Apr 21, 2011

Where your axel went wrong

When I first start teaching bunny hops, I always ask the kids-- do you know what you're learning? They all shout "BUNNY HOPS!" "Nope," I tell them, "you're learning axels."

The complex high free style skills are not something you "get to." You don't learn an axel in FS5 or Prelim, or Freeskate 6. You build an axel, and a double toe loop, and a lutz, and all your triples and complex spins over time, starting from the first moment you totter onto the ice.

Here's some of the basic skating moves that people gloss over, making the axel hard, if not unattainable:

Bunny hop
The first jump is not the waltz jump- it's the bunny hop. This is where you learn how to swing your arms properly, and where your free foot should be in the air (toe pick out in front, not underneath or behind you). It's not just about getting into the air. There's technique and it's important.

Basic back outside edges
The basic skating position. An effortless, clean back outside edge over your landing foot (right side for CCW, left side for CW jumpers) is the basis of the back spin, air position, and all landings. It mystifies me that coaches let back edges slide (haha), especially if they are older coaches that came up when School Figures were compulsory.

Waltz jump
Think of it as a one-third axel. The biggest mistake? Bringing your free leg through too soon; if it's already behind you when you land, how are you going to snap into the air position (free leg in front). To test for this error, try a waltz-jump/loop combination. If your free leg is in the wrong place when you land, you can't do the loop. Second runner up error: over-rotating the shoulders on the launch. When you see these two errors in the waltz jump, you're going to see them in the (non-existent) axel.

Back spin
Outside edge please, nine rotations. Biggest barrier to the axel--not getting over the outside edge right away. Doesn't count if you get over the back outside edge after a couple of rotations. If you cannot get quickly into a proper back spin position, you're not going to be able to do that axel. If the first two or three rotations are on the inside edge-- a very common error-- you are not going to have the understanding about the tiny amount of time you have to snap into that position in midair on the axel. You don't have time to do a couple of rotations over the wrong edge. You can't do it in the axel, and you shouldn't do it in the back spin. And coaches shouldn't be passing them (and the back spin should not be in the same level as the axel, it should be in the level before-- ISI are you listening?)

So, where did your axel go wrong? Basic 7 & 8. Delta-FS1. That's where. When your coach skipped you quickly past these levels, she wasn't doing you any favors.


  1. My IceBoy did a competition this weekend. He landed his first double axel in a competition, a huge accomplishment.

    Another skater's mom asked me how long it took him to learn his double axel. I couldn't figure out the time frame, so later I asked my skater. He said, "about 4 weeks, why?" So I told him someone was asking. Then he paused and said, "tell her 5 years. I've been working on it ever since I started skating. Just like my triples (soon to be landed)."

    I thought of this post when I heard him say that. Out of the mouth of babes.

  2. sk8momp- congratulations, and that's a kid with a good coach. Kudos.

  3. I don't know why, but it took me a year to land mine consistently. I had a great coach who put huge emphasis on edges and solid foundations too. I suppose that surfaced when I landed my double axel first time.
    Couldn't agree with you more re the basics though, there were SO many kids in my club that seemingly couldn't skate backwards but were hauling themselves into "lutzes" or "axels". Monstrosities more like it!

  4. A year sounds about right, actually. A lot of those "I got my axel in a month stories" are either just that-- stories, or else the axels have a huge cheat on them.