Basic Definition:

A vertical front flip initiated and finished between a horizontal angle of -20° and 20°, landing in the hole or on the wave. The paddle is typically used to initiate the trick, and not used during the recovery (staying clear of the water).

Integral to:

Mc Nasty, Phonics, Luna-Loop, Trick-Loop, Woo-Tricky, Space Godzilla and Space-Jam.

Phases and Key Elements

The trick can be divided into set-up, initiation, take-off and recovery; with each of these phases having a specific function. 

Phase 1 – Setup

Generate some upstream momentum from the top of the pile in order to plug the bow deep in the holes seam.

The most common approach to setting up when learning to loop is to gain the top of the pile via surfing the holes shoulder, or by ferry gliding from the eddy and entering the hole at the top of the pile. Both of these methods will allow you plenty of time to focus on the initiation.

Key Events:

  1. Starting from the top of the pile, whilst sitting in an upright posture, point directly up stream (12 o’clock), into the oncoming flow.
  2. Use a forward stroke to drive straight down the pile, aiming to plug the kayaks bow just upstream of the seam.

Key Elements: 1 and 2
Technical / Tactical Adaptions

The following provide ideas to further explore the set-up phase.

Using the shoulder to perform a Spin into initiation…

Stay balanced over the kayak keeping your weight on your downstream buttock and slightly forward. Surf onto the shoulder and let the bow get taken downstream, until the bow is facing 6 o’clock. Maintain the spin by planting a forward sweep stroke, looking upstream in the direction of rotation (to spot the point to initiate the loop) and shifting the weight to the other buttock (edge transfer). The forward sweep can also be modified (by pulling on the blade similar to a draw stroke) to provide drag to move to the top of the pile. Prepare to utilise a forward stroke(s) to gain upstream momentum for initiation. 

Using the shoulder to perform a cutback into initiation… 

Carve across the shoulder with your weight over the downstream buttock. As you reach the shoulder apply a forward sweep (or reverse rudder) to push the bow upstream. Ferryglide to the edge of the shoulder plant a strong stern rudder deeply on the downstream side and pry the active rudder blade to perform a cutback (using a breaking rudder stroke to gain height on the pile). As the boat passes 12 o’clock transfer the weight to the other buttock (edge transfer). Apply forward strokes to ferry across the top of the pile and drive the boat back down the pile to the initiation point. 

Common Challenges & Solutions

Functional rigidity preventing fluent movement

When learning any trick, you can often become tense which limits movement, or you can use too much force and activate muscles which aren’t required creating inefficiency of movement. This functional rigidity (caused by the higher balance or stability challenge) creates a false sense of stability but does not allow free or subtle movements, which is a big disadvantage (e.g. over relying on the paddle for support). 

To address this it’s worth taking your time to explore the feature and play around with various set-ups (think of this as test runs to initiate the trick). Manoeuvre around the feature exploring ways to gain the top of the pile and down to the initiation point. While doing this focus on your senses and tag what they are telling you; e.g. are you more stable with more or less boat edge in a side surf; do you see the point on the shoulder you want to cutback on to reach the top of the pile; can you apply less force through the rudder stroke to achieve the same result; is your face strained or relaxed, notice your breathing. Try not to explore the thoughts, just notice them and give them a label.  

Once you’re back in the eddy reflect and try to identify the beneficial points to enhance your ride. This will provide a solid foundation from which to explore tricks. 

Phase 2 – Initiation

To maximise air time during the loop plug the bow sharply, whilst looking upstream and maintaining good posture.

Key Elements:

  1. Sitting in an upright position sharply throw your weight towards your knees and stamp on your footrests to force your feet down. (Don’t lean too far or this will restrict movement of the hips / edging).
  2. Plug the bow in the seam, keeping the arms bent and the core engaged. To drive the bow as deep as it will go it helps to keep a blade in/near the water to keep straight and maintain balance. Using your blades at this point will reduce the depth of plug.
  3. As the boat reaches maximum depth, bring the paddle close to the chest, the buoyancy of the boat will then begin to reject airwards. At this point you should be stood up.
  4. Reach both hands skywards above and just in front of your head (keep the arms in close to the body when lifting). Ensure you keep your body and blades symmetric as the boat starts to rise; this will stop the boat from flipping straight over. The boat needs to be just past vertical as it pops into the air.

