Freestyle Move: Helix

Ten years ago, I was hanging out in a bar with some mates in Zambia, using a Mosi Lager coaster to work out a new move. The following morning, I paddled down to the Zambezi’s Rapid 12B, dropped onto the wave and stuck the move first try.

Ironically, it was this wave—on this very day—that would have hosted the 2001 World Freestyle Championships had Spain not won the bid two years before. Too bad, the newly crowned helix would have had the judges scratching their heads!

A helix is an upside down spin where the boat does a 360-degree rotation on two of its three axes. It’s basically an extension of an aerial flip turn. The hardest part is figuring it out in your head.

1. Begin at the top of a fairly large, fast wave.

2. Speeding down the face, stern rudder to turn the boat and initiate your spin momentum. A slight bounce at this point helps.

3. Once your boat is pointing across the wave, use an aggressive hip flick to over edge the carve—digging your upstream rail into the water, then leaning downstream. This will flip the boat over your head and send you airborne. Lift your paddle out of the water.

4. It’s at this step that the helix and flip turn diverge. Aggressively twist your body into the spin to continue rotating the boat on a horizontal plane.

5. As the boat comes around a full 360 degrees, switch active hands and grab the water with the opposite blade from your stern rudder. This is the key to finishing the horizontal rotation of the boat and rolling you upright. You should land flat and facing upstream.

People often mistake a good flip turn for 
a bad helix. To helix, the stern of your boat must not touch the water as it comes around on the upstream side. If it catches, your bow will come over your head vertically—that’s a radical flip turn.


This article originally appeared in Rapid, Early Summer 2011. Download our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.


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