Freestyle is an impressive whitewater sport that showcases the athlete’s strength, flexibility and fitness as they perform flips and tricks while surfing and playing on standing waves and holes in a fast-flowing river. The features vary in size between locations and waves can vary in size from 4 feet high to a monster waves over 15 feet in height.
Freestyle paddlers will tell you the best vantage point of all is right in the thick of the action. The exhilarating feeling of catching air off a wave while pushing the limits of creativity with new tricks keeps this sport ultra-fresh. In competition points are awarded for style and the level of difficulty. The challenge of it all is linking each movement together into a single flowing motion.
Out of competition, there’s a certain awe awarded by one’s peers instead of points. New freestyle paddlers usually start on smaller features play boating with the basic spins. From there they move forward to learn new tricks and often practice in a pool or calmer waters.
This sport, much like its dry-land and winter counterparts (skateboarding and snowboarding) is all about refining the current moves and evolving to do bigger and more complex things. What people said could not be done 10 years ago is happening today and the cycle continues.
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Measuring no more than two metres long and built of plastic or a sturdy lightweight composites, freestyle boats are the shortest type of competitive paddling boat. A skirt keeps the water out of the boat and helmets and lifejackets are important critical safety equipment.
Within Freestyle Kayaking there are 4 unique disciplines:
K1: One person kayak with a traditional kayak paddle. Paddlers compete in hole or on a wave.
C1: One Person Canoe with a closed cockpit and a traditional canoe paddle. Paddlers compete in hole or on a wave.
OC1: One person Open Canoe with an open cockpit and a traditional canoe paddle. Paddlers compete in a hole or on a wave.
SQUIRT: Very different of the disciplines, the squirt kayak is flat and long with a skirt and a shorter kayak paddle. The athlete performs tricks on eddy lines doing freestyle type tricks and the big points are awarded for “downtime” – how long the kayak and the athlete are able to remain submerged underwater.
For more info contact see the Canoe Kayak Canada website.