Key Events: 1 and 2
Key Events: 3 and 4
Technical / Tactical Adaptions

The following provide ideas to explore skill development.

Bow Back-pivot Initiation 

If the hole has a flatter ramp it may reject the bow, resulting in a front surf. Try instead setting up at a slight angle (11 or 1 O’clock) to the oncoming flow, and then straighten out with sharp back stroke as you stamp your feet to slice and plug the bow to 12 o’clock.

Open Body and Outstretched Arms

A more open body and outstretched arms is one of the factors that allows the boat to plug deeper, leading to more thrust into the air.

Compact Body and Bent Arms

A more compact body and bent arms is one of the factors that allows the boat to plug shallower, leading to less thrust into the air.

Common Challenges & Solutions

Timing the bow plug

It’s important to be in control of where you plug the bow (this is due to the couple effect with the flow of the water). If you are struggling with this it’s worth taking the time to practice a flatwater drill.

Use two markers / points and imagine a line between them, this will represent the holes seam. Paddle towards the line and plug the bow at the line, note how long it takes from starting the initiation to the point the bow plugs. Try plugging the bow too early (before the perceived line) and too late (after the perceived line) to understand your perceptions of the timing. 

As with all flatwater exercise try to visualise it in context to the feature you are going to apply it too. 

Raising the Arms

If it’s not a matter of confidence, or task overload (which would require using flatwater/land based exercises), it could be a common issue such as bad posture restricting fluent shoulder movement.

Sit/Stand in a slumped position looking straight ahead. Slowly carefully lift your arms as high as you can, then bring arms back down. Now try lifting your arms again from a relaxed upright posture. Do you notice a difference in your range of movement? Your trunk position has influenced your arm movement. Good posture is essential to all freestyle tricks.

Phase 3: Take-Off

  1. After your quick stand-and-reach, it’s time to throw your body aggressively forwards to start the looping motion. It’s important at this point to keep your shoulders square to the upstream flow this will keep the boats ends vertical throughout the loop.
  2. Just before the boat reaches the apex of its pop, pivot from the hips, swinging the head and arms aggressively forward, stopping abruptly near the front deck. As the paddle completes its downward swing bring the paddle close to the lower chest; the paddle should remain horizontal throughout the movement. This will help decrease your moment of inertia and increase the speed of the looping motion.

Key Events 1 and 2

Technical / Tactical Adaptions

The following provide ideas to explore skill development. 

The configuration of the arm/paddle action during the take-off/aerial phase  affects the rotation, direction of travel and height of the loop. Once you have the basics, play with different configurations for contrast… 

Go Higher – Keeping arms outreached during take-off helps slow the boats rotation, allowing for more lift during the take-off; also it allows the optimal paddle swing into the loop for the quickest rotation with minimal to no a recovery stroke needed.

Go Lower – keeping the arms close to the body will reduce initiation depth and flight time. The reduced depth results in reduced buoyancy force acting on the kayak to provide upward pop. (e.g. plug in to a shallow hole; then use an early recovery stroke to generate height; alternatively keep the paddle close to initiate then reach high to maximise height)

Upstream TravelKeeping arms outreached at around 45 degrees during take-off helps shift the centre of gravity forwards to generate forward travel during the loop.

e.g. when initiating high on the ramp for a mc nasty you will naturally inherit down stream travel. Applying upstream travel during the take-off will cancel this, or if required, thrust you forward to complete multiple links or retain the feature.

Downstream TravelKeeping arms outreached vertically during take-off helps shift the centre of gravity back to generate backward travel during the loop.

e.g. loop with backwards travel to create more space away from the holes ramp and time to link tricks or set-up for the next trick.

Common Challenges & Solutions

Improving boat interaction with the feature

Initially you may find that you perform a rapid somersault with little air. Assuming you are raising your arms and applying the basic technical model; this could mean you are letting the boat go a little too vertical before standing up.

