Getting bummed about colder weather? Not looking forward to moving into a pool for the winter? Well here’s something that can keep you trying for a bit at least, even if you think you’ve got every flatwater trick in the book down- the elusive flatwater back loop!
The most important part to getting a flatwater back loop is, obviously, being able to do a back loop. One of the best things you can do to start the process is to get out to your local playspot and do as many as you possibly can. Focus on getting them as snappy and aerial as you can, and really bringing them through on a hard stroke. I’ve also found practicing Tricky Whu’s to be great training for flatwater back loops as well- anything that is really going to force you to work on crunching your abs hard to bring the bow through the water quickly.
Once you get to the pool/ lake/ eddy to start working on it for real, you’re going to want to figure out how to get the pop. Although you can bounce on the stern, just like you would on the bow for a flatwater front loop, that is probably the hardest and least consistent way to get the pop you need. I usually use one of three main ways to guarantee that I’m going to get the pop off the stern that I need.
1) The first, and easiest way I’ve found is to do it much like a Tricky Whu. You’ll want to over rotate a split wheel (instead of a 180 degree twist between the bow and stern end, you’ll want about 270). When you finish the twist and start falling onto the stern, you’ll want to slam it in as hard as possible while keeping your body neutral to forward. The key to this technique is giving the right amount of rotation in the split wheel. Too much, and your body will be too twisted to throw back. Too little, and the back loop will cork sideways. You just need to find that in between.
2)The second, which I use the most and is also great for back Macho Moves, is to go straight out of a double pump onto the stern. You’ll want to start out back paddling, until you feel like you’re up to a good speed. Once you are, you’ll do the classic stern double pump- push down on the non power face of your paddle to lift the stern high into the air, then pull on the power face of the same blade to drop it hard into the water. Once again, it’s very important to keep your body neutral or forward when dropping the stern, so you’ll have room to throw back. The key to this technique is timing it out so that you can drop the stern as deep as possible without sacrificing your body position. When the stern drops, try to have your eyes looking straight to the sky as well- it’s tempting to look over one shoulder, but that will make the boat cork.
3)The hardest of the three techniques, but also the one with the most potential for big air, is the Jedi Flip. To do this you’ll start by pumping up the boat in a bowstall, as you would for a flatwater front loop. Once you’re starting to get that good amount of pop, you’ll throw the boat off to the side (just like an aerial cartwheel). The hardest part here is stopping the natural rotation of the boat when you land on your stern. Try to keep your core tight and be looking straight towards the sky so the boat lands vertically, instead of continuing to rotate onto the opposite edge. Even once you can stop the rotation, it’ll take some time to find the balance between landing too flat (you won’t be able to throw the boat back) and too vertical (you won’t have enough time to let the boat pop). Once you’ve found the balance (I like to land at about 80 degrees of verticality), this way will give you by far the biggest pop.
Once you’ve figured out how best to get your pop, it’s time to actually throw the back loop! If everything is going right, you should land on the stern with your body somewhere between neutral and forward, with your eyes staring straight up. As the boat pops, you should be throwing your body straight back as hard as possible, and punching your dominant hand down towards the water. Ideally, you want your paddle to be parallel to your boat and body by the time the boat is upside down.
If you’ve gotten to here- perfect! Now just one last move. You should be laid back on the back deck with your dominant paddle blade up around the center of the stern, almost on the surface. From here, all you need to do is crunch. And crunch as hard as you possibly can. Think about bringing your knees to your head, and your feet to that dominant paddle blade. Use the leverage having that blade on the surface gives you to push your stern up, while your feet are pulling the bow. This is the crucial point, and requires good ab strength and perfect timing. Just crunch as hard as possible, and use that paddle blade on the surface as leverage. It’ll take some practice, and a fair bit of frustration, but in time you’ll be nailing one of the hardest flatwater moves out there!