Max Karlsson ASP Review, Shifting Focus-Changing Goals…

When I first talked to Dennis after the 2015 Freestyle Worlds about Joining ASP I wasn’t entirely sure whatI was getting myself into. All I knew was that he was extremely fun to paddle with, was considered somewhat of a mad scientist, but had an amazing track record (especially with Claire O’hara). I saw an amazing opportunity to improve my freestyle abilities with arguably the best coach in the sport.

I started on the program January of 2016, I had decided to make the move from living full time in the US to living in the EU for better training opportunities. I was eager to be living in Prague where they have a world class training facility for both Slalom and Freestyle, which I was training for both at the time.

What I feel I gained most from the program wasn’t technical knowledge of tricks, as I felt I already had a good grasp of most tricks, but various psychological skills such as mental toughness and tactical strategies towards competitions. Some of my favourite sessions with Dennis have been out of the water; the reviews, the brainstorming, the psychological break downs of training methods and competition preparation.

From a training perspective, my favourite and most useful method I gained from ASP was “Breaking the State” meaning when you’ve become frustrated and feel like you can no longer progress through your training; you must step back, separate yourself from what you are doing, visualise, and come back to your certain problem with a new angle of attack. Not only is this useful in training situations but also for split second corrections in competition.

It’s simply about being in the present, without dwelling in past (what happened) or future (what if) thoughts. Just as the perfect body position or shape makes a Clean Mc Nasty or Tight turn through a slalom gate a lot easier, a ‘a positive state’ makes it easier to maintain a strong self-belief in your own tactical decisions.

I learnt it’s just as important to rehearse thoughts as it is to rehearse your competition ride, to better prepare for a range of situations which will allows me to be more responsive and adapt to the demands that I’m facing. Although this process is intended to minimize my outcome thoughts, my experiences have shown even when best prepared outcome thoughts (e.g. will this ride get me through to the next heat, will I flush off the wave) may appear in the mist of some quality process thinking. That said, it’s much easier for me now to re-focus and get back on track.

Another thing I feel that I have gained while training with Dennis is a strengthened sense of visualization through meditation and physical rehearsal. This has greatly enhanced my ability to maintain or regain a positive focus, and build confidence in my practices. A skill that has been useful in acquiring new skills or strategies to enhance performance in training and competition.

My time as a Freestyle paddler has been a long (spanning almost ten years) and enlightening experience, however sometimes goals and focuses change. When I started, I wanted and believed I could be the world’s best freestyle paddler. As time went on, I was training more often in a slalom boat than in my freestyle boat. I feel deeper and deeper in love with the challenge and split second difficulty that is slalom kayaking. I’ve trained hard this last couple of years to make National Team selections, and as I’ve progressed the demands have increased, I now feel to allow my full potential to be explored that I needed to choose between these two amazing disciplines. I decided to take a step back from competitive freestyle to allow more time to train and compete in Slalom, even though I have undoubtedly had much more success in freestyle. I have been a member of the Swedish National Slalom Team since 2016, and have won a handful of local slalom races and the Segre Cup in the Junior class in 2014. Although my slalom results may not match my aspirations, I hope the amount of work I am putting in my training sessions will pay off in the future.

The mental skills I’ve developed as a freestyle competitor have now been transferred to Slalom, and after discussions with Dennis I plan to continue on the ASP programme to support these aspirations.

Everything that Dennis does and continues to do for all the athletes he works with is absolutely amazing, the amount of dedication he has to the sport and its progression, is inspiring.

Photos by Jack Gunter and Joscha Kriegel



Nottingham Freestyle Development Camp 9th-13 April 2018

The week kick’s off with a warm up day getting to know the features and setting goals for the rest of the week. The general themes of the week follow a training to train, training to compete and competing to win approach. This progressively layers skills to provide not just the technical, but also tactical, psychological and physiological elements to reach your full ride potential. It’s great fun and it’s not all about competing, it’s about throwing down the best rides possible as individuals and as a team. It’s up to you how long you would like to focus on each of these themes.

