How to Flat Spin a Kayak – Freestyle Beginnings

by Simon Coward

How to Flat Spin – Freestyle Beginnings

With lower summer water levels gripping many of us in the northern hemisphere and the lovely warmth of the sun beating down, this is often the time our attentions steer towards playboating. As a beginner freestyle paddler, once you have some control in a wave or hole, the first step for moves is often the flatspin.

It is a pretty straightforward move, if, you get the positioning and timing correct. It is really just a combination of a setup, reverse sweep, edge change and forward sweep.

Below we have broken the move down into 5 simple steps, and have tried to identify the key components to successfully mastering this move.


As this post is largely for those just getting into freestyle paddling I would recommend the following site attributes to work on the flat spin:

  • A wave/hole that has a small foam pile and you feel in control on (ie. you can move from side to side and turn comfortably)
  • Has eddy service so you can try it many times
  • Is deep enough so that if (when) you do flip you aren’t going to bounce your head off the bottom
  • Runout is deep and free of obstructions.


We would recommend that paddlers attempting to learn flat spins have the following skills in order to maximize chance of success:

  • A good ‘combat’ roll on the level of water the feature is on
  • Ability to carve and ‘surf’ around on a wave/hole
  • A good forward and reverse sweep


To begin the flat spin in a small hole feature you want to begin on the top of the foam pile with the boat slowly accelerating upstream. This allows unhindered spin momentum and, also, prevents you flushing off downstream.


Once you are setup, keep your body upright and your eyes looking upstream (I tell people to focus on the green water above the feature), now do a large reverse sweep on the downstream (left paddle blade in this scenario) side. This will begin the spinning of the boat downstream. DON’T EDGE TOO MUCH, or you will flush off downstream. Continue the reverse sweep until your boat is NEARLY pointing all the way downstream.

STEP 3: THE EDGE TRANSITION Just before you are pointing downstream you need to quickly flatten your boat before switching edges to complete the spin. Note the paddler here is leaning aggressively forward (to prevent the stern catching) and is still looking over his RIGHT shoulder at the green water upstream. This will change very quickly in step 4.


As the boat passes pointing straight downstream you need to change edges (in this case lifting the left knee), place a forward sweep with the right blade and switch from looking over the right shoulder upstream to over your left shoulder. This all happens more or less simultaneously, when they all happen together and with correct timing you will spin in control into step 5.


Simply continue looking upstream, keep the upstream edge up and complete the forward sweep and you have now completed a flat spin. Now, stay upright, setup and try it again!


We hope that this gives you a good visual on how to perform a flat spin, it will likely take some trial and error, however, once you get it, it is the gateway to many other more advanced moves and, often acts as a great setup move for other tricks.

Remember these key points below and have fun getting after it out at your local play spot:

  • Start high on the wave/pile, slowly accelerating upstream
  • Reverse sweep on the downstream side to initiate (keep looking upstream)
  • As you near pointing downstream, switch edges, put in a forward sweep (with the opposite bade to the reverse sweep) and then quickly look over your opposite shoulder (back upstream at that green water)
  • Keep your edge up and complete the forward sweep and, you should be good to go.

If you are having a hard time with this or any other technical paddling skills chat with your local, professional kayak school, a few key tips from experienced instructors can often save a bunch of time and frustration.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at

Happy paddling!


Simon Coward


Aquabatics Calgary