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.
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), 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.
Whitewater paddlers often resort to playboating when they live a long distance from any real whitewater rivers, for example in the South East of England.
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 at weirs include:
- Hurley Weir on the Thames, near London
- Hawaii-sur-Rhone on the Rhône River, in Lyon, France.
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
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 Screaming Beaver on the Ottawa River, in Canada
- The White Nile in Uganda
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.
Man-enhanced playspots include:
- The Salida playhole in 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.
is a form of Whitewater kayaking or canoeing where the boat is designed to be as low in volume as possible while still allowing the paddler to float. Squirt boats are designed to utilize both surface and underwater currents to maneuver within the water. These maneuvers can be used to effect navigational control or to perform tricks.
Physically, a typical squirt boat is similar a whitewater kayak or covered canoe (C-1) but is distinct in the following ways:
- The side profile of a squirt boat is very flat when compared to a whitewater kayak or C-1.
- The volume of a squirt boat is generally less than half of the volume of a normal kayak of the same length. This often ranges from 24-35 gallons for a squirt boat, but 50-70 gallons for a typical kayak.
- Squirt boats often have foot bumps that enable the boat to maintain an ultra-low volume while still providing room for the feet.
- When in the water, 80-90% of the boat will be underwater.
Squirt boating originally evolved from slalom kayaks. Racers found that if they let the upstream hip drop into the current and slide the stern of the boat under water, they could decrease the amount of time required to make large degree turns (90+ degrees). This maneuver was dubbed a squirt because of the way the boats squirted forward with extra speed thanks to the trapped buoyancy of the stern and the shape of the hull and deck. It is analogous to squeezing a pumpkin seed in between your fingers and having it shoot out away from you.
After this original maneuver was developed, a number of paddlers noticed that squirting was a lot of fun and introduced a new method of playing on the river. Squirts allowed the boats to get vertical even in flat water. The problem was that the predominant kayak designs of the 1980s were not conducive to doing squirts. Most kayaks at the time were more than 10 feet long and had a volume greater than 70 gallons. Jesse Whitamore, a kayak designer, designed the first chopped boats based on race boat designs that were intended to squirt. Then, one fairly well known paddler, boat designer, and paddle maker by the name of Jim Snyder decided to try and create a shorter boat that was designed to squirt that could also be used for running and playing on the river. The result, after many years of trial and error, was a radically low volume boat.
- Squirts - 'Squirting,' moves the boat from flat to vertical. The feeling of the boat doing a squirt is similar to the feeling of your hand at an angle, out the window of a fast moving vehicle, rising or falling and turning against the flow of air. There are several hydraulic river features that facilitate this maneuver. what
- Screw-Around/Screw-Up - This is a vertical or past vertical maneuver where the kayak is pivoted around its long axis. It is usually performed after a squirt.
- Blasts - "Blasting," is typically done in a vertical pourover, although it can be accomplished in a less vertical hydraulic (or hole), the effect is less fantastic. The effect of the move is to have either the bow or stern of the kayak sandwhiched between the upstream flow of the river and the reversal flow of the hydraulic. In vertical features, the kayak is balanced vertically.
- Mystery Moves - This is the Holy Grail of squirt boat maneuvers. In a mystery move, the kayak and paddler submerge entirely into the flow of the river via total immersion into downward flow.
- Cartwheels - The kayak transitions from vertical to vertical, sideways, utilizing the "smash" technique of rotating your hips and boat against the paddle-torso configuration.
- Double Enders - Similar to a cartwheel, but older in origin. The transition in a double ender is performed utilizing squirt, rather than smash, principles.
- Zero to Hero - When surfacing from a mystery move upside down, the paddler executes a "screw around,"/"screw-up," and effectively surfaces vertically.
- Clean Wheel - A variation of the carthweel, executed without the usual paddle strokes.
Surf Kayaking uses kayaks that are similar in design to whitewater kayaks, except they have a planing hull (flat side to side) to carve into a wave face, like a surfboard. While typically seven or eight feet in length, competition surf kayaks can be nearly twelve feet long to increase both planing speed while on a wave and to provide faster paddling speed for catching waves.