We’ll be using all the latest coaching techniques and comprehensive resources to maximise your progression throughout, including daily video analysis and a final report with recommendations to assist your future development…

If you are just starting out in freestyle our coaches will fast track you forward. If you already have freestyle experience we guarantee to take you to the next level and open your eyes to new and progressive ideas such as combo’s, and ride strategies.

In order to give you some flexibility to meet your own personal needs there’s a 5 Day £240 or 3 Day £180 option running during the same week.

For more information please see: Nottingham Freestyle Development Camp Overview (PDF)

If you have any questions regarding this course or any other course in our range then please let us know via FB messenger or email:

Hope you can join us

Canoe Freestyle World Championships 2017 – ASP Athlete Review

I’ve barely had chance to reflect on the recent World Championships; It’s been a full-on year for the ASP programme. As this training/competition cycle comes to an end, and on the back of the World Freestyle Championships in Argentina we would like to congratulate all our ASP athletes.

Last year the ASP programme set out with a desired goal for our female athletes – to increase not just the depth of competition in ladies freestyle, but to raise the bar of performance in competitive ladies freestyle. We set out an ambitious target of breaking the 1000 point barrier (under the ICF scoring system). I’ve known for many years that ladies have the potential to perform any move on the score sheet, so our aim was to realise this in competition.

As always the ladies rose to the challenge and showed true dedication to meeting these goals. I would like to give a special mention to Claire O’hara (GB), who has not only achieved the goal of being able to perform all the ICF moves (including trophies), but pushed forward with a ride that set a new record scoring 925 points (one move short of breaking the 1000 goal) – opening her final ride with Luna’s and incorporating Tricky’s. I would also like to give a mention to Islay Crosbie (GB), who’s only been on the programme one year, and is balancing paddling and a new career as a Doctor. Finishing 5th in the world championships, she is currently only one move short of achieving all the ICF basic scoring moves in training – inspirational! Ottilie Robinson-Shaw, just 16, won the junior Gold, showing both her drive and impressive repertoire of skills, including difficult trophies such as Back Loop-Mc Nasty in training sessions.

There are many more athletes on the programme that I’m proud to be working with and looking forward to discovering what’s possible in 2018 including Heidi Walsh (GB) and Anna Bruno (USA) – both competing in their first World Championships for K1 Women. Anna also won Bronze in the Ladies Squirt.

As always we have continued to focus on developing well rounded athletes who are not only highly technically skilled, but mindfully skilled to deal with the demands of training and competition at such a high standard. I can’t stress enough how far the performance bar as raised over more recent years.

In the mens competition, Robert Crowe (now in the second year of the ASP programme) did GB proud making the final and demonstrating what it takes to be a World Champion; although just missing the podium he achieved the third overall highest scoring ride in the K1 heats. Real Gav Barker (GB) in his first year of the ASP programme just missed the cut for the finals finishing 6th overall. Both have proven capable of breaking the 2000 point rides in training and made their mark at this Worlds. Harry Price (GB) also pushed forwards with a personal best of 1216 to gain the Bronze in the Junior Men’s. I’m stoked to have been working with Harry and it’s exciting to see his potential.

It’s great to see James Ibbotson (GB) show casing C1 freestyle both home and abroad. James is making great progress finishing 8th overall and really building a repertoire of moves with a 723 World Championship personal best. I know James is already adding new skills to his training rides and I can’t wait to see him throw down in 2018. Max Karlsson (SWE) decided to take a step back from competing in the freestyle World Championship to focus on the Slalom National Team. A difficult decision, I wish him well and we are excited to be continuing to support him in his aspirations.

I would like to congratulate all the ASP athletes in their hard work preparing, and competing in this World Championship, it’s always a privilege to support the athletes and I look forward to the year ahead.

All the World Championships 2017 competition heats can be found on the following link: ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships 2017

Dennis Newton – The ASP and GB Team training have gone really well…

It’s been a busy month of coaching in the UK in preparation for the World Championships. The ASP (Athlete Support Programme) and GB Team training have gone really well. I’m also stoked to be competing this year; there’s been a few minor setbacks in my preparations, but that’s life and right now I feel prepared and strong.
Between this, the new British Canoeing Coaching Awards has been launched and I qualified as a core trainer/assessor. There’s been some great changes to the coaching system, a big step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to supporting the awards to bring a new generation of coaches into our sport.
It’s going to be another exciting end to an awesome year.
I head out to Argentina next week, and will do my best to post some updates during the World Championships.

