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Paddling Terms

Atomic Launch - launching from a ledge above a river by sliding down the bank and droping into the water.
Boat-Eater - A "monster hole" in a rapid, big enough to swallow a boat. Also known as a bus-stopper.
Boil - swirly or unpredictable currents pushing (boiling) to the surface. Usually caused by rocks pushing the water to the surface.
Bony - run or rapid requiring lots of maneuvering because of the abundance of obstacles, mostly rocks.
Boof - driving your boat for a mini-launch over a shallow ledge or rock.
Brace - paddling technique using downward and sweeping strokes to stabilize a tipping canoe or kayak.
Broach - occurs when a canoe or kayak becomes caught in the current against an obstruction and turned sideways. Can result in severe damage as the current's force warps the boat around the obstruction.
C.F.S. - Cubic Feet per Second. Measurement of velocity of water flow at a given point in a river. Will vary according to water level and gradient of riverbed.
Carnage - general term for a mishap, as in a boat flipping or someone falling out.
Chicken Line - Straps on the sides of a raft for clients to hold on to if they get scared. Use caution as it can entrap arms and legs in a flip.
Class I-VI - international scale of river difficulty classification system for negotiating the difficulty of fast-moving water. Class I is the easiest and Class VI the most difficult.
Confluence- the junction of two rivers or forks of a river.
Control Hand- "fixed" hand, left or right, depending on the offset of the blades on a kayak paddle. Left hand paddles are more difficult to obtain.
Curler - a large wave, usually at the bottom of a drop, with a crest that spills upon its upstream slope. May be a surfing wave.
Drop - a short, well-defined rapid or section of a rapid. Named for the abrupt drop in elevation between the top and bottom of the rapid.
Eddy - area of usually calm water behind or downstream of an obstruction in the main current, where water flows counter to that of the main current.
Eddy Out - term used to describe leaving the main current and entering an eddy.
Eddy Line - a current differential between the upstream current of the eddy and the downstream current of the main flow of the river.
Ender - a play maneuver enacted by nosing the boat's bow down and deep and the stern up, which results in the boat popping vertically upward. Good fun!!
Ferry - a maneuver used to cross a current with little or no down stream travel. Utilizes the current's force to move the boat sideways.
Float Bag - the most common form of floatation in canoes and kayaks.
Gauge Height - for measuring water levels at one or more locations. Reference point used with CFS (or in lieu of).
Grab Loop - grab-handle threaded through bow/stern stems of a kayak or canoe. Useful as carry-handles and for catching swimmers.
Gradient - refers to the steepness of a riverbed over a specified distance, usually per mile. Along with CFS and water level information, this helps paddlers draw a conclusion of a river's difficulty. See CFS and Class I-VI.
Hair - dangerous and difficult water.
Hair boating - paddling in dangerous and difficult whitewater.
Haystacks - big standing waves in a wave "train" following a drop.
Headwall - steep cliff where the main channel of the river drives against it at a 90-degree angle.
Highside - when you broach on a rock with a raft everyone moves to the highside to push it back down so it won't wrap around the rock.
Hole - a hole is created when the river current drops over a rock or ledge and circulates instead of continues its downstream flow. A significant feature because it either offers play opportunities or danger of trapping, depending on the power of the hole.
Horizon line - usually indicative of a falls or steep drop. There is a line, but the route, if there is one, is not apparent. Time to exit and scout.
Hydraulic - water formation following a sudden drop in the riverbed or drop over an obstruction that creates a powerful circulating force at the base of a drop. The circulating pressure of a powerful hydraulic can hold boats and paddlers for indeterminate lengths of time.
Hypothermia - the cold water hazard for paddlers. Prolonged exposure can lead to incapacitation and eventually death as body core temperature drops below 80 degrees.
Lilly-dipper - a weak paddler.
Maytag - stuck in a hole and thrashed about as if in a washing machine. Usually not fun!
Mystery move - usually a squirt boat move that is a lengthy disappearance under water then reappearance to the surface downstream in an entirely different location. Fun, especially when intentional!
New Yorker - a client who whines and complains.
Peel out - term used to describe leaving an eddy and entering the main current; bow catches the main current and quickly swings the boat downstream. A downstream lean is needed to counter act the current.
PFD - Personal Floating Device. The proper name for a Life Jacket per Coast Guard definition. It is required by law for every passenger of all water craft and your most important life-saving tool.
Pillow - water that builds up around a rock in the main current. Pillows are stuffed with rock.
Pin - being stuck between the current and the river bed or an obstruction such as a rock or log and unable to dislodge. Not fun; possibly deadly!
Pirouette - while popping vertical in a kayak during an "ender", the paddler reaches a paddle blade to the water then effects a vertical boat-and-paddler spin with it.
Portage - term for carrying boats and gear around a difficult rapid or from lake to lake.
Put-in - starting place of a river trip; where you put your boat on the river to begin a run or trip.
Ramp - point in a rapid where water constricts/pools before dropping downstream through a channel.
River left - the left-hand side of the river when looking downstream. When downstream looking upstream it is on your right.
River right - the right-hand side of the river when looking downstream. When downstream looking upstream it is on your left.
Roll - a move requiring a paddle stroke and body snap to right oneself from a tip over while staying in the boat. Common techniques are the Sweep and the Eskimo rolls.
Roostertail - spray of water that explodes off a submerged rock or obstacle.
Shuttle - the most dangerous part of the trip. Driving between the put-in and take-out. One-vehicle shuttles require logistical foresight using options such as biking, walking, hitchhiking, etc., to return to the put-in.
Side surf - a play move in a hole in which a paddler uses counter balancing forces of downstream current and upstream hydraulic.
Spray skirt - or spray deck. A neoprene or nylon accessory that fits around the waist of the paddler and the cockpit lip of a canoe or kayak for a watertight closure.
Squirt boat - extremely low-volume (small, flat) kayak that uses the underwater river currents for playing.
Standing waves - big waves that often indicate the main channel.
Strainer - current clogged with tree branches or debris that allows the water to flow through but could pin you or your boat. Very Dangerous!
Take-out - ending point of a paddling trip; where the boats are finally taken from the water.
Technical - describes the character of a rapid that requires skillful maneuvering because of frequent obstructions. Also describes specific, difficult-to-master paddling techniques.
Throw bag - rescue device incorporating a 60 ft. floating rope coiled inside a nylon bag, to be thrown while holding one rope end.
Tongue - a smooth downstream V indicating the route through a rapid.
Undercut - an overhanging rock or ledge with water flowing underneath it. A serious hazard!
Waterfall - major drop in a riverbed, usually over six feet in height.
Wave train - A series of standing waves or runout of a rapid. Also called "haystacks".
Wrap - to wrap your boat around a rock or obstacle. Countered by leaning into the rock or highsiding a raft.

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