Playboating is a discipline of whitewater
kayakingor canoeingwhere the paddler performs various technical moves in one place (a playspot), as opposed to downriver whitewater canoeing or kayaking where the objective is to travel the length of a section of river (although whitewater canoeists will often stop and play en-route). Specialised canoes or kayaks (boats) known as playboats are often used, but any boat can be used for playing. The moves and tricks are often similar to those performed by snowboarders, surfers or skaters, where the athlete completes spins, flips, turns, etc. With modern playboats it is possible to get the kayak and the paddler completely airborne whilst performing tricks.
The competitive side of Playboating is known as Freestyle Kayaking (formerly called Rodeo).
Playspots are typically stationary features on rivers, in particular standing
waves (which may be breaking or partially breaking), 'holes' and 'stoppers', where water flows back on itself creating a retentive feature (these are often formed at the bottom of small drops or weirs), or eddy lines (the boundary between slow moving water at the rivers' edge, and faster water).
Basic moves consist of front- and back-surfing, spins through any of the three axes (Air screws, cartwheels and air loops (invented by
Clay Wright), stalls with the kayak vertical on either end, and getting airborne (bouncing the boat on a wave, or submerging part of the kayak so that it pops out when it re-emerges). The playboater usually aims to stay surfing the feature after performing each move (as opposed to being washed off). More complex moves are made up of combinations of these moves.
Original (Old School) Play and Squirt Moves
These moves were more popular before short playboats were invented, but remain the foundation of several current moves.
An ender is performed by sinking the bow of the boat deep into swift moving water, causing the boat to go vertical.
A popup is an ender, followed by quickly leaning back to cause the boat to pop up out of the water like a cork.
A pirouette is when the boater turns during an ender, with the boat as the axis.
A basic squirt is performed when crossing a strong eddyline. As soon as the body crosses the eddyline, a back sweep is performed while dropping the upstream edge of the stern. The stern of the boat should sink, and the boat will rotate in the direction of the currents. You can then develop this into a cartwheel
This is the move at the beginning of a cartwheel making the boat go up on its side and on the front into as bow stall.
A front surf involves remaining on a feature of the river (such as a wave or a hole) without being washed downstream. From this position, many moves can be initiated.
A back surf is identical to the front surf, but with the boat facing downstream. This is most often accomplished by transitioning through a move such as a spin, cartwheel, or blunt. Back surfing is slightly harder than front surfing.
A side surf is done with the boat oriented perpendicularly to the current. The paddler must lean downstream and raise their upstream edge to maintain this position.
Carving involves moving back and forth across the face of a feature. This is accomplished by tilting the boat at an angle while using the paddle to press against the water near the downstream end of the boat. Carving may be gentle or aggressive, depending on the intended result.
Involves rotating the boat parallel to the surface of the water while surfing a feature. The rotation must be greater than 180 degrees to count as a spin. Performing a 180 degree spin is similar to beginning an aggressive carve, transitioning through a side surf, and ending in a back surf.
A clean spin involves using a single stroke to spin through multiple ends.
A flatspin involves lifting the upstream edge of the boat from the water during the spin. This is accomplished by beginning the spin with a slight angle to the water.
A double pump is the basic move to sink, or initiate, one end of the boat. The boater begins by simultaneously putting the boat on edge, making a quick back stroke, and leaning backwards. Immediately after this stroke, the boater leans forward and pushes down hard on the same paddle blade. The boat should now be perpendicular to the surface of the water, with the bow down in the water and the stern up toward the sky.
A cartwheel is a move performed while surfing a hole or on flat water, in which the boat rotates perpendicular to the surface of the water. The paddler's torso functions as the axis. The move is initiated with a double pump, though on more powerful features little initiation will be necessary. Once vertical, the paddler continues the rotation, alternating ends. The paddle is used to press down on the water on the downstream side of the boat, alternating hands as the boat changes direction.
A flatwheel is a cartwheel performed on flat water. The move is usually initiated with a double pump, but may also be initiated from a stall.
A wavewheel is a cartwheel initiated at the top of a wave while the paddler is quickly moving downstream.
A clean cartwheel is performed without using the paddle to press down on the water.
A splitwheel is done while cartwheeling, and involves using a half pirouette to transition from one edge to another while vertical, usually when the bow is down. For example, if the boater is using the right edge of the bow and left edge of the stern while cartwheeling, they will rotate to the right when the bow is down and begin using the right edge of the stern, followed by the left edge of the bow.
