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Canoe & Kayak: Terms to Know

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The widest part of a canoe.

Bent-shaft paddle

A paddle with a bend in the shaft, intended to increase power but compromising control.


The wide part of a paddle; the part that passes through the water.


The front of a boat.


A paddler who kneels or sits in the forward position of a canoe or kayak; also known as a "bowman."


In whitewater, to become caught in the current against an obstruction and turn sideways -- a dangerous situation.


A light, narrow open boat propelled by one or more paddlers from a kneeling or sitting position, using a single-bladed paddle.


An area in which a whitewater course suddenly is constricted, compressing and amplifying the current's energy into a narrow tongue of water.


The enclosed space in a kayak or slalom canoe in which the athletes sit.


The closed-in area over the bow and/or stem of a canoe or kayak, intended to shed water and strengthen the gunwales.

Double-bladed paddle

A paddle with a blade at each end, used by kayakers.


In the same direction as the flow of the water.

Downstream gate

In whitewater, this type of gate is green-and-white striped and is negotiated in the same direction as the water flow.


A stroke where the blade, extended far from the canoe at a 90 degree angle to the direction of travel, is pulled directly toward the side of the canoe, in effort to move the canoe sideways.


A pool of calmer water out of the main current of a stream; upstream gates often are placed in an eddy.

Eskimo roll

When a boat capsizes, but the paddler remains in place as the boat "rolls" into an upright position.

50-second penalty

An infraction given to whitewater paddlers for, in most cases, failing to pass through a gate.

Five-meter rule

In flatwater, a rule prohibiting any boat from coming within five meters of the boat positioned next to it, thereby preventing it from riding the other boat's wash.


Calm water or a slow-moving river current with no rapids.


In whitewater, a gate is made of two striped poles hanging just above the water from a wire extending across the course.


The upper edge of a canoe's side (pronounced "gun-nel").


The frame or body of a boat.

J stroke

A paddle stroke that ends with a rudder maneuver.


The ridge running the length of a canoe on the bottom.


The path a whitewater paddler chooses to take through the gates.

Riding the wash

Gaining an unfair advantage in sprint events by traveling in the wash of the next boat and being "pulled along" by it.

River left

The left side of the waterway as it appears to a paddler facing downstream.

River right

The right side of the waterway as it appears to a paddler facing downstream.


One traversing of the course from start to finish.

Single-bladed paddle

A paddle used in the canoe, this paddle has a blade at only one end, used to stroke on one side of the boat.

Spray skirt

A cover worn by paddlers in whitewater events that attaches around the cockpit and seals the paddler into the boat to prevent water from entering.


A straight canoe/kayak race on open, flat water.


The forward part of a boat.


The back end of a boat.


A paddler who kneels or sits in the back position of a canoe or kayak.


A stroke made in a broad curve, turning a canoe in the direction opposite the sweeping side when performed by the sternsman.

Two-second penalty

A penalty assessed against slalom paddlers who touch a gate pole while attempting to pass through a gate.


Against the flow of the water.

Upstream gate

In whitewater, a red-and-white striped slalom gate that must be negotiated against the flow of the water.


The rough or broken water left behind a moving boat.

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