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Discussion Starter #1
Ok...I was watching videos of myself surfing/playboating in bigger holes and I realized that I waste a lot of time/energy in a side surf. I don't know what I am doing wrong. It's like I am either afraid to bring it around or maybe I am not turning my head enough..any thoughts or advice?? Oh..I'm a girl too. I have this thought that I am not engaging my lower body enough. We also thought that maybe my boat is too short for me, not allowing me to use my legs as I should. I never had professional instruction, learned through trial and error. :confused:
 

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In a lot of holes, sidesurfing can be the most efficient way to hang out. I would focus on trying to make the sidesurf as relaxing as possible. Once you're comfortable sidesurfing, you won't need to rely on your brace as much, and it will get easier and easier to take forward or back strokes in order to work your way to the edge of the hole, where it will be more natural to do a half spin and set up for your tricks.

Also, I would suspect that a shorter boat is better. If you fit in there reasonably well, the shortness will make it much easier to spin than a longer boat. I've never had trouble getting power from my legs, no matter how crammed in I was. That's just me, though.
 

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Sidesurfing is actually a great way to learn control. Most of my beginner friends only paddle into waves/holes where they can get an instant front surf on, as the side surf windowshades and intimidates them.
 

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There's nothing "wrong" with sidesurfing, and a short boat generally makes playboating easier. Judging from the tone of your post, I'm guessing that you feel "stuck" in a sidesurf. That is, you enter the hole, start bracing, and settle into a stationary side surf somewhere near the middle of the feature. The best way to correct this is to improve your j-lean and then work on moving around the hole in a sidesfurf, both of which will make you a better overall paddler.

If you feel locked into a sidesurf, then chances are that you are leaning on your paddle too much. Ideally, you should be able to sidesurf without using your paddle to balance. The more you rely on your paddle for balance the less you can use it for other, more fun things like moving around the hole or initiating tricks. Practicing your j-lean will help to use your body weight rather than your paddle to balance your boat on edge.

Check this out for some j-lean tips: J - Lean (Tilting Your Kayak on Edge)

Once you have a solid j-lean on flatwater, take it to the hole. Try to stay balanced in a sidesurf without bracing into the foam pile. If you windowshade (flip upstream), then you know you need a little more downstream edge. If you're bouncing around a lot and keep using your paddle, then you probably need less downstream edge. Control the amount of downstream edge with your upstream knee (e.g. if you're facing toward river right, lift your left knee for more downstream edge). It will take a little practice, but eventually you'll be able to instinctively lean your boat at the correct angle and you'll only need the paddle to catch your balance.

Now you can practice using your paddle to move around the hole. Instead of a brace on the foam pile, think about taking short strokes in the foampile. Remember to keep using your body position for balance, plant a forward stroke in the foam pile near your knee, and pull it to about your hip -- that should cause your boat to surf in the direction you're facing. If you want to move backwards, then plant a backstroke near your hip and push to about your knee. Remember to keep your elbows down and your paddle roughly parallel to the water when making these strokes (shoulder safety!). Practice moving side to side in this fashion, and pretty soon you'll be able to surf to one of the corners.

The corner of a feature is where the magic happens. Being at the corner means you will have an easier time spinning the boat and getting on top of the foam pile to set up more advanced tricks like loops. Knowing how to get to the corners of a feature is also a great skill for river running because you might find yourself unexpectedly surfing a hole.

Hope that helps. If you can master the j-lean and moving around holes in a sidesurf, then you will be well on your way! Have fun with it.

-Mark
 
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