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The Road to Kelley's

Cartwheels, loops, spins, mcnastys, godzillas, tricky woos…. With so many different free style moves out there, it is easy to become overwhelmed when wanting to improve your play boating and learn new tricks, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

In this blog post I want to show you how to make a training device that Claire O’Hara showed me. I have found it an incredibly helpful way to break down what moves I am already doing, what moves I could really improve upon, what tricks I should start thinking about trying, and in helping me track and recognize the progress I make.

I call it a circle chart- or a wheel chart. It is a super simple device comprised of a circle, broken down into different wedges, each of which represents a trick or move and your comfort level or confidence with it.

You can make this as a generalized chart, or for a specific week or feature. This past week, World Class Academy has been at Kelley’s whitewater park.  In order to maximize our time here and provide a little structure to our surf sessions, all the staff and students made a chart specific to their goals for the week here at this feature. I was super grateful to borrow a 2013 Star from AlpenGlow in Boise so that I could work on some hole boating skills and fill in my own circle chart.

Start by brainstorming a list of tricks or moves you can do, moves you are trying and moves you are working towards or maybe would like to do in the future. These can be anything from controlled front surf or cycling all the way up to superhero tricks like the blunt mcnasty. Don’t feel limited to focusing on freestyle- you can fill your wheel chart with river running moves such as boofs or eddy turn peel outs too. If you need a little inspiration, check out the USAFK list of freestyle moves and their descriptions here.

On a separate or the same piece of paper, draw or trace a circle. Divide it up into wedges, or slices, like you would a pizza. On the outside of each wedge, place the name of one of the tricks from your list. I like to divide the wedge into two halves- one for tricks to the right, one for tricks to the left.

Now comes the fun part- coloring the chart in!

The more you are completely confident and comfortable with the trick in the wedge (or half wedge), the more the color extends to the outermost ring of the circle. I like to place inner rings around my chart, almost like a target to help me visualize, but they aren’t necessary. Tricks that I have tried, but don’t really succeed at get a tiny splash of color to the innermost ring, and tricks I haven’t tried at all don’t get any color.

For example, on my chart, I feel pretty confident that I can spin both ways, so my circle wedge is colored in almost all the way. My cartwheel wedge shows me that I try left cartwheels,and get them about 60% of the time, but that I am neglecting my right cartwheels.

My Chart for a Week at Kelley's Whitewater Par

This is where the circle chart can help you to realize your strengths and weaknesses to help structure your time on the water and improve your skills. If I look at my chart, I can clearly see areas where I can focus or improve on. For me, this is right cartwheels, split wheels, back surfing and mcnastys. This means that when I go for a playboating session, I want to try and think about focusing my rides on the moves I am not as consistent with, rather than only throwing right blunts, left cartwheels or spins, as fun as they are. I like to check my chart before I go to remind myself of what to try that day. Normally I will try and structure my session so I do at least one of all the moves I have colored in, and then work through my blanks or pick a couple to focus on.

The best part of the circle chart comes at the end of your session, or the end of the week, when you go back and color in any improvements or gains you have made. It is an awesome way to see and track your progress!

Happy paddling!