A PADDLER'S GLOSSARY
The area roughly in the center of the canoe lengthwise.
To scout a rapid from the banks of the river. Requires getting out of your craft.
To scout a rapid from your boat. Does not require getting out of your craft.
The width of a canoe or kayak measured at the widest point.
A canoe paddle with a bend in the shaft, usually at its throat. Increases efficiency (power), with varying compromise in control.
The wide, flat area of a paddle, used for propulsion.
Swirly or unpredictable currents pushing (boiling) to the surface. Usually caused by currents rebounding off the river bed, pushing the water to the surface.
A shallow rapid requiring a lot of maneuvering because of numerous obstacles, usually rocks.
A technique used to drive your kayak for a mini-launch over a shallow ledge or rock. This move can help propel your kayak over the hole formed at the bottom of the drop. (Oddly enough, it is also the name of Michael J. Fox's girlfriend in the 80s movie "Teen Wolf".)
Often used in whitewater kayaking or canoeing. Forward, Back, Draw, Cross-bow draw.
Front of the canoe or kayak.
A paddling technique used to stabilize a tipping kayak by using downward and sweeping strokes while incorporating the hip-snap.
A large wave, usually at the bottom of a drop, with a crest that builds up enough to break back on its upstream slope. This can create a surfing wave.
Occurs when a boat becomes caught sideways in the current against an obstruction. A broach can result in severe damage as the current's force warps the boat around the obstruction. Rescue may be necessary; common site at Six Mile Falls.
Sealed compartment fore or aft in a decked canoe or kayak. Primarily required for flotation but also used as storage area.
An open craft with pointed ends that is propelled with a single-bladed paddle. Also called an "open boat."
This is a general term for accidents on the river, among other places!
A decked canoe. A C-1 is a one person canoe and a C-2 is a two person canoe.
Anyone who paddles the Kenduskeag in a concrete canoe. (Sorry, I made this up).
Cubic Feet Per Second. A standard measurement of velocity of water flow at a given point in a river. A gauge measures the number of cubic feet of water passing a specific point over a one second period. The CFS will vary according to water levels and the gradient of the riverbed.
The edge of the kayak; the transition area between the hull and the deck.
International standard classification system for rating the difficulty of fast-moving water:
Class I: Easy. Waves small, passages clear; no serious obstacles.
Class II: Moderate. Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear.
Class III: Difficult. Waves numerous, high, irregular. Rocks, eddies, rapids with passages clear (though narrow), requiring expertise in maneuvering.
Class IV: Very Difficult. Long rapids, waves powerful, irregular; dangerous rocks, boiling eddies, powerful and precise maneuvering required.
Class V: Extremely Difficult. Long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed, big drops, violent currents, very steep gradient.
Class VI: Unrunnable. Portage the area altogether and live to paddle another day.
The opening in the deck of a kayak or closed canoe where the paddler sits. The curved lip around its edge, used to secure a spray skirt, is the coaming.
Where two or more forks of a river, (or two separate rivers) flow into each other.
This is your "fixed" hand, left or right, depending on personal preference and paddle type. “Lefty” paddles are scarce. Your control hand will stay in the same position on the paddle at all times. See Swivel-Hand.
A type of wave that curls at the top, creating a "tube".
Water that piles up on the upstream side of an obstruction in current.
Closed-in area over the bow and/or stern of a canoe or kayak. Sheds water and, on a canoe, adds strength to the gunwales.
Vertical measurement from the hull's lowest point to its highest, usually from the top of the gunwale amidships to the floor of the canoe.
Devil's Tongue, The
The scary wave train that sometimes follows the rocks near the Shopping Cart rapids closer to Bangor in very swift water years. (Ok, this is my own thing. Nobody in Maine calls this fleeting wave train The Devil's Tongue except me. Just wanted to see if anybody is reading this.)
Waves that are angled diagonally in the river. Usually happen at high water. If not run correctly, these types of waves will flip rafts.
Used to describe tendency of a boat to hold its course.
Used to move the boat sideways. Performed by placing the paddle into the water parallel to the boat at an arm's reach away, then pulling boat over to it.
