The Hydroblade (Sheila Thelen)

Figure skating specialist coach Sheila Thelen shares her insights on how to teach and master the hydroblade. Hydroblading is a relatively easy move for advanced skaters, and even skaters at relatively low levels with good edge and body control can hydroblade. The most common version of the hydroblade is demonstrated here. It is performed on a backward inside edge with both hands on the ice for balance.

A common way to learn the hydroblade is to work on the undercut position used for back crossovers. By getting this position as low as possible (maximum knee bend), a skater can get close to the ice , then reach with the hands to help stabilize the body during the transition into the final hydroblading position. As Sheila notes, one of the big “secrets” of the hydroblade is using the “shelf” created by the top of the skating boot itself to help hold up and stabilize the free leg. It also helps create a repeatable position for the free leg which helps build consistency.

Many skaters have a very strong forward body lean while entering the hydroblade or when down in the final position. The final balanced position varies from skater to skater and depends heavily on body proportions and overall mobility of hips and core. For those with a forward body position, the free leg position is also typically forward to provide the necessary balance.

In the classic hydroblade as demonstrated here, the upper body is “really twisted”  with the shoulders facing the ice and the hips at 90 degrees to the ice. That means skaters who lack core flexibility may struggle with this skill, so stretching can be really helpful. Sheila has the demonstrator get into the hydroblade position at a complete standstill, and this is a fantastic drill for skaters to learn the position and balance, as well as experiment with getting back up.

To exit the hydroblade, some skaters feel like they press away from the ice with the upper body but most feel like they draw both their hands and free leg toward the skating foot while raising the hips (into almost an “A-frame” position as Sheila notes), thereby re-estabilishing a narrower and stronger position to stand up from.

Sheila explains that hydroblade development requires a fair amount of ice, so learning on crowded sessions or in groups is typically not beneficial (or safe). Most skaters will initially struggle with edge control, meaning the size of the circle will vary greatly until some mastery is developed.

[Editor’s note: Most skaters will have a stronger leg, or feel more comfortable learning the skill on the leg they have more control with. For right handed skaters, it’s usually the right leg, and vice versa for left handers. But this is not always the case. Sometimes a simple shoot-the-duck exercise is helpful in determining a good foot to start on, and a backward shoot-the-duck is even better. In many cases it depends on which direction a skater is more comfortable with back crossovers, and other skaters rely heavily on the feeling of their forward sit spin position. The bottom line is, every skater is different and it just requires a bit of experimenting. A common error not discussed in the video is many skaters will initially balance too far forward on their skate blade. Settling back to a flatter part of the blade can be especially helpful to many skaters.]


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