Whitewater Terminology for Beginners


If you are new to the sport of paddling in whitewater, whether it be canoeing, kayaking, or rafting, it is essential that before you hit the water or even before you go shopping for a boat that you learn some of the basic terminology. This is true whether you are going to be canoeing, kayaking, or rafting.

If you want to avoid the awkward sensation of being a newbie while shopping for your vessel, here are some useful terminology that you will be able to use with some knowledge when talking to a store clerk. This will help you avoid the unpleasant sense of being a rookie. When it comes time for you to start your first classes, some of this language will also serve as a helpful guide for you.

When a boat is measured longitudinally, the word “amidships” refers to the location that is directly in the middle of the vessel.

The width of a kayak or canoe measured at the place where it is the broadest is referred to as the beam.

Bulkheads are the walls that, when placed in the back and front regions of a kayak, provide watertight compartments.

The chine is the part of the boat that is located between the bottom and the side. This part of the landscape is known as the transition region.

A kayak’s spray skirt may be fastened to the kayak’s coaming, which is situated around the cockpit’s rim and serves as a support for the spray skirt. It is shaped like a lip that has a curl to it.

The aperture in the kayak’s hull known as the cockpit is where the paddler sits.

Draw stroke: This is the stroke that is used to propel a boat in a direction that is parallel to the water.

Kayaking requires the use of a feathered paddle, which is a specific kind of paddle. It is built with the blades positioned at an angle to each other, which helps to offer an edge to the wind, which in turn minimises the amount of air friction that is created.

A move that is utilised to cross current with very little or no downstream motion is called a ferry.

The gunwales are a series of planks that run along the top of the hull and provide additional structural support for the vessel. The strips that run down the interior of the boat are known as inwales, while the strips that run along the outside of the boat are known as outwales.

Initial Stability is a measure of how resistant a boat is to tipping over when it is first launched.

A keel is a strip that runs down the bottom of a vessel and prevents it from sliding sideways.

The process of moving a boat past rapids that are too difficult to navigate on one’s own or between different bodies of water is known as portaging.

Rocker is the term given to the upward curve that extends from the middle of a boat towards its stern. If you have a significant amount of rocker, it indicates that you will have the ability to perform sharp bends with relative ease.

A roll is a fundamental technique used in canoeing, kayaking, and other paddle sports that allows an overturned boat to be righted without the paddler having to exit the vessel.

Skeg is a kind of stabiliser that is attached to the stern of the boat.

The part of a canoe or kayak that sits at the stern and links the keel to the bow is called the stem.

The ability of a boat to maintain a straight path due to the shape of its hull is referred to as tracking.

These should be plenty to get you started and prevent you from some embarrassment as you begin your whitewater learning adventure. Of course, there are many additional terminology that you will be utilising throughout your time spent learning about whitewater. Always remember the Golden Rule: If you come across a phrase that you are not acquainted with, whether it be during the course of your classes or while you are shopping for your boat, never be hesitant to inquire about it.

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