On the other hand if you are gaining loads of pop although struggling to complete the somersault, try letting the kayak go a little more vertical before the stand-and-reach action.

The plug  positioning can also greatly affect the height and rotation of the loop. If you need more pop, try planting the bow slightly further upstream into the ramp; whereas if you’re getting lots of pop, but still lacking rotation plant the bow in the pile just before the seam. The timing will be a little different depending where you plug the bow; with plugging further upstream on the ramp typically slightly delaying the time of standing.

Phase 4: Recovery

Key Elements:

  1. As the boat lands on the stern briefly and explosively kick your feet over head and upstream.
  2. The body should remain at approximately 95˚ to the boat; preventing undue pressure on the spine (and getting stuck on the back deck).

Key Events 1 and 2

Technical / Tactical Adaptions

The following provide ideas to explore skill development.

Like the initiation there are two slightly different methods to recover the loop (early and late).

Two Blade Early Recovery

The default recovery technique involves grabbing the water with both blades and instantly forcing the blades up stream, whilst kicking your feet explosively over your head. This is performed before the stern engages the water.

This makes it easier to prevent the boat from twisting in the air, and is the natural progression to clean air loops. Once you can stick the landing, start to take the pressure off the blades and focus on increasing looping rotation during the take-off. 

This technique is useful for  more advanced moves like the Phonics Monkey, and still allows time to transition to a late single blade recovery if needed.

Two Blade Late Recovery

This is the same technique as the Early Recovery, although applied  when the stern engages the water. Applying the two blade recovery at this point may give additional drag causing downstream travel. 

One Blade Early Recovery

This involves grabbing the water with one blade and forcing the blades up stream, whilst kicking your feet explosively over your head. This is performed before the stern engages the water.

One Blade Late Recovery

Same technique as the Early Recovery, although applied  when the stern engages the water. Applying recovery at this point may give additional drag casing downstream travel. 

Common Challenges & Solutions

Twisting during the recovery – The two blade early recovery method has the benefit of stopping the boat from twisting in the air. If doing a clean loop the blade should remain horizontal to minimise twisting in recovery. 

Lay flat on the ground simulated holding the paddle. The legs should be elevated in a kayaking posture. Move the legs to one side as far as possible with the shoulders remaining on the floor. Now bring the legs back to centre, this will simulate the action of straightening the kayak during the recovery phase.

Unwanted turns into a side surf before completing the loop – It’s easy to become too over reliant on the paddle to keep the boat straight during the final part of the recovery; generally this is compensation for lack of hip control. In the final phase of the recovery experiment with edging right and left (using your hip tilt) to control the direction of the kayak.

Leaning too far back – As with all tricks there’s an optimum range of movement and force that needs to be applied. An example would be leaning too far back, or extending the arm behind the head during the recovery stroke. It’s worth experimenting with force and range of body and paddle movements to find what works best for you. At no point should the arms have to go past your head during the recovery stroke; or should you feel the kayaks cockpit rim sticking in your back (assuming your boat is fitted appropriately). There’s a trade off between force and movement applied over time; so generally if you are leaning too far back, it helps to apply a sharper recovery stroke, with less leaning back. 

When practicing on the water, see how little leaning back is required to achieve a loop by using short sharp movements. 

Bring it all together…


  • Set-up high on the pile and gain upstream momentum down towards the holes seam.


  • Lean slightly back over your buttocks, then lean forwards towards your knees sharply and stamp downwards through your heels.
  • As you plug and drive the bow as deep as it will go, keep your blades close to the water to keep straight and maintain balance
  • Stand-and-reach both hands skywards just in front and above your head as the boat starts to rise.


  • Keep your body and paddle symmetric as you throw your weight forward, just before the apex of the boats pop.
  • At the same time swinging both your hands rapidly downward towards the front deck, spiralling the paddle close to the lower chest.


  • Kick your feet over your head upstream. Hold the core position and allow the body to follow the legs.

You may also be interested in:

Biomechanical Assessment of a Front Loop in Freestyle Kayaking