A short, steep rapid or section of a rapid. Named for the abrupt increase in gradient between the top and bottom of the rapid.
An eddy is a place in a river where the water is moving in a different direction or different speed than the main current. Eddies are formed by rocks in the river, outcroppings along the side, behind logs, bridge pilings, and also on the inside of bends. Eddies are places where kayakers can sit and stay relatively still instead of floating downstream. Eddies come in handy for scouting, resting, etc.
Also known as an "Eddy Wall". It usually develops at high water. The eddies become elevated or depressed relative to the main current. The result is a turbulent wall that divides the eddy current from the main current. The eddies themselves sometimes become boiling whirlpools.
To run a rapid incrementally, in stages, by catching the eddies as you go down. For some rapids, it is a good way to scout.
Term used to describe entering an eddy from the main current.
An eddy line is the part of the river that separates an eddy from the main current. Eddy lines can range from gentle changes of current, to violent, whirlpool-forming obstacles. The speed, volume, and gradient of the current influence the type of eddy line that is formed.
Usually a maneuver performed by burying a boat's bow down and deep under water while the stern pops up. This results in a vertical position (sometimes over-vertical).
A kayak paddle in which the blades are set at an angle to each other in order to present the edge rather than the surface to the wind.
A maneuver used to cross a current with little or no downstream travel. Utilizes the current to move boat laterally.
Also called "secondary stability." Describes a boat's resistance to tipping once the boat has been leaned to a point beyond its "initial stability."
Term used to describe a hull cross section that grows wider as it rises from the waterline toward the gunwales.
Typically located in the stern of the kayak, float bags are simply bags filled with air to help increase buoyancy.
Feet Per Mile – the measurement of a river gradient determined by how many feet the river drops in one mile.
The vertical distance measured from a boat's waterline to the lowest part of its gunwale.
Short rope or grab-handle threaded through bow/stern stems of a kayak or canoe.
Refers to the steepness of a riverbed over a specified distance, usually per mile.
See Class I - VI.
The end of a canoe paddle opposite from the blade.
Structural supports that run end to end along the top of the hull. Inside strips are "inwales"; outside, "outwales." Usually pronounced as "gunnels".
Access port on front and/or rear deck of a touring or sea kayak.
Very large, tall standing waves that tend to collapse chaotically near the crest of the wave. These are typically a high-volume river feature.
The body of a canoe or kayak; the area that has the greatest impact on how the boat and water interact.
Shape of the hull, or that part affected by water, wind, and waves.
Prolonged exposure to frigid waters leading to incapacitation and eventually death as core body temperature drops below 80 degrees.
Term used to describe a boat's resistance to leaning ("tippiness").
A strip or extrusion along the bottom of a boat to prevent (theoretically) side-slipping. Adds rigidity or hull support.
The longitudinal shape of the canoe's bottom looking from the side.
A hole in the river which has a tendency to hold your boat in a trap of circulation. This type of hole is usually wider than a boat and has a curved shape with the ends pointing downstream.
Manner in which layers of fiberglass or Kevlar matting are placed to make a fiberglass or Kevlar canoe or kayak.
Personal buoyancy vest required by law for every passenger of all water craft.
Slang referring to being stuck in a hole and thrashed uncontrollably, creating a feeling of being inside a washing machine and underwater.
Any object that creates an obstruction in the river and moves with the current. Can be other boaters. Stay away from them if possible.
The completely submerged disappearance of a watercraft, followed by a reappearance to the surface downstream in an entirely different location. Mystery moves are usually unintentional.
A series of waves that develop and curl from different angles and sides, colliding into other waves. Boaters paddling through offset waves are treated to a wild ride.
Side of boat opposite the paddle.
Side that you're paddling on.
Primary tool for propelling canoes/kayaks. See Blade, Shaft, Throat.
Personal Flotation Device.
See: Life Jacket.
Refers to being stuck in your kayak between the current and the river bed or an obstruction such as a rock or log. Pins are potentially deadly situations that may require a complex rescue.
A maneuver performed while popping straight up vertically in a kayak during an "ender". When vertical, the paddler reaches a paddle blade to the water and spins the kayak.