A variation on the closed cockpit surf kayak is an open cockpit design called a Waveski
. Although the waveski utilises similar dynamics, in terms of paddling technique and surfing performance on the waves, construction can be very similar to surfboard designs. Elite waveski surfers are able to more closely imitate surfboard manouveres.
Flatwater racing kayaks
Flatwater racing kayaks are generally made out of very lightweight materials. They are not intended for anything other than flat water on a relatively calm day. They are thin, extremely unstable, and expensive, with a competitive K-1 boat running in the $4000 range. They require a good level of expertise to paddle well, but are extremely fast in the hands of proficient users. The beam of a flatwater boat is typically barely wider than the hips of the person who paddles it, allowing for a very long and narrow shape to reduce drag. The most common types of flatwater racing kayaks (sometimes termed 'sprint boats') are K-1 (single paddler), K-2 (two paddlers) and K-4 (four paddlers). These boats are raced at the Olympic level by both men over courses of 500 m and 1000 m and women, over courses 500 m only.
Due to their length (a one person sprint kayak is 17 ft (5.2 m) long), sprint boats come equipped with a rudder to help with turning. The rudder is controlled by the feet of the paddler (the foremost paddler in multiperson designs). In spite of this, these boats still make fairly large turns.
Flatwater racing kayaks are closely related to flatwater racing canoes, and are usually paddled out of a common club or team, although it is rare for paddlers to compete in both canoes and kayaks.
A highly specialized variant of flatwater racing kayak called a Surf Ski
has an open cockpit and can be twenty-one feet long but only eighteen inches wide, requiring expert balance and paddling skill. Surf Skis were originally created for surf and are still used in surf races in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. They have become very popular in the United States for both ocean races, lake races and even downriver races.
Kayaks designed for Slalom canoeing have a hull for manouverability and—since the early 1970s—low profile decks.
Specialty and multi-type kayaks
Another special type of kayak is the inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks usually can be transported by hand using a carry bag. They are made of hypalon (a kind of neoprene), pvc, or polyurethane coated cloth. They can be inflated with foot, hand or electric pumps. Multiple compartments in all but the least expensive increase safety. They generally use low pressure air, almost always below 3 psi.
Until recently, inflatable kayaks have been non-rigid boats, essentially pointed rafts, and best suited for use on rivers and calm water. However, recently some manufacturers have combined folding kayak design princicples (notably the use of an internal frame) with Sit-on-top kayak overall design using multiple inflatable sections to produce a seaworthy inflatable sea kayak.
Besides being portable, inflatable kayaks generally are stable and easy to master, but they take more effort to paddle and are slower than traditional kayaks.
A special type of kayak using pedals allows the kayaker to propel the vessel with a propeller or underwater "flippers" attached to pedals in the cockpit, rather than a with a paddle
Modern kayak design
The design of different types of kayak is largely a matter of two dimensions of trade-off: between directional stability ("tracking") and maneuverability, the second between primary and secondary stability .
Length: As a general rule, a longer kayak is faster while a shorter kayak may be turned more quickly - but the higher potential top speed of the longer kayak is largely offset by increased friction. Kayaks that are built to cover longer distances such as touring and sea kayaks are themselves longer, generally between 16 and 19 feet. A flat water racing K1's maximum length governed by the ICF is 17 feet. Whitewater kayaks, which generally depend upon river current for their forward motion, are built quite short, to maximize maneuverability. These kayaks rarely exceed eight feet in length, and some specialized boats such as playboats may be only six feet long. The design of recreational kayaks is an attempt to compromise between tracking and maneuverability, while keeping costs reasonable; their length generally ranges from nine to fourteen feet.
Rocker: Length alone does not fully predict the maneuverability of a kayak: a second design element is rocker : the curvature of the kayak from bow to stern. A heavily "rockered" boat has more lengthwise curvature than a boat with little or no rocker, meaning that the effective waterline of the rockered boat is less than for a kayak with no rocker. For example, an 18 ft. kayak with no rocker will be entirely in the water from end to end. In contrast, the bow and stern of an 18 footer with will be out of the water, so its lengthwise waterline may be only 16 ft. Rocker is generally most evident at the ends, and in moderation improves handling. Similarly, although a whitewater boat may only be a few feet shorter than many recreational kayaks, because the whitewater boat is heavily rockered its waterline is far shorter and its maneuverability far greater.
