Moving on from my tutorial of how to Lunar Orbit on flatwater, I’m now going to explain how to do it on whitewater – something I recently learned myself. For the purposes of this tutorial I will be explaining the steps to do a lunar orbit on a steep feature (as pictured below) – a feature where lifting your bow into a front blast is difficult, and so a slightly different technique will be used. In order to start learning this trick I would advise being able to flatwater lunar orbit and cartwheel (tutorials here – https://patrickyak.blog/2020/11/15/how-to-flatwater-lunar-orbit/ and here – https://patrickyak.blog/2021/06/15/how-to-flatwater-cartwheel/). For those who don’t know or aren’t sure, a lunar orbit is officially defined as a 180°+ horizontal angle rotation starting in a front surf during which the boat reaches a vertical angle of 30°+ flowing into a back loop/at least one cartwheel end…
Setting up for the move is the first step and also the most important. If you set up at the wrong angle, too far back or too close to the green water it’s unlikely that you’ll get anywhere; thankfully it’s quite simple to understand. You want to be sitting on top of the foam pile facing 11 o’clock. If you face higher than 11 o’clock you encounter the problem of your bow catching the green water (like you’re attempting a loop) and if you face lower, then you’ll struggle to get your bow back around to finish the move. You want to be on top of the foam pile (not in the trough) to ensure forward momentum when initiating, without this you won’t get high enough on the green water to properly pop the stern.
The next step is prying the boat into a vertical position. Once you’ve set up on top of the foam pile facing 11 o’clock, you’ll start drifting down towards the trough. As this happens, place a reverse sweep stroke on your right-hand side. This should mean you’re leaning back slightly while tensing your core. When your bow hits the green water (which should happen almost immediately) edge to the left. As you do your sweep stroke your bow will swing over the green water and the edge you’ve just put down will give you that pop (like with a McNasty) to send your bow skyward.
It’s at this point that most people lose it (myself included), the bow kind of falls on your face and you end up flushing downstream. To prevent this you need to be doing two things. First, make sure you’re looking ahead of the rotation – during the sweep stroke look over your right shoulder and once your bow is vertical look up ahead of the bow rather than at your spraydeck. Second, pull in with your right knee; it’s tempting to push it away after the stern squirt, but doing that will make the finishing cartwheel end impossible. So you’ve done the stern squirt, you’ve looked ahead of the rotation and you’ve pulled in with your right knee. To guide the bow down into the green water you should still be pushing with your right blade to continue the rotation, but you’ll start to use your left paddle blade as well. During the rotation it will have been out of the water, but now that your bow is dropping twist your wrists towards you slightly so that the back side of the left blade hits the water putting it in the perfect position to push down on. This will make it easier to stabilise yourself and control where the bow lands.
Finally, your left paddle blade has guided the bow down so that it’s positioned underneath you alongside your right paddle blade. This is effectively the same position (albeit a bit more vertical) in which you initiate a front cartwheel end. Push down hard with your right paddle blade, crunch forwards and your momentum should slam the bow under, finishing the move. To continue with a rear cartwheel end simply remove your right paddle blade from the water and look over your right shoulder, a left side stroke can be used to bring the bow around for this last end, then a powerful right side stroke to retain the feature. Congratulations, you’ve just done a lunar orbit on whitewater!
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