A blunt is similar to a cartwheel in appearance, but is performed on a wave, and it is uncommon to link more than one end at a time. The boater begins at the top of the wave, moving downward with forward momentum. When the boater nears the trough, they place the boat on edge, lean forward, and press down on the downstream blade. The current will sweep the bow downstream, quickly rotating the boat 180 degrees to land in a back surf. By bouncing the boat, it is possible to go completely airborne.
A backstab is identical to a blunt, but is performed backwards. The boater begins from a back surf and initates the stern, ending in a front surf.
In a loop, the boater does a complete flip, landing in the same direction that the move was initiated. Loops are unlike most other moves in that the bow is initiated flat to the water, with no edge. The move is begun like a popup, with the paddler driving straight and flat into the most powerful part of the current on a feature. The boater leans forward, and the bow is swept down and the stern up. Once vertical, the paddler quickly leans backward to pop up out of the water, then powerfully drives forward to intentionally cause the boat to become over-vertical. If done properly, the stern should catch in the current and the boat will return to its starting position.
A back loop is identical to a front loop, but is performed backwards, both starting and ending in a back surf.
A flat loop is a loop done on flatwater. To accomplish this, the paddler stops in a front stall, before bouncing on end and "plugging" the hull deep in the water, and using the pop to throw the boat clear of the water and subsequently loop.
An off axis front loop, tweaked to either side.
The Phonix Monkey is a combination of two moves. Performed within a hole or "stopper" in which the paddler begins performing a pirouette but instead of dropping into a regular surf upon finishing, the paddler uses the pop coming out of the pirrouette to perform a loop.
A combination of a spin and a loop. The paddler begins a flat spin, but once the spin is commenced the bow is driven under water and the stern gradually rises out of the water during the spin. The paddler uses the pop coming out of the spin to complete a loop.
Bread and Butter
Invented by Patrick Camblin, the Bread & Butter is widely recognized as the first combo move. The paddler completes a Pan Am and uses the bounce created from landing the move to throw a backstab or possibly back Pan Am.
They Kay Y is when a paddler completes a blunt or possibly clean blunt and uses the coinciding bounce coming from the landing to throw a pistol flip.
The flashback is completed by beginning to perform a spin and mid way through driving in one of the outer edges of the kayak into the wave and using the coiniciding pop to complete a backstab.
A splat is performed by getting vertical against a solid object in the water like a rock or wall, then stalling in place. Commonly a "pillow" wave formed in front of the obstruction allows the paddler to get vertical by paddling hard at the obstruction and leaning backwards.
Grinding is splatting a large boulder or wall whilst remaining in the downstream current, and subsequently "grinding" along the face of the obstruction.
Mounting a rock so that the boat is clear of the water, then placing the paddle into the water and pulling on it to rotate the boat through 360 degrees or greater before sliding into the water
A stall is a flatwater move where the boat is stopped while vertical, and the boater balances, using their body and the paddle for control. A stall may be performed from any move that gets the boat vertical, usually either a flatwheel, a double pump, or by simultaneously leaning forward and paddling forward. A stall may be performed on either the bow or the stern.
A kickflip can best be described as an aerial roll performed off the crest of a wave while moving downstream. It is similar to a wavewheel in that it is performed at the top of a wave while moving downstream, but the techniques are very different. For a kickflip, the paddler does a forward stroke and leans back, so that the boat is beginning to go vertical at the crest of the wave. As they pass the crest, they use the paddle to pull the boat upside down and around, which places the paddle in position for a back deck roll. Once the roll is performed, the boater will end upright, facing downstream, with the opposite blade in the water than the beginning of the move.
Playboating has grown massively in popularity in recent years due to innovations in boat design. Modern playboats are made from plastic which is much more robust than glass fibre or wood. Playboats typically have much less volume in the bow and stern than dedicated river running
kayaks. This allows the paddler to easily dip either end underwater.
Playboating is mainly done for fun, but competitions are also popular. Paddlers have a set time to perform as many different moves as possible, and score additional points for style.
Visiting a playspot where you do not need to paddle a river to get there (which involves shuttling cars to the bottom of the river) is often referred to as 'Park and Play'. Playboating is often considered less effort and safer than whitewater river running (this is not always the case).
* [http://www.huckinhuge.com Huckin Huge - The Ultimate in Paddling Lifestyles]
* [http://www.playak.com Playak Kayak and Canoe News]
* [http://www.ukfreestyle.com GB Freestyle Kayaking Team Website]
* [http://www.teampabst.com Team Pabst Freestyle Kayaking Team Website]
* [http://www.kayaksession.com Kayak Session magazine]
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