Hull form: Kayak hull designs are divided into categories based on the shape from bow to stern and on the shape of the hull in cross-section. Bow-to-stern shapes include:
Symmetrical: the widest part of the boat is halfway between bow and stern.
Fish form: the widest part is forward of the midpoint.
Swede form: the widest part is aft (in back) of the midpoint.
The presence or absence of a V bottom at various points affects the kayak's tracking and maneuverability. A V tends to improve the kayak's ability to travel straight (track), but reduces the ease of turning. Most modern kayaks have steep Vee sections at the bow and stern, and a very shallow Vee amidships.
Beam profile: Hull shapes are categorized by the roundness (or flatness) of the bottom, whether the bottom comes to a "V" at various points on the hull, and by the presence, absence, and severity of a chine, where the side and bottom of a hull meet at an angle, creating another edge below the gunwales. This design choice determines the tradeoff between primary and secondary stability. The hull design determines the relative primary stability and secondary stability of a kayak, the resistance of the boat to tipping and to ultimate capsize, respectively.
Primary and secondary stability: Although every kayak will rock from side-to-side, wider kayaks with more buoyancy away from the centerline will present more resistance to tipping and thus feel less likely to capsize than a narrow one with less buoyancy away from the centerline. Flat-bottomed boats that push their volume away from the centerline will also feel more stable than rounded or V-shaped hull shapes that distribute buoyancy more evenly.
While flat-bottomed boats have more primary (sometimes called "initial") stability, and feel more stable to the beginner they usually have less secondary stability . Once they do begin to tip, they capsize quickly and suddenly. Rounder-bottomed boats are quite the opposite - having lower intial or primary stability and (usually) greater secondary stability. The chine in some boats increases secondary stability by effectively widening the beam of the boat when it is heeled (tipped).
Secondary stability refers to final stability, or additional resistance to capsizing as a kayak approaches capsizing. Rounder-bottomed boats present a greater cross-section to the water as they are tipped from level ("heeled"), while very flat-bottomed boats present less. Sea kayaks, designed for open water and rough conditions, are generally narrower (22-25 inches) and have more secondary stability than recreational kayaks, which are wider (26-30+ inches), have a flatter hull shape, and more primary stability. Kayaks with only moderate primary, but excellent secondary are, in general, considered more seaworthy, especially in challenging conditions.
Until recently, whitewater kayaks had very rounded and rockered hulls, but changes in design philosophy have lead to whitewater kayaks with very flat planing hulls that allow them to sit on top of the water rather than in the water (displacement hull).
The Flyak is a hydrofoil adaptation to the conventional kayak. Twin hydrofoils are designed to raise the hull clear of the water and increase the speed. Speeds of up to 27.2 km·h-1 (7.6 m·s-1, 16.9 mph) can be achieved on calm water.
The Flyak has two hydrofoil fins below the surface of the water to create lift. At high speeds the entire hull is lifted 15cm from the water, reducing the drag and allowing even greater speeds, reportedly more than twice that of a conventional kayak.
The Flyak was designed by Einar Rasmussen and Peter Ribe in Norway and released in 2005. Hydrofoil lift method is well established for motored and man-powered water craft, but the Flyak is the first to incorporate the design into a commercial kayak.
Comparisons and Records
A 200m sprint was performed pitting Olympic athlete Andreas Gjersøe in a Flyak against the four-man Norwegian National Team in a K4 kayak on Sunday November 13, 2005. This race was featured on "Beyond Tomorrow" broadcast on Wednesday February 8, 2006. It was reported that the Flyak won by a boat length. A K1 sprint specialist in a conventional kayak would expect to be some five seconds slower than a four-man boat over 200m.
A surf ski (or surfski or waveski ) is a light recreational water craft with an elongated open cockpit kayak used for surf kayaking , surf lifesaving, or flat-water racing. Surf kayaking is sometimes called "surf canoeing" in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Surf skis combine charcteristics from both kayaks and surfboards.
