Trick Tip // The Downriver Pistol Flip

Exploring downriver moves is a great way to get that little more out of your river running. Especially if all you own is a play boat and find yourself on rivers with very few surf-able features.

The downriver pistol flip is probably the newest downriver freestyle move to date. It takes one of the latest wave move techniques (the Pistol Flip) and transforms it into arguably the most dynamic multi-axis downriver move out there.

This move is definitely best done off a wave with a clean lip. If you can wave wheel or kick flip off it then with a little more effort the Pistol Flip will come around.

A basic description of the Downriver Pistol Flip:

While paddling downstream backwards you launch up and off the lip of the wave rotating 180 degrees underneath the boat before forward somersaulting/looping back into a forward paddling position.

Step One: Accelerate towards the waveStep One: Accelerate towards the wave

While paddling backwards take a few strong strokes towards the wave to gain a little extra speed. Glance over your shoulder every now and then to make sure that you are still in line with the peak of the wave.

Step Two: Plant your paddleStep Two: Plant your paddle

Right when you feel as if you’re rocketing up the wave towards the lip plant the start of what will be one really strong back stroke. Start the stroke right behind you at the tail. As you begin the back stroke start to look over the same shoulder that is pushing.

Step Three: Leading with your headStep Three: Leading with your head

Like a lot of freestyle moves leading with your head is very important. While finishing off your ‘launching’ back stroke keep looking around even further with your head. Lean on your paddle as if you’re trying to rotate up and over it. Try to get right around to a point where you are looking almost directly downstream and spotting where you want to land.

Step Four: Tucking upStep Four: Tucking up

Right when you feel like you’re at maximum height and that your boat has rotated around enough flick your head down and your tail up into the air, just as if you were completing the end of a loop. To help the boat flick around faster and to maintain a little more height use the same paddle blade that was in the water from your backstroke to now sweep up and over your head while you’re upside down.

Step Five: LandingStep Five: Landing

Keep sweeping and pulling your boat around with your paddle blade to guide the tail of your boat down into the water. As soon as you land and your nose starts to fall down in front of you keep that blade in the water to brace off of, and to keep pulling your tail through if need be.


Guide yourself back down into a forward paddling position and paddle away down to the next rapid.

Practising this technique as a down river move is also a far more painless and rewarding way to help develop the skills needed to then throw the Pistol Flip as a surf move on green waves later on.

Article by Anthony Yap, Images by Jackie Hennessy.

This article was first published in Cumec Magazine Issue 2, April 2007