Riverrunning (practitioners use one word) is the essential - and some would say most artful - form of kayaking.
Important to a riverrunner is the experience and expression of the river in its continuity rather than, say, a penchant for its punctuated "vertical" features (e.g. standing waves, play-holes and waterfalls). As for kayak design, a "pure" riverrunning boat can be said to have "driving ability" - a blend of qualities that enables the paddler to make the most of the differential forces in the river's currents.
For example, instead of spinning or pivoting the boat to change its direction, a riverrunner will drive the boat in such a way as to make use of the river's surface features (e.g. waves, holes and eddylines) thus conserving the boat's speed and momemetum (this in particular contrast to slalom racing, where, in the attempt to negotiate certain kinds of slalom gates, the boater will pivot the boat to change its direction, and by so doing, diminish the boat's speed and momemetum.)
A principal design characteristic of riverrunning kayaks (as well as for their closest cousin the slalom boat) is their comparatively longer length and narrower breadth (generally not less than 285 cm in length or more than 63 cm in breadth). The longer length at the waterline not only helps to carry speed but the longer arcs thus created between stem and stern allow the boater to more efficiently and gracefully carve into, through and out of eddies and other currents.
|© Mauricio Ramos/Red Bull Content Pool|
In whitewater slalom, athletes have to navigate their canoe or kayak through gates as they work their way through 300m of whitewater rapids in the fastest time possible. Hitting one of the hanging gates or missing one completely results in time penalties which are added to the paddler's time at the end of his or her run. A 2-second penalty is given for a touched gate, and if the gate is missed completely there is a 50-second penalty. There are approximately 18-24 hanging gates for each course. The gates are color-coded to indicate which direction the paddler must pass through. Green gates are negotiated heading downstream while red gates require the paddler to reverse direction and pass through them heading upstream.
Male athletes compete in three classes: Kayak (K1), Single Canoe (C1) and Double Canoe (C2). Women compete in kayak (K1W) and Single Canoe (C1 - World Championships and World Cups).
Whitewater Slalom made its debut during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany and did not reappear until the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain.
|Silver medalist Jessica Fox of Australia, gold medalist Emile Fer of France and bronze medalist Maialen Chourraut of Spain|
Although many whitewater slalom events are still held on natural river courses, there are an increasing number of artificial whitewater courses being constructed and used for international competition around the world.
The United States National Whitewater Center (http://www.usnwc.org), located outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, is the nation's first fully artificial whitewater course. A training site for many athletes, the U.S. National Whitewater Center was the official site of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Team Trials for whitewater slalom.
|© Desre Pickers/Red Bull Content Pool|
Creeking is perhaps best thought of as a subcategory of river running, involving very technical and difficult rapids, typically in the Grade/Class IV to VI range. While people will differ on the definition, creeking generally involves higher gradient (approaching or in excess of 100 ft per mi (19 m per km)), and is likely to include running ledges, slides, and waterfalls on relatively small and tight rivers, though some will allow for very large and big volume rivers in their definition
|Jared Alexander on Hazard Creek in Idaho.|
Kayaks used for creeking usually have higher volume (more gallons or litres of displacement) and more rounded bow and stern, as these features provide an extra margin of safety' against the likelihood of pinning (getting a kayak wedged in such a way that it cannot be removed without a mechanical advantage system, such as between rocks and/or underwater), and will resurface more quickly and controllably when coming off larger drops. Creek boats usually have increased "rocker," or rise, fore and aft of the cockpit for manoeuvrability. Extreme racing is a competitive form of this aspect of whitewater kayaking, in which kayakers race down steep sections and or generally dangerous sections of whitewater.
Playboating, also known as Freestyle or Rodeo, is a more gymnastic and artistic kind of kayaking.
While the other varieties of kayaking generally involve going from Point A to Point B, playboaters often stay in one spot in the river (usually in a hole, pourover or on a wave) where they work with and against the dynamic forces of the river to perform a variety of maneuvers.
These can include surfing, spinning, and various vertical moves (cartwheels, loops, blunts, pistol and donkey flips, and many others), spinning the boat on all possible axes of rotation. More recently, aerial moves have become accessible, where paddlers perform tricks having gained air from using the speed and bounce of the wave.
Kayaks used for playboating generally have relatively low volume in the bow and stern, allowing the paddler to submerge the ends of the kayak with relative ease. Competitions for playboating or freestyle are sometimes called whitewater rodeo in the US, but more frequently just referred to as freestyle events in UK and Europe. Some famous Playboaters are Eric Jackson, Stephen Wright, Peter Czonka, and James Bebbington.
|Kayak Fly Fishing|