Look forward to seeing you all on the water soon

Dennis Newton – Nominated for the World Paddle Awards 2017

I’m humbled to be nominated for the World Paddle Awards alongside some truly remarkable individuals. I feel privileged to have been a part of so many paddlers journeys over the last 20 years. During this time I’ve had the pleasure to coach whitewater paddlesport to a diverse range of groups including children in crisis, disability sport, grass roots and world class athletes. It’s been fun and at times challenging, but I’ve learnt, and enriched my coaching, from all those I’ve had the honour to work with. I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with so many great people who have contributed to this sport and way of life. I would like to say thanks to all those who have supported me over the years.

If you would like to see all the other nominees and vote please use the link below…

Harry Price (GB Freestyle Team Jnr) – My year on the Athlete Support Program.


This year I have been super stoked to of had the opportunity to train with Dennis Newton(Sweetwater Coaching) on ADP and ASP coaching programs. Denis’s knowledge of coaching freestyle is exceptional due to his many years of experience, his enthusiasm and pure joy for being on the water makes being coached by him a totally awesome experience.

This year my main goals have being focused around the freestyle World championships in November. We have spent a lot of time focused on training for competition. We have covered: Technique on specific moves, planning your competition ride, Adaptive paddling as well as off the water exercises to increase desired physical properties

Technique on specific moves:

During ASP and ADP sessions; you receive feedback while paddling from Dennis, including quick tips on how to nail the move you have been dreaming about! Another important part of working on freestyle tricks is using video analysis. After most sessions we will look at video footage. Being able to slowdown, pause and re-watch certain clips makes it much easier to see where you are going wrong, or pick out good parts of your paddling! When using video feedback I like to watch clips multiple times, each time focusing on something slightly different. For example you can focus on the: Boat, body position, head or paddle.

Planning your competition ride:

When going into a competition it is pretty important to have a bit of a plan. A competition ride is very personal; it can take a bit of time to get right. Its also pretty exciting to have a chat about all the awesome links and combos that could potentially be done in a competition! The most important part about planning a competition ride is to enjoy it, and let your imagination run wild!

Adaptive paddling:

Adaption is an important part to making progress in kayaking. During training we try to be as flexible as possible with the techniques we are using. When something does not work, recognise it and then adjust it. If you do this in your training you will progress quicker than you can imagine. Check out Dennis’ s article on contrasting paddling: Contrasting Practices – Addressing a stubborn incorrect technique

Of the water:

Training of the water is an essential part of freestyle paddling. One important part of paddling is doing regular stretches, you will have much more enjoyable freestyle sessions if you are not struggling with back pain… We have looked at using equipment such as foam rollers to aid flexibility as well as some nice stretches that can be done daily. Recently I have also been doing some plyometric training to aid explosivity and speed while paddling.

Neitikoski Freestyle Development Camp

Awesome week, so much fun… there was a wonderful atmosphere, with everyone working to support each other in achieving their aspirations. It reminded me why this is such a beautiful sport.

It’s a unique opportunity to see and feel the outcome of our actions and interventions unfold; surfing waves, reflecting, smiling, laughing and just as importantly seizing the opportunity to improve and celebrate our success with others – something that I feel has far reaching effects on our daily interactions and perceptions of the world.

It really comes down to having fun on the water, meeting new faces, sharing our experiences and creating lasting memories…

I would like to say a big thanks to the Finnish Freestyle Committee for inviting me to run the Freestyle Development Camp. Freestyle has great potential in Finland and with your continued guidance and support the future’s bright


Finland National Team – Freestyle Training Camp 2017

Stoked to be back in Finland!  I’ve spent the last week coaching the Finnish Freestyle Team in the Northern Karelia region on the Neitikoski rapids, close to the Russia border. It’s an amazing place with forests and lakes as far as you can see in all directions, with the Lieksa River winding its way through them. The Team was ripping it up, although the water levels were higher than expected, which meant we had to focus more on wave tricks. We’ve now finished the Team Camp and looking forward to kicking-off the Freestyle Development Camp tomorrow…in the meanwhile it’s time to hit the Sauna


British Canoeing Freestyle Coach Award is coming!

