WHITEWATER INSTRUCTIONAL SERIES

HOW TO STERN SQUIRT YOUR KAYAK


What is a "Stern Squirt" and why bother learning it? The answer is simple--because it's incredibly fun! With the resurgence of half and full-slice whitewater kayaks, stern squirts are making a comeback. Nailing them in longer boats is especially satisfying. However, it requires technique, and that's what we're here to cover.

The Stern Squirt is a great move to have in your arsenal. It involves crossing an eddy line, dropping an edge while simultaneously taking a backward pry stroke, with the goal of getting your stern fully submerged and your bow upright toward the sky. From here, the paddler can either flip over, or try and hold this position for as long as possible through taking strokes to keep the rotation going.

BUILDING A FOUNDATION

As with all our sessions, we emphasize building a strong foundation of skills to master complex maneuvers. Our stern squirt progression is no exception. To maximize your success, we recommend working through the flat water steps before tackling the moving water ones.

PREREQUISITES FOR SUCCESS

To make the most of this tutorial, ensure you're comfortable with the following essential skills:

  • Kayak Edging: The ability to control the tilt of your kayak.
  • Proper Body Rotation: Understanding how to rotate your body effectively.
  • Eddy Recognition: Identifying eddy lines and currents.
  • Confident Eddy Entries and Exits: Skillfully entering and exiting eddies.
  • Rolling Proficiency: Being able to roll consistently.
  • Appropriate Kayak: Paddle a low-volume stern kayak, preferably a half or full-slice whitewater boat.

IDEAL LEARNING LOCATION

Choosing the right environment is crucial for learning stern squirts. For the flat water component, look for a location with these attributes:

  • Kayak Edging: The ability to control the tilt of your kayak.
  • Proper Body Rotation: Understanding how to rotate your body effectively.
  • Eddy Recognition: Identifying eddy lines and currents.
  • Confident Eddy Entries and Exits: Skillfully entering and exiting eddies.
  • Rolling Proficiency: Being able to roll consistently.
  • Appropriate Kayak: Paddle a low-volume stern kayak, preferably a half or full-slice whitewater boat.

THE TECHNIQUE BREAKDOWN

FLAT WATER PRACTICE

  1. Paddle in a straight line at minimal speed.
  2. Initiate spin momentum with a gentle forward sweep stroke.
  3. Keep your kayak flat for stability.
  4. Add dynamic body rotation towards the inside of the turn.
  5. Maintain visibility of the stern grab handle on the boat.
  6. Avoid leaning back; focus on rotation rather than leaning.

Now, introduce the "pry" stroke at the back of the boat. Some call it a reverse sweep, but a higher top hand position for the pry helps prevent the paddle from slipping out of the water. During the pry, keep the blade in the water and maintain focus on the stern of your kayak.

ADDING EDGE

  1. Start with a flat boat and initiate a gentle spin.
  2. Rotate your body and keep your eyes on the stern.
  3. Incorporate the pry stroke at the back.

Adding edge can be tricky initially, as you're dropping the edge on the opposite side of the boat to the pry. Begin with static practice and gradually integrate it into forward paddling, creating gentle spin momentum. Remember, you're not aiming for vertical at this stage; focus on a gentle lift in the bow and the stern slicing under the surface while the boat continues to spin.

Maintain the pry in the water and keep your gaze fixed on the stern. Once this becomes consistent, gradually increase your speed and work on getting the stern to dip deeper, resulting in a more vertical posture.

PROGRESSING TO MOVING WATER

With your flat water practice, you're now ready to move into the current and tackle eddy lines. Successful stern squirts in moving water depend on speed, positioning, edge, body rotation, and timing.

SPEED AND POSITIONING

  1. Contrary to common belief, you don't need to go super fast for this move. Start slowly, so the boat begins to spin on the eddy line, not too far out into the current.
  2. Position yourself near the top of the eddy, where the eddy line is most defined. Leave enough room for the stern to spin without hitting obstacles. As the boat starts to spin, gently drop your upstream edge and rotate towards the inside or downstream side of the turn.

CRITICAL TIMING

Timing is crucial. As you observe the stern spin, place the pry stroke as close to the eddy as possible. This stroke doesn't require significant force. When timed correctly, the stern of the boat will dip under the eddy, into the eddy line, and then into the current, allowing the kayak to go more vertical.

COMMON PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

  • Excessive upstream edge, leading to aggressive flips upstream: Adjust the edge of the boat.
  • Pry stroke slipping out of the water too early: Elevate the top hand during the pry.
  • Boat too flat, resulting in spinning on the eddy line without going vertical: Experiment with positioning and edging.
  • Insufficient pressure on the pry stroke, causing flips: Ensure proper placement of the pry stroke in or near the eddy line.

[ Also watch: The Top 3 Half-Slice Kayaks Compared ]

FINAL TIPS

Mastering stern squirts takes practice and patience. Here are some final tips:

  • Begin in flat water to make the movements familiar.
  • Choose an easy and comfortable practice site; don't aim for extreme vertical initially.
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