Traditional term for carrying boats and gear, usually around a rapid or between lakes.
Turning stroke in which the paddle blade is turned sideways alongside the gunwale, then "pried" outward.
The starting point of a paddling trip; where the boats are launched into the water.
Being able to see common aspects of river rapids, current lines, rocks, clear channels, eddy lines, etc. By reading the water, paddlers will be able to choose the safest path for their boat and abilities.
Pieces of material spaced on the inside of a canoe hull to form its frame.
Shallow, rocky water characterized by many small waves.
On the left side of the river facing downstream.
On the right side of the river facing downstream.
The distance in miles from the mouth of a river.
Upward curvature of the keel line from the center toward the ends of a boat. The more curve the bottom of the boat has, the more rocker it has. Lots of rocker provides quick, easy turns. Whitewater boats have a lot of rocker where sea kayaks do not.
See: Eddie Van Halen.
A self-rescue technique used to right an overturned kayak or canoe in the water without leaving the boat.
Spray of water that rebounds off a submerged rock or obstacle.
Typically a foot-controlled steering device on touring or sea kayaks.
Walking ahead on shore to inspect a rapid or other stretch of river.
Screen Door On A Submarine (as useful as a…)
Don't laugh. These keep the fish out.
A hull's tendency to stabilize as it's leaned to one side. See Hull Configuration, Initial Stability.
The area of a paddle between the upper grip and the blade.
Any shallow, ledgy rapid. Potentially destructive.
This refers to the logistics of getting to the put-in and take-out. Typically a shuttle is driven before the run by leaving a vehicle at the take-out.
A strainer created by rocks. Usually very dangerous and should be avoided.
A narrow channel in a rapid.
Usually made of neoprene, a skirt keeps the water out of your kayak. It fits around the waist of the paddler and attaches to the cockpit lip.
The back end of a boat.
Includes forward, back, sweep, reverse sweep, draw and J strokes.
A hole or breaking wave that stops your downstream momentum.
Extremely dangerous obstacles that clog the current with tree branches or other debris, but still allow the water to flow through. This can trap paddlers and gear and make rescue very difficult.
To fill the boat with water. Usually makes the boat difficult or even impossible to maneuver. The use of air bags to displace water can reduce or prevent swamping.
The last boat down a stretch of the river. Safety measures to make sure no boats are left behind. Sweep boats should be outfitted with a rescue kit.
Used to turn the boat to the off-side by reaching out and ahead, then "sweeping" in a wide arc fore to aft.
The ending point of a paddling trip; where the boats are finally taken from the water. See Put-In.
Two-person canoe or kayak.
A description of the character of a rapid that requires skillful maneuvering and boat control because of frequent obstacles. Technical can also describe specific, difficult-to-master paddling techniques.
Junction of paddle shaft and blade.
A rescue device incorporating a floating rope coiled inside a nylon bag. This bag is thrown while holding one rope end to aid a swimmer.
A cross-brace between the sides of a canoe. The center thwart should be the balance point of the canoe.
A smooth downstream V-shaped cut, typically indicating the route through a rapid.
The ability of a boat to hold a straight course due to its hull design.
A trim boat is level, side-to-side and end-to-end. Achieved by shifting the load or position of the paddlers.
Term used to describe a hull cross section that curves inward from the waterline toward the gunwales.
An overhanging rock or ledge with water flowing underneath it. Undercuts pose the threat of trapping paddlers and gear.
Used to describe overall capacity of a given hull shape.
Large canoes which can hold a large group of paddlers.
A major vertical drop in a riverbed (typically over six feet in height.)
A line reached by the water along the hull of a boat; the shape of the waterline and the handling characteristics of the boat change as the load changes.
A series of back-to-back waves which create a very choppy rollercoaster type flow, often disruptive to paddlers with weak paddling skills but sometimes experts as well.
Bailing out of a capsized kayak by pulling your sprayskirt off and pushing yourself out of the boat.
To wrap your boat around a rock or obstacle. Wraps can occur after a broach. Typically, this is most undesirable.
A padded, modified thwart used as a shoulder rest to carry the canoe overhead.