How to Loop in Shallow Holes

This month I’m going to show you how to Loop in shallow holes.

Being from the UK, one of the first obstacles I had to overcome was how to do the moves in shallow features. It’s an invaluable skill to have for many reasons.

Getting normal loops is relatively easy in modern short boats but many people still struggle when the holes aren’t very deep.

Ordinarily on the loop you stamp down hard, get the boat as deep as possible and then jump up with your arms to get the height and go as big as you can.

Shallow spots require a very different approach however.

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Step One: In a shallow hole, you take as little speed as possible going into the seam line.

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Step Two: When the nose touches the seam try and catch as small amount of water as you can whilst still getting vertical.

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To do this back paddle and use your core stomach muscles to keep the boat straight as you approach the seam line and then continue these little micro strokes to maintain control whilst initiating the bow in the green water.

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Step Three: Once vertical you want to effectively do a flat-water loop but in the hole.   Push down as hard and snappily as you can with the back of both paddle blades.

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Step Four: When you’re body is as far forwards as it can go, grab the water with the power face of your paddle blades and open your body out like the opposite of a sit up as snappily & aggressively as you can.

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This will kick your feet out in front of you and push the nose of the boat back into a front surf.

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Tips & Tricks

You can practice this motion on dry land by lying on your back with your legs in the air then try and kick out as hard as you can. On dry land the idea is just to get a feel of this movement.

Spending some time perfecting your flat-water loops will help you with these skills too.

When you have this shallow hole looping technique perfected, the way you finish the loop by grabbing the water and kicking out can also be applied to finishing Phonic’s and Mc’Nastys and is a very very good way of forcing the boat to keep straight, and retaining the feature. For competing this skill is invaluable as it enables you to force moves to keep straight when the pressure is on.

How the gear I use helps me…


Out with my Dad on the Washburn in my beloved Jitsu, toasty warm in my Palm Spark suit with my toes covered in a pair of Teva Nilch’s. Life is good!

What’s also going to help your freestyle progression is using the right tools for the job.

I’m very fortunate to be using what I consider the best equipment possible for what I do so I’d like to give some of the stuff I use a little shout out!

I use Dagger’s new Jitsu kayak that I was involved in the design process of, so it’s pretty much my dream boat. One of the reasons is its slicy ends. It makes it easy to initiate the nose and cut it in to the water whilst keeping a volumous poppy centre that give you that much needed lift to get big air. Having precise but short back end gives you the freedom to play in shallow features without hitting the bottom on the landings and pull stuff though quicker and easier in normal holes.


Being a very cold winter for play boating I’ve managed to paddle the whole winter through thanks to having my Palm Spark suit to wear, it’s much lighter and less restrictive than ordinary dry suits and feels a lot like wearing a top deck only much warmer with great freedom of movement!

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On my feet I wear the Teva Nilch shoes, which if your quite tall like me is one of the only proper shoes you can get in a play boat with, it’s like a sock with a good but flexible sole on it. Keeping your feet warm in the boat and but nice and grippy walking about on the side. Check them out here:  Nilch


Good luck trying this one out, and enjoy the coming spring!


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About James Bebbington

2011 ICF World Freestyle Kayak Champion & 2011 ICF World Cup Freestyle Kayak Champion Passionate about Kayaking, Travel, Nature, Dreams, Raw Food & the Beauty of Life. Don't give up on your dreams, listen to your heart!
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2 Responses to How to Loop in Shallow Holes

  1. Rich Sanderson says:

    I was there that day – never mind looping in shallow water, having the balls to loop in water that cold was impressive enough.

  2. Pingback: Dagger Jitsu | The Latest News & Reviews

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