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   Paddle Dictionary by Mike McCrea

Air Brace - In ineffectual brace employed by novice paddlers in which
the paddle blade is waggled about above the water until the boat
capsizes. Often performed one-handed with the opposite hand clenched
white-knuckled on the gunwale.

Attain - Paddling upstream against a current. What you do when you
inadvertently float past the take out.

Bony - AKA scratchy. Shallow water that scrapes up your boat. The blue
and green coating on the barely submerged rocks isn't algae, it's
vinyl. It the days before plastic boats a fleet of Grummans could be
heard bashing down a bony run for miles.

Booties - Neoprene socks or boots used to keep your feet warm in cold
weather. Also the things that make your car trunk smell like something
died in there.

Boof - In a kayak, to propel the boat over a rock or ledge.
Onomatopoetic. In a canoe when the yoke snaps during a portage and
lands on your head. Also onomatopoetic

Bow - The pointy part of the boat up front. Showed up late for the
basic paddling class, eh?

Brace - A paddling stroke using a downward and sweeping motion with
the blade to keep the boat from capsizing. If you are unfamiliar with
this stroke see "carnage" and "yard sale".

Broach - What happens when someone hits a rock and turns sideways. It
is important that other paddlers yell "Don't lean upstream" in unison
when a novice gets sideways on a rock. Leaning downstream and bracing
may allow the boat to slide off. Leaning upstream may result in a
capsize, carnage and yard sale.

Bulkhead - An in-hull wall that seals off a compartment in a decked
boat, used for flotation or for dry storage accessible through a
hatch. Also what you can buy at certain big-box discount stores in

Capsize - What happens when you lean upstream in a broach. See also
cap size; what you'll need to know to replace your hat when it floats
away with the rest of your gear.

Carnage - A jovial term to describe what happens after you lean
upstream in a broach.

CFS - Cubic feet per second, referring to the amount of water flow at
a certain point on the river. Not to be confused with CRS, with is an
acronym for why you showed up at the put in but forgot to bring your
paddle or PFD.

Chine - The angle where the sides of the boat meet the bottom. Not to
be confused with China, which is where cheap rec kayaks will probably
be made in a few years.

Chute - A narrow tongue of water where the flow is constricted. Not to
be confused with "shoot" which is what very polite paddlers shout
before entering a chute they haven't scouted. Impolite paddlers
typically shout something else.

Class I - VI - International scale of river difficulty:

Class I (Novice). Class II (Practiced Novice). Class III through IV
(Don't even think about it until you've had some experience and taken
a safety course). Class V (Make that much more experience) Class VI
(Check your life insurance policy first).

Creeking - Paddling (or simply bouncing down) small, high gradient
streams. Also known as steep creeking. Sometimes confused with
creaking, which is the sound that a C1 paddler's knees make after a
few years.

Crossloading boats - Transferring boats from one car to another to
make a shuttle possible. Also the reason why your rack crossbars
should be wide enough to accommodate an additional boat. Not to be
confused with crossdressing boats, such as putting a sprayskirt on a

Curler - The crest of a large wave that spills back upstream. What
Kentucky law requires women to put in their hair before leaving the

Darkside - A colloquial term for people who lack the skill and finesse
to paddle a canoe (ie, kayakers). Not that there's anything wrong with
that. Really, some of my best friends are butt boaters.

Draw stroke - A stroke performed by placing the paddle out in the
water parallel to the boat and pulling the blade towards the hull. In
a tandem boat having a bowman capable of executing a draw stroke can
help prevent lots of yelling and recrimination.

D-ring - A steel ring attached inside a boat used as a tie-down point.
Also de thing you put on de wife's finger at de wedding, after which
you won't be paddling de boat as frequently.

Dry bag - A waterproof bag designed to keep your gear dry. Having a
change of clothes in a dry bag is essential if your bowman can't
execute a draw stroke.

Dry Suit - An over-garment designed for cold weather paddling with
neck, wrist and ankle gaskets or booties to keep water out. Also
guaranteed to remove any excess cash from your wallet at the time of

Duct Tape - The paddler's friend. Can be used in almost any emergency
from broken skin to broken boats. Also removes warts and keeps unruly
children quiet and subdued.

