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how to go "over" holes/stoppers in a slalom kayak

Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2019 12:49 pm
by countvoncount
Hi there,

I am a WW paddler who has recently acquired a slalom kayak (for fun and fitness and to improve my kayaking). I am finding it very interesting--fast and surprisingly forgiving in many situations (if twitchy in others). Here's something I am trying to figure out:

When I want to go over a hole in my plastic river runner, I tend to approach it at something like a 30 degree angle, get onto the upstream edge, then plant a mix of a sweep and boof stroke, and lift the bow of the kayak onto the foam pile by swinging my legs over (some people see this as a type of boof). This keeps the (high volume and well-rockered) front of the boat "dry" and as long as I keep the weight forward, I sort of fly over the feature.

I tried to do the same in my slalom kayak but it's proving to be a little tricky, because of the length and relative lack of rocker, and because there is so little volume on the very front of the bow. I get through the hole fine but not really dry (i.e. I lose speed).

This may be because of
- timing (do I have to start lifting the bow only after the front of the boat has already knifed through the foam pile? i.e. should I initiate later than I am used to?)
- edging and angle (do I need more or less edge? more or less of an angle?)
- weight distribution (in my plastic boat, I keep the weight pretty much up front, so that the tail does not catch--but perhaps, in the slalom boat, it actually need to sink the tail to get the bow up and over?)
Any advice?


Re: how to go "over" holes/stoppers in a slalom kayak

Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:17 pm
by Terryg

Re: how to go "over" holes/stoppers in a slalom kayak

Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:46 pm
by countvoncount
Brilliant video. Clearly I need to learn to engage the tail when lifting the bow onto the stopper. Thank you very much!

Re: how to go "over" holes/stoppers in a slalom kayak

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2019 6:43 pm
by DaveBland
No idea if it's official proper technique n all that, but the more edge you have, it'll cut through. So hold on edge, reach beyond the foampile while on edge and pull.

Re: how to go "over" holes/stoppers in a slalom kayak

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 11:17 pm
by Jim
Dave - As far as I'm concerned that is a proper technique, but not the one being asked about.

To jump effectively so the boat skips over the foam pile and doesn't plough through, you need to get the feel for controlling the depth of the stern using the edges. More edge will make it stall out and bounce back the way it came from, you need to roll just enough edge to slice the stern under, and then flatten off so the turn continues at the same depth. This is a fairly basic slalom technique and actually something I have been struggling with so I have started doing drills just spinning on the spot and trying to keep the stern at a constant depth. At the moment I do 10 each way forward sweep only, reverse sweep only, forward sweep followed by reverse sweep, forward sweep followed by bow rudder, and then then repeat the full set and try for a different depth. If you flatten off right the boat continues to spin between strokes and you can manage almost a smooth motion, but it takes a lot of practice to hold the edge strady during the stroke transitions, at first you will find your either increase or decrease edge in transitions and either stall the turn, or let the stern slice out and the bow drop.

For the jump, and Dan's video is what I would have recommended, you set up at a slight angle to the hole, and then use a forward sweep with enough edge to lift the bow right at the key moment to lift the bow onto the foam pile, flattening off so the boat skips up onto it and over. But it needs a light fast boat, or at least a fast boat. In playboats right back to my squashed spud, I have used the technique Dave describes where you hit it hard (possibly trying a jump to stay as dry as possible) and then roll a lot of edge so the green water cannot pile up on the stern and squirt or backloop you. It all kind of depends on the size and speed of the boat, size of the hole and stuff. I'm sure there is a point where trying to jump a slalom boat becomes futile, but it does mean you get on top of the pile so you can turn and get into an eddy or through a gate whilst the other technique is for punching through in straight line, you will already have lost ground before you can release the boat to turn.

Apart from drilling edge control, I often do a couple of runs at the end of a session ignoring gates and just trying to jump every drop (with mixed success), setting up and getting the key stroke and edge right can be tricky, and I'm not exactly built for skimming!

Re: how to go "over" holes/stoppers in a slalom kayak

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:41 am
by countvoncount
That's really useful, Dave and Jim. I have had a go, following the instructions of the video, with some reasonable success. The main thing seems to be to have enough of an angle on approach (more than I would use in my plastic boat), and to engage the tail with enough but not too much edge (I agree, Jim, that it is easy to over-edge when sinking the tail and just hit the wall) and move the weight from back to front (and from one edge to the other) as one skips. When it works one gets a satisfying "boof" sound on top of the foam pile.

I haven't tried this on the bigger holes yet and I suspect that, once the foam pile is so high that it becomes hard to reach, one is better off doing what Dave describes and just cutting through.

One of the surprising things about the slalom boat is how immediately it reacts to any curl or kick in a feature and wants to follow it--which makes it agile but also asks for a whole new way of thinking about the water.

I'm still working out a thousand things about how the slalom kayak reacts but really enjoying the journey of discovery. Thanks for your help, guys!