Select Page

The “Kick Start” isn’t a trick, but rather a tool used for initiating cartwheels.

Most cartwheels I see initiated are being done one of two ways. First, many cartwheels I see are initiated by simply smashing your bow into the “green” water of the pourover or throwing down into the trough of a hole. The second method is often referred to as a “double pump,” where you pull back on your blade, then push forward on the same blade, which is on the same side of the boat as the edge you want to cartwheel on. This works good for weak, less powerful holes and is the primary method for initiating cartwheels in flatwater. Nothing is wrong with either of these techniques, but there are other methods.

A third way of initiating that I like to use is called the “kick start.”


Clay Wright, legendary veteran kayaker that knows more than you, believes the kick start was invented by BJ Johnson in the nineties. They used this technique to avoid hitting the rocks when playboating. I personally started using this technique over ten years ago when my cutting edge playboat was nearly eight feet long and our playspot wasn’t very deep.


1) To do the kick start, you want to point upstream in the river towards your hole, or perpendicular to the hole, just like you would with any cartwheel.

2) As your boat starts to fall into the hole, edge the boat a bit towards the side you want to cartwheel, while simultaneously putting a rudder stroke on the other side. (If you cartwheel on your right, put a little right edge in while using a left rudder stroke.)

3) This should lift your bow up out of the water a bit, and also pull you up higher on the pile.

4) As your bow reaches the peak of it’s lift out of the water, it’s time to throw down. Take your rudder stroke out of the water, and switch to your other blade where you are initiating your cartwheel.


Now you might ask, why would I want to use a kick start when the other methods of initiating cartwheels have worked great for me before? The kick start is a valuable method especially for shallow playspots. By pulling you up higher on the pile it essentially gives you a few inches more depth, making it easier to throw down where you otherwise might hit bottom. Also because it lifts the bow so much out of the water, the kick start allows the paddler to get a lot of power in their initiation, thus making your second and third (and fourth) points easier. And as with anything, the more you know about paddling, the better you can be.


Check the video below for a demonstration. In this video, I am cartwheeling on my left edge. That means that my rudder stroke is on the right side. Enjoy.


I hope you all have a rockin’ season.