Surf skis are very long and thin for kayaks, typically about 20 feet (6 meters) long and 20" (50cm) wide. As such, they excel at going fast and tracking well, but at the expense of maneuverability and stability. Most surf skis are made of composite materials, such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, or kevlar, in order to minimize weight.
Surf skis are used worldwide, but are most popular in warmer coastal regions, notably Australia, California, Hawaii, and South Africa, as paddling a surf ski inevitably involves contact with the water. In cooler waters, paddlers often choose to wear a wetsuit.
The earliest reports of surf skis originate from Newcastle Beach in Australia in the 1920s, though other accounts are reported from South Africa. Surf skis were originally designed to be paddled out through surf in order to rescue drowing swimmers. Until the 1960s, surfboats -- lightweight rowing boats with a crew of five -- were responsible for the rescue work in and behind the surf line. These boats were expensive and require a huge amount of skill to be used effectively. It was soon realised that a double surfski could do almost everything that a surfboat could do, and in 1946, the importance of surfskis was noted by the surf lifesaving associations and they were included in lifesaving competitions and championships. Riders could stand up on them to surf them back to shore. These early surf skis were very wide and have little in resemblance to their modern counterparts.
Surf skis were quickly introduced into surf lifesaving as a competition event. Over time they became narrower and narrower to maximise speed. Despite their appearances a surf ski (with an experienced paddler) is a very effective craft for paddling in big surf. Its narrow width makes it great for cutting through large broken waves. The front of the modern surf ski is often flared to prevent nose diving on returning to shore when surfing down large steep waves.
The surfski/waveski is a mix of kayak and surfboard. The hull shape is similar to native Sea kayak designs, though surf skis lack of a cockpit, with the paddlers sitting in hollows shaped into the deck. Early surfskis were constructed in the same way as early surfboards, being laminated from light wood and sometimes covered with fabric. In the 1960 the first foam surfboards and surfskis were made, being carved from a single block of expanded polystyrene foam, strengthened with wooden stringers and covered with a thin layer of fibreglass. As the demand for surfskis grew in the 1970s, this custom method of production proved too costly and moulds were made from the most successful surfskis so that moulded craft could be made more cost effectively out of glass-fibre. At the same time, there was a divergence in ski design, one type becoming known as the lifesaving spec surfski and the other being the long distance racing surfski.
The hull shapes on modern long distance racing surfskis differ from the lifesaving spec surfskis in that they are longer, have sharply pointed bows and understern rudders. Surfskis also differ from long distance racing kayaks in that they are much longer, have more longitudinal curvature (rocker), are more stable and the paddler is seated more towards the centre of the craft. A long distance racing surfski must have enough volume in the bow to provide buoyancy when punching through surf, a long waterline to make use of ocean swells, a sleek, narrow shape to reduce water resistance, as well as enough stability to make paddling in rough conditions feasible.
Waveski's are short and have fins/skegs and riders are strapped onto the board to perform radical and extreme surfing of waves.
The Surf Ski is used in a number of surf lifesaving competition events in countries such as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Since its introduction, surfski racing has been managed by the International Lifesaving Federation . The standard ILF surfski race is about 700m, from a start in the water, out around a series of buoys and back to the beach. It was not long before people began going further afield in these new, extremely seaworthy craft, and long distance racing began to emerge. The earliest races were the Scottburgh to Brighton in South Africa, a 46km event first held in 1958; the PE to East London in South Africa, a 240km event held every two years since 1972 and the most famous of them all, the Molokai race in Hawaii, a 60km event first held in 1976.
Waveski Surfing is an offshoot of the surfski that officially occurred in 1984 with the formation of the World Waveski Surfing Association.
More recently, there has been a huge growth in long distance surfski racing in USA, Australia, New Zealand and other pacific countries. There has been a move in many of these active surfski racing countries to transfer the long distance events to the Canoe Federations as the Lifesaving Federations often do not have the resources to manage long distance races with up to 500 competitors.
Also, surf skis have become popular for races that take place in an ocean or bay, lake or rivers as well. One benefit to the surfski is that if the conditions toss the kayaker into the water, a "wet entry" is possible, by simply climbing back onto the boat and continuing kayaking without having to drain the boat of water.