Do you enjoy seeing skaters, surfers and snowboarders doing cool trips, flips, spins and turns? What about something like the skateboarding half-pipe freestyle event? If any of those things spark an interest in you, then you are going to love freestyle kayaking. This type of extreme whitewater kayaking definitely takes the sport to an eleven. And if that is not your thing, then maybe something like stand up paddle boarding is more your style. With freestyle kayaking, which is also known as playboating, the kayakers do all different types of cool stuff while in the water. This can include things like tricks and stunts or just some cool moves and turns.
This type of kayaking is normally done in a playspot, which is a stationary feature of a river. The paddlers use white water waves and these holes to perform surf and gymnastic-style maneuvers and tricks. If you watch the sport, then you will see the kayakers perform things like cartwheels, loops, and blunts. Like many athletes, some of the kayakers invent their own stunts and give the moves colorful names like the Roundhouse, the Phonics Monkey, the McNasty and the Donkey Flip.
In total, there are currently around 30 different moves that make up the sport. One of the more notable is 180-pointer Helix, which involves a 360 degree spin with at least 180 degree of which the boat must be inverted – and the boat must also be aerial at some point during the inverted part of the move. Another common and popular move is the 10-pointer Spin, which involves a 360 degree rotation of the boat at a zero to 45 degree vertical angle.
Athletes who compete in freestyle kayaking competitions must complete as many different moves as they can within the limited time period. Extra points are given to those who exhibit style in the moves. The competitions have three categories to classify the moves:
- Entry Moves
- Basic Moves
One thing to note about this sport is that traditional kayaks are not used. Instead, shorter, lighter boats are used for freestyle kayaking. This gives the kaykers more ease of maneuverability on the water as these shorter kayaks are designed to surf and spin across the water surface, and release up into the air. Some of the kayaks used are made of a lightweight plastic that allows skilled kayakers to lift the boat out of the water completely.
History of Freestyle Kayaking
This fun extreme sport first rose to popularity back in the 1980s, with competitions popping up in the 1990s. The competitions used to be called rodeos, but that has since changed for the most part. These days, the sport is seeing international popularity as interest in freestyle kayaking really surged in the early 2000s as boat manufacturing and design improved to offer better maneuverability and potential for dramatic moves and tricks.
The International Canoe Federation, which is the governing body of paddles ports all over the world, officially sanctioned freestyle kayaking in 2006. In 2007, the first ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships were held on the Ottawa River in Canada. In 2008, the first Freestyle World Cup series was in Prague, Augsburg, and Thun.
The World Championships and the World Cups for freestyle kayaking are held on alternate years, with the World Championships taking place on the odd numbered years.
What Is Squirt Boating?
Another type of freestyle kayaking is called squirt boating. In this variation of the sport, kayakers focus on slower, more graceful moves in the water. They paddle super low volume kayaks and perform fluid and graceful moves above and below the water surface. There are competitions for squirt boat kayakers as well, with points earned for exhibiting smooth control during movies for the time period. Each different rotation earns points, with additional bonus points awarded for how deep and long they can keep their boat under the water in a mystery move.