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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Playboating is a discipline of kayaking or canoeing where the paddler performs various technical moves in one place (a playspot), as opposed to 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. It is the paddling equivalent of skateboarding or BMX.

Playboating is also known as Rodeo, or Freestyle Kayaking.

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). Playboating is sometimes performed on dynamic moving features such as haystacks (large boils) and whirlpools, or on flat water (this is often referred to as flatwheeling). Playspots are found on natural whitewater, on artificial weirs, on artificial whitewater courses, and occasionally on tidal races in the sea.

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. 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).

Popular playspots

Hurley Weir
Hurley Weir

Popular playspots at weirs include:

  • Hurley Weir on the Thames, near London
  • Hawaii-sur-Rhone on the Rhône River, in Lyon, France.
  • Sluice on River Liffey, Lucan, Ireland

Popular playspots on tidal races include:

  • Skookumchuck Narrows in Canada
  • The Bitches in Wales
  • The Swellies on the Menai Strait
  • The Falls of Lora in Scotland
  • The Arches, Malahide Estuary in Dublin, Ireland

Popular big volume rivers often run for their playspots include (these often feature on playboating videos):

  • The Slave River in Canada
  • Garberator, Baby Face and Horseshoe on the Ottawa River, in Canada
  • The White Nile in Uganda
  • The Zambezi in Zambia.

Popular natural playspots include:

  • The Rabioux wave on the Durance in France.
  • Rock Island State Park in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee
  • School House Rock "KRH" playhole in California.
  • Kaituna "bottom Hole" Rotorua, New Zealand.
  • Zoar Gap in western Massachussets

Man-enhanced playspots include:

  • The Salida playhole in Colorado
  • The Golden Kayak Park in Golden, Colorado

The Tryweryn in Wales, the Dee near Llangollen in Wales, the Washburn in England, and Hambledon Weir on the Thames have been modified (by moving boulders on the river bed, or in the case of Hambledon by installing pneumatic kicker ramps on the river bed) to create better playspots.

Construction has begun on Brennan's Wave a project in Missoula, Mt that is converting a broken diversion dam into a playpark for kayakers.

External links

  • Playak - Kayak & Canoe News
  • ProfessorPaddle - Playboating Community & Media Gallery
  • GB Freestyle Kayaking Team Website
  • - Freestyle News & Media Gallery
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