The front loop was invented by Clay Wright somewhere between the dawn of time and the extinction of the dinosaurs … just joking. Clay isn’t (quite) that old but he did in fact invent the loop way back in the good ol’ days of 'rodeo' in a kayak that is bigger than most modern creek boats, let alone freestyle kayaks. Whilst being one of the most spectacular, fun and visually impressive moves you can throw. It also turns out that it is one of the easiest tricks to learn in freestyle kayaking.
As with every trick in the book, You are going to want to position yourself nice and high up on the foam pile before even thinking about throwing your loop. You are going to need a relatively deep hole to learn this trick but you can also learn it on flat water by bow stalling and bouncing into it or seal launching vertically into flat water.
The plug, This is the main component of the trick that decides just how much air you will get. As a general rule the deeper you plug, the higher you will go. However, You are going to want to get a solid foundation of front looping before you start tweaking your technique to go get the most air. You are going to lean forwards and stomp your feet into the ramp of the hole. Just in front of the seam line is normally perfect. Key things to remember are to keep the boat straight, tighten up your core muscles and plug it deep. Keeping your paddle level and your shoulders square upstream also help to keep the boat straight during the plug.
At this point the kayak will have gone as deep as it can during the plug and will now begin it’s journey back to the surface. Launching you into the air and giving you the chance to either nail a front loop or fall flat on your face. After leaning forward during the plug we are now going to reach up aggressively, lean back and look to the sky. By leaning back we are putting our weight on our feet and encouraging the kayak to go past vertical and start falling forwards. The way to get the biggest loops is to get the paddle high above your head.
We now want to throw really aggressively forwards and tuck up. Not much to say about this point of the trick but to make sure that your shoulders remain square upstream and to be aggressive.
Almost as soon as you have tucked up forwards you are going to want to open up, kicking your legs out and and lean back as hard as you can. Putting the paddles over your head and behind you can help to pull the loop through, but if you have done the following steps correctly the boat should complete the last part of this rotation almost effortlessly. We are aiming for the boat to land completely straight upstream.
You just nailed one of the coolest tricks in whitewater. Congrats. Now to celebrate.
If your are having trouble pulling your loop through wait a little bit longer before step 3. By doing this we will sacrifice some air time but we will have much more forward momentum throughout the loop which will make it far easier to pull through at the end. You can also lead with one paddle blade and use this blade to take a vertical stroke throughout the 'kickback' stage of the loop.
Crooked loop? Try picking a spot directly upstream of you to focus on and make sure that your paddle is level through out the movement.
Not enough air? Try plugging in deeper and reaching up earlier. A little device called an overthruster (deck plate or beach ball) can also help add some volume to key areas of your boat and give you more pop.
See you on the water, Bren ...