White Water Kayaks
Here at AS Watersports in Exeter we have a large range of kayaks, canoes and watersports equipment for sale from our waterside shop and from online.
We now have a white water kayaking guide to the rivers of Devon. Good local locations for you to test your new white water boat out on. See our Devon White Water River Guide
What is White Water Kayaking?
White water kayaking involves paddling in faster flowing, moving and broken water. This can include fast moving and steep descents down alpine style rivers with rocks, boulders, drops and waterfalls also known as creeking or river running. White water kayaking can also involve freestyle kayaking or play boating which involves performing tricks and moves in the white water features.
Generally whitewater kayaks are designed to have exceptional manoeuvrability to negotiate rapids, are shorter than more traditional kayaks, have more rocker (upturn in the ends) to deal with waves and can have rounded or flat planning hulls. For this reason whitewater kayaks are not very suitable for touring, due to the fact that they are difficult and slow to paddle in a straight line.
River rapids are graded according to the level of danger, difficulty, severity and consequence of the rapid. The levels range from grade 1 which is the easiest, for example, water with slight ripples and an obvious route, to grade 6 which is the most difficult and dangerous and is rarely paddled as is near impossible.
White Water Kayaks:
There is a vast range of white water kayaks on the market today and it can be hard to know exactly which boats to look at. The first thing to consider is what type of paddling you want to do. White water boats can be roughly split into 4 categories: Freestyle, River Play, River Running/General WW and Creeking. Each of these is explained in more detail below.
Other considerations will be:
- Your height and weight: this determines the size of kayak you will fit in. Being too heavy for a kayak will make it sit lower in the water reducing its ability to stay on the surface. Being too small will not let you control the kayak correctly.
- Your budget: as with everything, the more you pay the more you get. This may be safety features, materials and construction methods and out fitting levels which allow easy adjustment.
- You’re paddling experience: The more experience you have will allow you to use a more performance orientated boat.
White Water Freestyle is also commonly known as play boating. It is a much more gymnastic and artistic form of kayaking. Playboaters often stay in one spot of the river (usually a hole, pourover or on a wave), where they work with the forces of the river to perform a variety of manoeuvres, these include surfing, spinning, and various vertical moves such as cartwheels, blunts and loops. Freestyle White Water Kayakers also perform aerial tricks, using the speed of the wave to help bounce the kayak into the air. To do tricks such as air screws, flashbacks, helix’s and more.
The boats used for play boating will be very short with a flat hull, low volume bow and stern, aggressive rails, have more rocker, high volume around the cockpit and be highly manoeuvrable. They tend to be relatively unstable and are best suited to paddlers who have some white water experience, they are also generally not suitable for river running as they lack the speed and the volume needed to safely paddle complex white water and lack the safety features of river running and creek boats, such as rescue points, safety pillars and often do not have enough room in the kayak for good river shoes and essential safety equipment such as throwlines.
Playboats usually come in 2 or 3 different sizes for each model to allow you get the correct size for your weight and height. Playboats also come with a variety of outfitting options and specs from fairly basic in boats like the Dagger G-force for £499.00, up to the latest highly adjustable outfitting in boats like the Wavesport Project X, Pyranha Jedeye or Jackson Rockstar.
Most playboats will do most of the moves however some will be better on a wave and some will be better in a hole. All will depend on the skill of the paddler.
White water river running playboats are slightly longer and therefore faster than white water freestyle kayaks making them more versatile on the river. With slightly softer edges, they are generally more forgiving.
White water river play kayaks are designed to be used as moderate river running kayaks up to about grade 3+ that will also allow you to stop and play on all the features such as eddylines, waves and holes (stoppers) as you go down the river. They will not perform all of the latest freestyle moves but are the perfect one boat option or ideal if you want to only attempt playboating whilst river running on your local run. Moves such as tails squirts, cartwheels and splats are all a lot of fun in a river running playboat. Boats such as the Liquid Logic Freeride, Pyranha Varun, Wavesport Fuse and Big Dog Havoc are ideal for those wanting a playful, yet more forgiving kayak. River play kayaks are also a lot of fun in the surf as more hull speed allows better use of the wave.
River Running and General Purpose
River running and general purpose white water kayaks are perfect for beginners to learn white water skills and also for more advanced paddlers who enjoy paddling down their local rivers in a comfortable and manoeuvrable boat. Some general river runners are also great fun in the surf and perform even better than a river running playboat.
Boats such as the Pyranha Z:one and Dagger Axiom are just as at home in the surf as they are on the river or flat water. The Dagger GT series, Liquid Logic Remix and to some extent the Wavesport D65 and D75 are all very good all-round river running kayaks but are not so happy in the surf due to their high volume sterns. These kayaks are great on your local river or on the flat learning skills.
Creeking is an American term that has been taken on in the UK. Its original usage was to describe smaller tighter and steeper rivers known as creeks. These days it is used for any river that is a little steeper. It involves technical or high volume and difficult rapids, typically grade 4 and above.
White water creek boating will often involve tackling rivers with a higher gradient and is likely to include running ledges, slides, and waterfalls on relatively small and tight rivers or high volume rivers.
Kayaks used for creeking and river running usually have more volume and more rounded ends. These design features help the boat resurface easily and with more balance, the more rounded shapes help the kayak glance off rocks and these techniques are used a lot. Often called flaring or boofing. Creek boats usually have increased "rocker," or rise, on the bow to go up and over obstacles and obstructions within the river. Creek boats will come equipped with all of the safety features you may need such as solid central pillars, attachment points and strong grab handles. Solid central pillars or steps allow the paddlers to step out of the kayak in case of a pin. Strong broach loops and rescue points help with recovery of equipment in strong currents. Other essential features include a full plate footrest.
Creek boats either have a displacement hull like the Liquid Logic Jefe, Dagger Nomad, Prijon Pure or Pyranha Shiva are best on steep drops and bigger lines, they are not so good on bigger volume rapids. Flat or semi planning hulls like the Pyranha Burn, Liquid Logic Stomper, Big Dog Force and the New 2012 Dagger Mamba. Are often favoured by paddlers coming from a freestyle or play boating back ground as they give a sharper response when turning and better initial stability. Theses boats are good in nice and tight technical boulder garden rapids that require sudden direction changes. Both styles are suitable and often it is down to personal choice.
The best way to find the boat best suited for you is to come into the shop and demo any whitewater boats we have in stock on the canal outside the shop or from our demo fleet which can be taken away.
Alternatively if you would like any more advice and information you can contact our friendly and knowledgeable paddling staff who will be happy to help. You can call us on 01392 219600 or