Basics of Whitewater Kayaking

This is a type of lightweight boat with a closed deck where the paddler usually sits on the bottom of the boat with his or her legs stretched out, using a double-bladed paddle to steer the boat.

Whitewater Kayaking

This is a sport that basically involves paddling the boat on moving water. Its origins can be traced to the Eskimos who used these boats as a means of transport. They had to learn how navigate their way through fast rapids as they made their way down the rivers. Later, people discovered the raw excitement of paddling in turbulent water and confronting the power of nature. This gave rise to whitewater kayaking as a sport.

The evolution of the equipment used in the boats was accompanied by a change in the type of people rowing them. This led to the sport being transformed into an awe-inspiring, extreme event for diehard, adrenaline junkies.

Basics of Whitewater Kayaking

River Classification

Since the sport takes place in different kinds of rivers, it is useful to learn how these rivers are classified. The term 'whitewater' refers to frothy (and aerated) turbulent moving water due to an increase in a river’s gradient. The International Scale of River Difficulty classifies whitewater streams according to the severity of a river’s turbulence. The classes run from 1-6 (or I-VI), where class 1 is fast-moving water with small waves and few obstructions while class 6 (VI) is characterized by extremely dangerous rapids.

Basic Boat Terms

Whereas whitewater kayaking is a thrilling sport, one needs to have immense skill, exceptional concentration and a great understanding of water dynamics in order to excel. In addition, you also require to have the mental capacity to manage stress and fear.

But selecting the right boat can be an arduous task due to the wide selection of boats available on the market. Before making your selection, it is useful to understand a few relevant design terms and features:

Primary Stability

This refers to the ability of the boat to keep upright and stay level in stagnant water. A boat with great primary stability has a low tendency to tip while it is in a flat position.

Secondary Stability

This relates to the tendency of the boat to keep upright when the paddler is leaning on one side or when the boat is placed at an angle.

Displacement Hull

Boats with displacement hulls are curved at the bottom. This means that they push through water, instead of skimming over its surface. These boats usually have higher levels of secondary stability when compared to planning hulls. However, due to the round shape of their bottoms, they have less primary stability.

Planning Hull

These are flat-bottomed boats. The flat bottom enables the boat to skim over the water surface instead of pushing through. The design ensures that these boats have high levels of primary stability.


Chine relates to the boat edges, from the bow to the stern, that dip beneath the water line. Sharper(or harder) chines allow for quicker sharper boat turns. But in fast currents, sharp chines can easily make the boat to roll over-and the paddler is forced to brace in order to prevent this.


This is a special stroke of the paddle that is accompanied by a forward thrust of the paddler's hips in order to go over obstacles. It also lifts the bow of the boat when going though waterfalls, running drops and ledges.


This refers to the boat’s curvature that facilitates the raising of the bow and stem over the water. Generally, a large rocker on the bow and stem provides significant maneuverability regardless of the length of the boat. On the other hand, a boat with a shortened rocker moves faster when going down the river.

Choosing the Boat

When choosing your boat, it is absolutely important to consider the type of whitewater that you will be paddling in. Paddling in a slow-moving and calm river with class II and class III waves will require a different boat to the one that you would use in fast-flowing class IV and class V creeks.

For small waterways that only have play holes and waves, a river runner or playboat would be the best for you. For steep creeks with a lot of water and many drops, get a river-runner, creeker or long boat.

Here is Description of These Boat Types:

Creek Boat

These are round-bottomed, high-rockered boats with soft edges and blunt, rounded ends. They are somewhat oversized relative to their length and they are so-named since they are meant for descending. Their design is geared towards maneuverability, and they remain stable even in the roughest of waters. Creek boats are built for optimal buoyancy, storage and safety and to reduce the impact of navigating gnarly whitewater. These stable and sturdy boats can be used in flatwater as well as in precipitous, class V creeks.

Freestyle Boat

Also called playboats, freestyle boats are low-capacity, shortened boats with a planning hull design. They are built for surfing the waves and other features of a river. They normally have hard edges and an ample rocker, which means they are tripper than creek boats. The boats have high maneuverability, but they do not have the required stability and speed to tackle tricky and steep whitewater.

River Runners

These boats are built for general usage in whitewater. They combine the design elements and features of creek boats and play boats. There are various designs-with some being bigger and faster while others have lower volume and shorter dimensions.

Long Boats

Basically, these are longer versions of the river runners, measuring up to twelve feet long. Their length and significant bow rocker offers the paddler some additional volume and exceptional maneuverability. Long boats can handle any river, from Class II river waves to the steep Class V creeks.

Other Considerations When Buying the Right Boat Include:


Other than the boat types discussed above, it is also important to consider the size of the boat. Generally speaking, the boat size will be determined by the weight of the paddler. Every boat has a defined weight range where it will provide optimum performance. This is usually indicated on the website of the manufacturer. But you also need to bear in mind that your wet gear will add up to 15 pounds to your body weight.


Whitewater kayaking boats, unlike most sporting equipment, do not have a lot of variance when it comes to pricing. In addition, there is also a huge used-boat market where you can get sizeable discounts. However, you need to be careful when buying previously-owned models since they may lack many useful design features.

Jennifer Shu 2

I started this blog at the stage of 6 years of my motherhood. From all my experiences I want to guide you towards a better and more fashionable trend which is a baby stroller. I deliver more than baby gear guides and motivate women to enjoy her motherhood. 2

Post Comment 0 comments
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply: