3 Basic Air Hockey Drifting Techniques

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Air hockey is a fun, challenging, competitive game. Even if you don’t participate in tournaments and mainly play with friends, learning about different techniques such as air hockey drifting, can significantly improve your chances of crushing your buddies during the next match. Using the right pucks and paddles, a pro air hockey table setup, and practicing the techniques I’ll cover here, can be a total game changer, one that can help you dominate every match.

When to Use Drift

Drifting is a type of offensive technique that will automatically make you a better player once you have it down. The technique involves lightly pushing and directing the puck using your mallet. Once it’s moving slowly and you’ve gotten it into the right position, you’ll take your shot. There are a couple of main reasons why this technique is a very effective offensive move:

  • First, you can use drifting to trick the other player. Once you drift the puck toward the opposition, they’ll get the impression that you’re sending the puck in one direction and will set up to block it, but when you use drift, you can change the direction quickly, so that your opponent will not have time to change up their moves.
  • Next, you can push the puck into the shooting zone located near the centerline, and if shot from there, you can significantly improve shooting accuracy.

How to Drift

While learning how to drift may sound simple it can actually take plenty of practice to learn how to drift the puck correctly. Determining how much force to apply to the puck can depend on the type of table you’re playing on and the weight of the puck itself. If you don’t hit the puck hard enough it will not have enough power to make it to the right spot so you can execute the move. If you hit the puck too hard, it’ll move too quickly, and you’ll lose control. Additionally, you’ll also need to focus on improving your timing so you can take the type of shot you need once the puck is moving, whether it’s a trick shot or a straight shot.

Types of Drifts

There are three main types of drifts:

  • Circle drift
  • L-drift
  • Basic drift

Basic drift

Using this drift, you can hit a shot anywhere along the drift of the table. You’ll begin by slightly leaning over the air hockey table and pushing the puck from the back right portion of the table towards the centerline using a 45-degree angle.

L drift

Using this drift is a little trickier. It starts off just like the basic move. You’ll hit the puck at a 45-degree angle going towards the center line, however, you will circle the puck, blocking it with your mallet and moving it back into its original position. Experienced players will incorporate this move in order to vary their shot sequence.

Circle drift

This is the most commonly used drift, and it allows the player to take a shot from several different locations on the table. This move consists of pushing the puck in a diamond shape clockwise. You’ll hit the puck twice, starting at the bottom, with a second shot at the top. This move allows players to change up or delay their shots or incorporate other techniques in order to secure a shot. This is one of the best air hockey defense tips you should practice and definitely a move that will impress your friends.

How to Hold an Air Hockey Mallet

A recreational player will hold the mallet differently than a professional. Beginners tend to wrap their whole hand around the handle.

The proper air hockey grip involves putting two fingers and the middle knuckle on the outside of the handle. This will give you more control over your movements. Holding the mallet in this manner can also improve speed.

Ideally, you’ll hold the mallet on the back side, so you’ll be able to control it from the side closest to your body. Keeping your thumb and pinky off the mallet allows the wrist to move freely, so you can strike using maximum speed.

Use the Right Amount of Tension

To execute a drift correctly, not only do you need to hold the mallet like a pro, but you also need to use the right amount of force. There’s a delicate balance between keeping the mallet too loose or pushing it down too hard. The goal is to get it to smoothly glide across the table’s surface, without adding friction by applying too much force and causing the mallet to push downward. Make sure you use a grip that’s comfortable and firm. A grip that’s too weak can result in odd deflections and may even cause the mallet to fly out of your hands.

More Drifting Tips

  • It’s important to keep in mind that a circle drift will take plenty of practice in order to get that technique down.
  • Begin at a slow pace, gradually increasing your speed once you become comfortable with this move, otherwise, the technique will look both obvious and sloppy.
  • Drifting basically involves passing the puck to yourself and into the shooting zone, where you’ll take your most important shots. The shooting zone is located behind the centerline and it’s an area that will allow you to get very close to the opposition’s side of the table.
  • Using drift correctly will allow you to choose from a wide variety of shot options, once you get the puck into position.
  • Using the right amount of force and intensity will be key.
  • Only use drifts in an offensive position to confuse the other player.

Final Thoughts

Air hockey drifting is one of the most important techniques you will need to master, and it will serve as a foundation for your offensive game. To sum it up, drifting involves applying the right amount of pressure and force to the puck, so you can get it into the right position to take your shot. While it may sound simple enough, many players dedicate a significant amount of practice time toward perfecting these shots. Once you have each type of drift down, you can easily fake out your opponent and score goal after goal.