The Rock-a-Copter

Outside magazine, July 1999

The Rock-a-Copter

The Diving Dig | The Cartwheel | The Figure Four | Take the Stairs | The Crossover Dribble | The Righteous Gitis | The Rock-a-Copter | Hang Ten | The Twisting Somersault | The Wheelie

Canoe poling, practiced by fur traders and a few very daring paddlers who prefer ascending rapids without all the hassles of portaging, embodies chutzpah like few other outdoor sports. Take the Rock-a-Copter. "It breaks all the rules," says Harry Rock, the 47-year-old Big Daddy of the sport, and namesake of the brassy maneuver. "Rule number one being don't stand up in the boat; rule number two being don't move around."

Standing with the thwart about a foot ahead of you and holding your pole (a 12-footer works best) like a tightrope walker would his staff, execute an insouciant little hurdle over the center bar, flinging your trailing leg to one side to help you complete a midair 180-degree spin. Do it like Rock and you'll land feet flush against the insides of the canoe, facing the opposite direction and ready for the next challenge. Yes, yes, you say, but why?

"In whitewater there comes a time when you want to change direction without actually turning the canoe around," explains Rock. And better yet, it really gets the crowd going at canoe poling clinics.


Strong biceps, triceps, and upper back, all of which can be bolstered with a dual-exercise routine of pull-ups and push-ups.

ILLUSTRATION: Jason Schneider

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