The Cartwheel

Outside magazine, July 1999

The Cartwheel

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

Rodeo boating is a discipline whose very raison d'être is hotdoggery, and the passkey to this crazy world is the cartwheel. You'll have to work for your applause, however: Mastering this move is a summerlong project. "Even if you know what's going on, it'll probably take you a couple of months to figure everything out," says Rusty Sage, who at 18 is a bona fide phenom, having won the freestyle event at the Pre-World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand, last December—months before he'd even attended his senior prom.

The first order of business is to find a hole, a feature created in the downstream backswirl of water flowing over a rock. Point your boat slightly right of directly upstream, press your left blade into the water at your side—using a cross between a brace and a backstroke—and dip your bow beneath the current, driving it toward your paddle with your left knee. This should leave you with your nose in the water and your stern in the air, in an ohmigod vertical orientation. Remain calm. Now, pull your right blade through the water, using it and your torso to guide your stern down toward the river and under the current, making sure all the while to stay facing the hole. This final half-turn happens almost automatically, placing you back where you were before taking leave of your senses.


In addition to a sub-nine-foot, rodeo-style boat, a sturdy trunk. "You need strong arms to push your boat around," says Sage. "But the biggest part of your cartwheel is in your abs."

PHOTOS: Phil Deriemer

More Fitness