Figure Skating 101 - Jan. 18

Learn about camel spins

Here's a step-by-step look (from top left to bottom right) at a camel spin on the ice.
Here's a step-by-step look (from top left to bottom right) at a camel spin on the ice. (Jo Ann Schneider Farris)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(01/18/2008) - Every week takes you through the ins and outs of figure skating. This week, Jo Ann Schneider Farris takes a look at camel spins.

Camel spins are figure skating spins that are done in same position as the spiral move, which is based on the classic arabesque position from ballet. Like a spiral, the skater's upper body and free leg are held horizontally in the camel spin. The free leg is extended parallel to the ice, and the free foot is turned out. The skater's back should be arched, and the head should be up. The arms are usually held out to the sides, but other arm variations and positions are acceptable.

Some people say that Jacques Gerschwiler, a Swiss figure skater and coach, created the camel spin. His student, British figure skating champion, Cecilia Colledge, is known to be the first skater to perform the move and has been credited as the spin's inventor. The spin was first called the "Parallel Spin." When it was not done correctly, a skater would make a hump with his or her rear end since the head and free leg would be below the hips. That mistake caused the spin to be eventually called the "Camel Spin." Originally, only ladies did camel spins, but today camel spins are done by all figure skaters.

New figure skaters find it difficult to do camel spins, because it is difficult to center the spin and maintain speed. Some skaters get too far up on the front of the blade and end up on the toe pick. Others find it difficult to keep spinning while arching the back and keeping both legs extended and almost locked. Some skaters fall out of the spin too early onto an inside edge.

Like other basic ice skating spins, the camel spin is commonly entered by first doing a few back crossovers into a small circle. Like the forward scratch spin, the last back crossover sort of "winds up" the skater. Then, the skater steps forward into the center of the circle that was created by the back crossovers, reverses direction and then pushes into the camel spin.

As the skater enters a camel spin, he or she should step onto a strong and deep curve, and the shoulders should be level. The skating knee must bend deeply at this point, and then the skater should lean forward into a spiral (arabesque) position. Some coaches have their skaters straighten the skating knee quickly as the spin begins; others recommend rising up slowly. The weight of the foot must actually be on the ball of the skate and not too far forward over the toe pick. The back should be arched, and the head should be held up during the entry and during the spin.

Skaters should strive to spin for at least four revolutions in the horizontal camel position. After that, the spin can be exited by lowering the free leg and changing the body to a vertical position. Some skaters will go right into a forward scratch spin from a camel spin; others will simply bring the free leg slightly in front of the body and then push out backward onto a back outside edge to exit the spin.

Fans will see several variations of camel spins at ice skating events. Some variations include catch foot camels, flying camels, back camels, curly camels, and a forward camel with change of edge.

Happy Skating!

For more information on the fundamentals of figure skating, visit the U.S. Figure Skating's Basic Skills Program.