Updated: Oct 7, 2022
Riding a Wheelie on Whitewater
Inviting the energy of a river current onto the tail of the board is one of my favorite things to do. Once I dial-in the balance and control points for a particular board there is an amazing sensation. A delicate weightlessness as the board joins with the flow. All you have to do is maintain posture and balance and work with the currents.
Squirt Moves are an intermediate whitewater SUP skill. Spend some time getting very comfortable on moving water before going vert intentionally. You’ll learn more that way.
First developed by whitewater slalom athletes, adopted by freestyle boaters, and pushed to its extremes by squirt boaters the stern squirt is a fun and useful skill for building control and confidence on harder whitewater. The basic principles of stern squirting a kayak are the same for paddleboards ... except that Paddleboarders can move their center of mass over a greater range than a Kayaker.
There are two essential benefits of the stern squirt aside from it’s value as a stylin’ flourish to make your friends cheer. First – sometimes the river will squirt your board without your intention and being comfortable in that position could save you a fall. Second – the technique can be used like an accelerator peddle to snap tight and fluid eddie-turns and peel-outs.
Not all paddleboards can be squirted by all paddleboarders. Lightweight paddlers on high volume boards … especially inflatable boards … will have a hard time using their weight to drive the tail down into the current.
Where to practice?
You want a spot with good eddy service and a crisp eddyline. The video linked here was shot at a well-known squirt spot on the Dan River in Kibler Valley, VA. It’s at the bottom of Public Enemy #2. This is a favored spot for practicing squirts and bow stalls by local paddlers because the pool is relatively deep without too many submerged rocks to worry about. The current is strong and the eddy calm with a very clear line where the two meet. Absolutely perfect.
The basic Tail Squirt
The video doesn’t really show how we initiate the squirt … so I’ll try to describe. Begin with a wide Bow Stance – forward foot just behind the neutral position and back foot at or near the ‘sweet spot’. The back foot needs to be positioned to control the angle of the board for the upstream-lean that is coming. With most of your weight on the forward foot initiate a normal peel-out driving across the eddyline at a 45-degree upstream angle and only a very slight downstream lean on the board. When the forward foot crosses the eddyline begin shifting weight gradually to the back foot with a gentle UPstream lean – such that the current puts pressure on the upstream rail of the tail driving it down. Control the intensity of the current on the tail by shifting weight between the forward foot on the downstream rail and the back foot on the upstream rail.
You know – I need to shoot a new video demonstrating this specifically.
In the meantime – go find your local squirt hole and have some fun paddling and swimming and learning.
Falling, Swimming, & Learning