the side of it and rock the boat on edge up and down, making sure to use your legs correctly.

To conclude

The double pump is a hard move to learn, but it is the gateway to a lot of moves, particularly on flat water. However, the key to performing it is in the fine details. It’s about perfectly using your paddle, legs, and body together as one. This is particularly important if you are light in the boat, since you simply cannot afford to waste any energy at all.

2 comments on “Double pump tips

  1. Linda says:

    In my short experience as a beginner playboater, boat size and its outfitting are crucial.
    I’ve been spent one year in the wrong boats trying to learn the basics on flat water. At the end I could only do stern stalls (even with coaching).
    I tried a smaller boat and in one month of pool sessions I learnt how to bow stall, pirouette and cartwheel (without coaching).
    In a bigger boat it’s just very unlikely to understand the right movement to do. I’m curious to see if I’ll be able to do the same moves I can do now, but in the boats I used at the beginning.

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks for the pointer to Bartosz Czauderna – I haven’t got his book (yet!) but his videos online look really good and detailed.

    And your tip about pushing each leg during the double pump was also really useful! There’s so many things to think about during the double pump that it’s easy to forget about some things – but focussing on this the last few weeks has really helped!

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