Everyone is stronger on one side than the other and it’s tempting to forget about your off-side, it’s weaker, it’s slower and it’s more difficult – right? However, you won’t become a balanced paddler thinking like that and it will stunt your freestyle development in the long run. I put off learning tricks on my left for a while and I regret it; now that I’ve started practising on my off-side I’ve realised what the benefits are and will endeavour to explain below…

First of all, once you’ve learned a trick on your on-side it’s significantly easier to learn it on your off-side. You already know the mistakes you made learning it the other way and can apply the same techniques to overcome any problems – it’s really just a wasted opportunity if you decide not to learn the same trick on your off-side. There is a point where your progress with harder tricks may stall and learning tricks on your off-side is one way to combat any lull in your freestyle progression. I found I learnt to cartwheel and phonics on my left after only a month or so whereas it took me more like six months to learn it from scratch on my right.

My second point is probably a more obvious one – only practising on your stronger side just isn’t good for you in general. If I weight trained, but I only trained the right side of my body (only lunges on the right, only bicep curls on the right etc.) I would be uneven – instead you should work on your left equally to make sure that it stays level with your right-side development. Everyone is stronger on one side and it’s unlikely that that will change no matter how often you train, but aiming to get your on and off-side as balanced as possible is a good goal to aim for.

Next, many combo’s require that you mix tricks on both your left and your right. To do a split-wheel to phonics monkey you need to split on your right but phonics on your left (video at the bottom); the same goes for a blunt to back blunt, you must be able to blunt right and back blunt left (or vise versa if your left is your on-side). Once you reach a point like I have where you start to want to learn some more interesting combos you’ll regret not practicising on your off-side, in fact this was what finally motivated me to start practising on my left.

Finally, some features only like tricks which go a certain way (like mentioned in this post – https://patrickyak.blog/2020/07/08/chertsey-weir/). If you’ve only learned to space godzilla, phonics and cartwheel on your right but the feature only goes left then you’re a bit screwed. Sometimes a section of the feature is a pourover and you can only do tricks on one side (like Chertsey weir), other times the feature is diagonal and threatens to flush you off if you throw a trick towards the downstream end (like Corner Wave on the Ottawa) – either way it’s in your best interest either as a freestyle competitor or someone who wants to be able to play in any feature to learn tricks on both sides.

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Time to break out the long-sleeve cag ❄️

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