Paddling Slang

Our industry is unique and over time developed its own lingo.  Here are some of the terms and slang that we use.

Paddle Speak


Boulder Garden

Rapid consisting of boulders of various size, usually resulting in a few definite lines. Calls for technical paddling and always has pinning potential 


Craft that is propelled by a single blade paddle with the paddler in a kneeling position

Causeway / Low-level Bridge

Man-made path across a river that is passable at a low water level. Some have pipes underneath to allow water to go through, creating artificial siphons. At higher levels, most low-level bridges act like werids. Be careful. 

Chicken Run

A line through a rapid avoiding all the major obstacles, normally the line with the least water as well 


A term to describe a section of river that has few pools, and rapids taht go on forever


Short for “crocodile”, as tow person inflatable rafts are known in South Africa


Cubic meters per second, the unit in which water flow is measured in Southern Africa


An area where the water stands still or moves upstream, on the side of the main current. Fopund next to the bank and behind obstacles in the current



Green Water

The non-aerated water that flows into and under a hole

Green Wave

A wave without aerated water, meaning there is no foampile


Normally formed on the downstream side of a rock or similar obstruction under the water. The water piles up on itself, forcing aerated water back upstream and into the trough, creating a stopper wave dwonstream of the hole


A single seater kayak. In South Africa refers to the racing version of a kayak


A two seater kayak. In South AFrica refers to the racing version of a kayak


Craft that is propelled by a double bladed paddle, with the paddler sitting on his bum


Hole / wave combination that won’t let go easily if a floating obstacle lands in it. Can drown a person if strong enough. Also called a washing machine in some circles. 

Main Run

The line through the rapid where most the water goes


Driving directly to a surf wave or hole to play, without having to paddle a section so get to the spot


When a boat is held against a rock or other obstruction by the current. Can be vertical or horizontal, and also under water, which is life threatening. Playboats are particularly susceptible to vertical pins in shallow drops, and the older longer boats to side pins


Plastic whitewater kayak


Area of water, most of the time in a wave or hole, that is used by apddlers for playing in their expensive plastic toys


A term to describe a section of river that has long pools and short rapids


Walking / climbing / scrambling with a boat, normally done around a rapid


Water pouring over the top of a rock and then drops vertically usally into a keeper hole


Inflatable craft used for going downstream

Right / River Right

The right side when looking downstream


The act of inspecting a rapid or stretch of river


Person (friend / wife / girlfriend / husband / boyfriend) who drives the vehicle. An important member opf any paddling party


The act of driving vehicle/s to the put-in or take-out point


A funnel through or underneath a rock, where the current goes through, but you probably can’t. Lethal when trapping a person


Term to describe a keeper hole


A breaking wave on the downstream side of a hole that recirculates, stopping the craft that hits it


An obstacle, normally a tree or debris, where the water flows through freely, but which can easily trap someone. Always lethal, stay away from any trees in moving water


The action of the water behind the keeper hole, moving upstream and feeding the hole


Doing all kinds of manoeuvers in holes or on green waves. Lots of fun when controlled, but can be done involuntarily in big bad holes and pourovers


An artificially built wall across a river. Most of the have bad keeper holes and are very dangerous


Run the Rivers of Southern Africa, 2001, Celliers Kruger

Get in Touch

14 + 7 =