Yikes! I’m teaching a skill I can’t even do myself: The Spread Eagle

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It’s “Q&A Wednesday” again and here’s another question. I chose this one specifically because it’s a skill none has ever seen me do……..because I can’t do it. However, I hope to help you guys with it.

Q: Dear Asha, I am now dealing with the spread eagle (sometimes also called the Side Surf), but I have some difficulties keeping in a straight line. After a while my front foot closes and I start going backwards. Any suggestions on how to learn this? Many thanks, Edoardo.



A: Edoardo, I’m choosing to respond to your question because the Spread Eagle is my LEAST FAVOURITE skate move ever, especially now that I have injured my hip (but it was always a problem for me even before the injury….)

The Spread Eagle relies on having a certain amount of hip flexibility and for many people (me included) this was partly the reason why it was so difficult. If you’d like to be able to do it in a straight line then you MUST be able to place your feet 180 degrees heel-to-heel on the same line (both off and on skates statically). Try this holding onto something in your shoes and you will immediately find out how close you get to a straight line.

If your flexibility in this position is lacking then you will need to spend possibly weeks training and opening your hips and this should be done off skates in the spread eagle ‘ballet plié’ position with bent knees and directing your knees outwards towards the little toes, while keeping the back upright.

Once your training moves to being on skates then I suggest starting with circles in spread eagle and not straight lines. Gradually over time make your circles larger and larger. This will eventually lead you to a straight line when your flexibility catches up.

Most people experience greater ‘turn out’ of the hips and feet when they bend their knees even more, but this often leads to a forwards body position that in my opinion doesn’t look too stylish, so try to keep the body and chest up. Even when rolling, direct your knees outwards towards the little toes of each foot. This will help the leading skate to remain rolling forwards and not roll into backwards.

Apart from the flexibility issue, keeping your weight distribution 50/50 on both legs is essential if you want to be able to steer where you want. Most people weight one foot more than the other and this makes the lighter leg “drift”, so imagine making both skates equally heavy on the ground with a good deep knee bend.

Finally, do NOT allow your upper body to rotate towards backwards direction. If it does then the leading skate will turn to backwards. A good way to train this is to put one hand one each knee in the spread eagle and feel if you are 50/50.

I hope this helps, but from personal experience I can tell you that the flexibility issue can be quite an obstacle. But if you are already doing something of a spread eagle then you can definitely make it better over time. Do 20 spread eagles every time you skate so you are constantly working on that flexibility.

When it’s working great, then try it with the other skate leading, and the process begins all over again!

Good Luck. Hope this helps.

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