The Freestyle Coach Award is coming! This is a super exciting time for freestyle in the UK, as there’s never before been a dedicated freestyle coach award! In January, you will be able to access a 2 day discipline specific training and then assessment to coach freestyle on all appropriate waters that are park and play.

DO YOU WANT TO BE A PROVIDER (i.e. Someone who trains or assesses the award)?
Right now we are accepting applications to be part of the provider team. If you know anyone who is proper clued up and passionate about freestyle and has coach education (or other teaching quals / experience), please let them know and get them to apply!

The deadline for applications is noon on the 21st August 2017.

Further information can be found on the BC official website: Becoming a Coach Award Provider

Notional Analysis & Wave Maps: Shorten the period it takes to get used to unfamiliar waves.

I was asked recently if there’s a way to shorten the period it takes to get used to unfamiliar waves… apart from surfing the feature and going through a process of success and failure, you can use video analysis, observing your performance post-session. This process benefits in avoiding making the same pattern of mistakes (that lead to failed tricks or preventable missed passes), and, of course, maximising your time and enjoyment on the wave. It’s aways worth having a strategy for getting the best from any river feature for that matter…

If you would like to try this approach here’s the fundamentals. If possible set-up the camera in a fixed position (ideally facing 45 degrees downstream) for a session or multiple sessions. Organise your video clips so that you can run through them with ease. Then set out a standard table template (keep it simple using paper or a spreadsheet) to capture the data you are seeking (e.g. the successful and un-successful setups, passes, tricks, flush’s, all against time). Then analyse the data you have acquired and present it on a basic wave map (example below), doing this will provide you a quick reminder of what needs to be considered and will also place the new information in the context of using the wave – aiding better retention of the insights you have gained.


Screen shot taken from the 2015 World Championships Analysis of Garburator Wave, Ottawa, Canada.

What does this wave map tell us? Starting with the objective that (from a ICF competition point of view) there is only 45 seconds to perform as many high scoring moves as possible, time is an important factor. The diagram shows that if the athlete sets up at the top of the wave between the landing of each move, it would take an average of 5-6 seconds each time (which potentially equates to two lost moves). If the athlete uses the very edge of the shoulder (a small almost unnoticeable ledge a quarter of the way up the wave face, the set-up time drops to 3-4 seconds. It was also shown that landing tricks in the central zone of the wave often placed you straight into another set-up.

The area where the tricks are initiated (take-off) can also make a dramatic difference. The green zone would allow quick access to the right shoulder, whilst the bubble trail marks a small rise near the middle of the feature for generating more air. The yellow zone offers, big air potential, although showed higher flush rate, and longer set-up times. The red zones indicated, a high rate of flushing when landing tricks. Although subtle, the initiation point marked with the red, white and blue balls show high rate of successful executions for each of the tricks listed.

This is just a sample of what can be gathered, the key is to present what matters and not over complicate things. There are also a number of considerations such as, is the athlete able to make the suggested adaptions in the training time available? This is a very individual thing, and each athlete will need to refine their own approach to the features demands to suit their current ability level and/or style.

Taking this and applying it…the first things is to always start with a clear objective to your analysis. If it’s a competition then this would need to consider the rules, if it’s not then it may be just about speeding up your adaption to the feature. Either way, it’s always going to be around optimising the interaction of you and the feature. For example; Is it a surging or smooth wave? This may effect whether it’s more beneficial to throw tricks in the top quarter of the wave face, or throw tricks deep in the trough. This may become apparent watching a number of paddlers over a period of time, or through observing yourself initiating moves high or low on the wave, or using both. There are lots of factors like this to explore and this short article only scratches the surface. If you sit and watch for a while you will often start to see patterns emerging, recognising these patterns provides evidence that will be informative and shape your practice, and also increase confidence in your direction of thought.

Quick Summary:

1. Have a clear objective to the analysis
2. Prioritise key factors of performance
3. Devise a recording method that is efficient and easy to apply.
4. Present the data ensuring it’s easy to understand.