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

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
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.
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 that 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. Found next to the bank and behind obstacles in the current
The non-aerated water that flows into and under a hole
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 downstream 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 bumCraft 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.
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
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 of 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

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