Whitewater kayaking is a paddling sport in which a kayak (boat) is paddled on a moving water body. For some whitewater kayaking may be a fun carefree trip down the river while for some others, it is a challenging sport. Whitewater kayaking boats differ from those used in sea kayaking or whitewater racing.
Traditional kayaks were made of animal skins. Earlier whitewater kayaks were made of Kevlar or fiberglass but nowadays they are made of tough plastic, which is durable and flexible. Normally the size of a kayak ranges from 6-12 feet but sometimes it can be even longer.
Whitewater Kayaking Categories:
River Running- River running is a tour down the river. It is done for enjoyment as well as for experiencing the challenge of whitewater kayaking. It includes both short as well as long multi-day trips. Multi-day trips use gear-toting rafts for a comfortable experience. The competitive aspect of river running is whitewater racing.
Creeking- This involves typical and technical rapids. Creeking not only involves higher gradient but is also likely to include slides, running ledges, and waterfalls on small rivers. Creeking kayaks are high volume, rounded bow, and stern boats. These features provide extra safety margin against spinning and the kayak is controlled and resurfaces more quickly when coming off large drops. The competitive form of creeking is extreme racing.
Slalom- This is another form of whitewater kayaking. Kayakers try to make way in a designated section of river within a time limit and correctly negotiate gates at the same time. There are 20-25 gates, which should be navigated sequentially during the race. Red gates must be negotiated in upstream direction and green gates in downstream. The gate placement and precisely paddling through them fast without touching the pole makes the move harder and tougher. Pro-level Slalom competitions have specific width and length requirements of boats that are made of fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber so that they are lightweight and have faster hull speed. Slalom is the only whitewater kayaking sport in Olympics.
Play boating- Play boating is also known as freestyle kayaking. This is more an artistic and gymnastic kind of whitewater kayaking. The other whitewater kayaking varieties involve going from point A to B but in play boating, the play boaters often remain in one place in river. The play boaters work with and against the forces of river and perform various maneuvers like surfing, spinning and several vertical moves by staying in one spot. Recently aerial moves became accessible in which paddlers perform tricks. Play boating kayaks usually have low volume bow and stern enabling the paddler to submerge the kayak ends easily. In US, play boating competitions are known as whitewater rodeo but in UK and Europe, it is known as freestyle kayaking.
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