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Spins, Explained

So, as a follow-up to my previous layman’s guide on jump identification, this time, let us try to make sense of all the different types of figure skating spins.

Now, before we start, not to discourage you or anything, but keep in mind that spin is a topic more complicated than you might think, mostly because spins can come in endless flavors and weird naming conventions and skaters constantly invent new ways to mix and match. Another note is that this post will cover spins in single skating only - I don’t watch enough pairs and ice dance to have proper knowledge on their spins.

A couple of terms you will want to understand when it comes to spins:

Position refers to the way the skater holds their body while spinning. There are 3 basic positions, each of which comes in many different variations, in other words, different movements of the skater’s body while holding to the general shape of the basic position.

Level refers to the difficulty of the spins. There are 5 levels in total: B (no level) and Level 1 to 4. 

Level feature is how the spin levels are determined. One feature = one level, so a spin must have 4 features counted in order to be a Level 4. The ISU defines, in total, 13 different types of features a spin can have, any 4 of these in a spin will make it a level 4. Well, don’t sweat, this is just general information. We are most definitely not getting into all the technical details of all these features today. Layman’s guide, remember?  

Incidentally, it’s worth pointing out that Level and Grade of Execution (GOE) are independent, as I’ve seen some new fans confusing the two. Level reflects how difficult the spin is, while GOE is about how well it is executed. Think of it this way, the equivalence of level for a jump is the number of rotations, whether it’s a single, double, triple, or a quad. Jump of any rotations and spins of any level can be awarded GOE ranging from -3 to +3 and this has no direct correlation with the number of rotations/number of level features.   

With that, let’s move on to look at the 3 basic spin positions and some of their more popular variations.

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