Paddling Terms

Dubside – which is the paddlers name, showing a greenland style
Eskimo roll

Ferry – A maneuver used to cross a current with little or no
downstream travel. Uses the current to move a boat laterally.

Eddy – Place in the current where water flows around an
obstacle, such as a rock, and then reverses course to fill in the
space behind it. Offers a haven from the flowing current.

Skeg – An adjustable fin used to keep some sea kayaks
tracking straight.

Roll – Technique to right an overturned kayak or canoe without
getting out of it.

Carp – A failed roll in which the boater manages to get his
lips above water to take a hasty breath.

Bulkheads – Walls forming sealed compartments fore and
aft in a kayak.

Chine – Transition area between the bottom and the side of the
boat. Hard chines are angular; soft chines are rounded.

Cockpit – The opening in the deck of a kayak where the
paddler sits.

Bearing – The direction you want to go to reach your

– The direction your bow is pointing.

Lee – An area protected from the wind; also the quarter
or region toward which the wind blows.

– Structural supports that run end to end along
the top of a canoe hull.

Portage – Derived from the French word for “carry.” A fancy
name for carrying your boat around a difficult rapid or other

Hole (also, hydraulic, keeper) – A spot where water tumbles
over an obstacle and reverses course upon itself. Can trap
boats from continuing downstream.

Beatdown – What sometimes happens to a boater caught
in a hole.

Boof – A whitewater maneuver used to launch the craft up
and over an obstacle.

Huck – The act of running a waterfall. “Way to huck carcass
brah. That was sick.”

Keel – A strip or extrusion along the bottom of a boat to
prevent side-slipping.

– Curvature of the keel line from the center toward the
ends of a boat. Lots of rocker means quick, easy turns; less
rocker means better tracking.

Sweep Stroke – Used to turn the boat by reaching out
and ahead, then “sweeping” in a wide arc fore to aft.

Thwart – A cross-brace between the sides of a canoe.

Tracking – The ability of a boat to hold a straight course
due to its hull design.

Yoke – A modified thwart used as a shoulder rest to carry
a canoe.

Baja sleigh ride – When a kayak fisherman hooks into a fish
big enough to pull him and his kayak in circles; also Texas
sleigh ride, Gulf Coast sleigh ride, etc.

Brace – A stroke used to provide support and prevent the craft
from capsizing.

Riffles – Light, shallow rapids found in Class I whitewater.

Pushing rubber: Rowing or paddling an inflatable raft,
especially one full of tourists.

– The latrine on a multi-day river trip. Name derives
from the time when such devices were re-purposed ammunition
cans that left a distinctive groove on one’s posterior.

River right/River left – The banks of a river are always referred
to by their relation to the view downstream.

Bus stop – Raft guide slang for dumping every client in
your raft (Bus stop: everyone out except the driver).

CFS – Cubic feet per second. Standard measure of river
volume in the United States.

Swim – Exiting your craft into the water after a capsize.

Swim beer – The beverage a rescued swimmer customarily
purchases for his rescuer, to show his gratitude and ensure
future rescues.

Tricky-woo – Freestyle kayaking move that’s too complicated
to describe here.

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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