By Eric Jackson

There is always something new to learn when kayaking, no matter who you are, and you never know who you will learn it from! The Mad Hatter…

EJ doing mad hatter

David Silk turned 18 this year and his kayaking skills keep progressing quickly with his age. He was a great 16 year old kayaker, but in the past 2 years he has become more curious, more creative, and combined with his increasing skill set, he has been able to break some new ground this week.

A new play boating move was just created in flatwater. It is a new “Party Trick”, but since it can be done in flatwater, there is no reason for anyone who can do a flatwater loop not to try this one.

We were doing some clinics on the Ocoee River this past weekend and David had his helmet off and saw the something nobody has seen before-the chance that he could put his helmet on with no hands, by looping into it. I witnessed his first attempt from a distance, and by the time I got to him, he successfully nailed it! It made my weekend! Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like it when somebody can do something in a kayak that I can’t do, so I, of course, halted all progress on my coaching of the clinic and went back to school myself .

On my first attempt, the helmet got stuck on my back, and then again on my second attempt…. Hmm… ha, OK, so I just figured out another party trick- the “Abracadabra”! Video coming soon!

Finally after a few tries, I nailed the “Mad Hatter”, a name that came from a brainstorming session that night, that David approved (he gets to name the trick since he created it). I am glad I had my part in the naming, as I am big fan of the “Mad Hatter” as it applies to Alice in Wonderland.

Here is how you do the Mad Hatter:

First the lay of the land:

Biggest Challenge- Keeping your helmet from spinning and moving around while you get set up in a bow stall.

Biggest risk- you WILL smash your head, and maybe your nose on the helmet learning it and that will be the deterrent to you learning it.

Fun Factor: Do the Mad Hatter consistently, and you’ll have a great way to impress your friends.

Step by Step:

  1. Loosen up your helmet so your head goes in easily.
  2. get your chin straps out of the helmet and place on the water in front of you.
  3. position your helmet with the brim facing you, no water in it (the water will prevent your head from going in)
  4. make sure your helmet is stationary
  5. carefully move far enough away from your helmet to be able to initiate your bow stall and not move the helmet with current from your paddle or a wave from your boat.
  6. Position yourself in front of your helmet, making sure it is lined up to go on your head. I recommend it be about 2′ (.6 meters) in front of you.
  7. Don’t do multiple bounces to prepare the front loop as the bounces make waves and push your helmet away from you. Plan on doing a single bounce into a loop.
  8. Spot your target- the helmet, and throw your head into it as hard as you can. You need your head to get all of the way into the helmet or it will fall off when you complete the loop.
  9. When doing your “loop stroke” follow back with your head and body- trying to keep it in one place so the water doesn’t pull your helmet off.
  10. When you go to sit up at the end of the loop- tuck your chin down so the water doesn’t pull the helmet off.
  11. Celebrate your success with your favorite gang sign… "<br