Eddy - A place in the river, often behind an obstruction or inside a
sharp turn, where the water reverses and flows upstream. Eddies are a
good place to pause, rest, or boat scout. They are also the place
where your gear is likely to collect after your bowman misses the draw
stroke, your boat broaches and you forget to lean downstream. See yard

Eddy Line - The line between the eddy and the main current. Not to be
confused with Eddie's Line, which was "My you look nice today Mrs.

Entrapment - Not to be confused with "I swear she said she was sixteen
in the chat room", entrapment in paddling is getting trapped or stuck
in some fashion. Pulled into an undercut, trapped between a
water-filled boat and a rock, washed into a strainer or pinned in a
folded boat - the best outcome is you don't get crushed, don't drown
and live to learn a lesson (the first rule of paddling - "Don't die").

Ferry - Angling the boat to move sideways or upstream against a
current, a properly executed ferry uses the current to help move the
boat sideways. A Hairy Ferry is a ferry with dire consequences if you
screw up. A Hairy Fairy is the hirsute guy in the gay bar that keeps
leering at you.

Flare - The cross-section shape of a hull that increases in width from
the waterline to the gunwales. Also the thing you pray someone sees
you launch when a shark takes a bite out of your sea kayak.

Flatwater - Water that is flat. Whitewater paddlers manage to impart
an inflection to this word that has undertones of despicability.

Float Bag - An inflated air bag used in boats to displace water. Float
bags will make a swamped boat float higher, be less likely to pin or
hang up and easier to recover. Not to be confused with a gasbag (see
Rush Limbaugh).

Float Plan - Communicating your trip plans, including what, when and
where, orally or in writing to someone who cares. Not to be confused
with a floatplane, which is the flying object that causes Herve
Villachez to squeal "Zee plane boss, zee plane".

Foot Brace - A footrest inside the boat, often adjustable in position.
Also the thing that steep creekers wear for 6 weeks after their boat
pencils in below a too tall drop.

Foot Entrapment - What happens when you attempt to stand up in fast
moving water, your foot becomes wedged between the rocks and the
current pulls you under. If you live see the first rule of paddling.
Also see your ankles bent in a whole new direction.

Freeboard - The amount of distance between the waterline and the
gunwales. Free room and board is what young rodeo stars still need
from mom and dad to survive financially.

Gauge Height - On-line or stick gauges for determining the height of
the water at a specific point along the river. Some painted gauges may
also denote a "canoe zero" level. If you attempt to paddle a river
below canoe zero have a nice walk.

Gradient - The amount of drop or steepness of a river, usually given
per mile. Although a seemingly easy flatwater river may have a single
digit gradient because it is utterly flat.except for that that one
waterfall you didn't know about.

Guidebook - A resource book for finding out about that waterfall
before you suddenly plunge over the edge. A good guidebook will
include maps, trip descriptions, gauges, gradient, class, distance
between access points and shuttle directions. See anything by Ed
Gertler or Roger Corbett.

Gunwales - The wood, aluminum or vinyl pieces running from bow to
stern along the top of the hull. Also what novices typically grab if
they don't know how to brace.

Hip Snap - Throwing the hips (and knees) in motion to roll a kayak.
Also what old schoolers hope doesn't happen when they fall down on the
portage trail.

Hole - Envision a whirlpool on its side, where the water flows over an
obstacle, plunges toward the bottom and recurves upstream back towards
the obstacle. Also known as a hydraulic. Or, more ominously, a keeper.
Not a good place to be if you don't know what you are doing. (See the
first rule of paddling). A hole can also be the void that suddenly
appears in the bottom of your boat after you slam into a piece of
barely submerged rebar. See duct tape.

Horizon line - What appears to be a straight waterline stretching
across the river. If you had read the guidebook you would have noticed
mention of a falls or very steep drop in this very place. Better hope
there's an eddy before you get there.

Keel - A raised ridge that runs along the bottom of a boat from end to
end to help tracking and add rigidity. When the boat goes sideways and
this raised ridge catches a rock you will soon understand the origin
of "keeled over". See capsize, carnage and yardsale.

Kneeling Thwart - A low-slung thwart back of midships upon which a
kneeling canoeist rests his hindquarters until the realization sinks
in that here are less painful ways to paddle a canoe. See Saddle.

Lead Boat - The first boat down the river in a trip. Hopefully this is
someone who knows the river. In whitewater situations this boat is
known as the probe and should be someone whose insurance premiums are
up to date.

Lilydipper -.A dawdling, slow moving paddler. Also the moniker of a
dawdling, slow moving Adirondack paddler of some repute.

Limbo Log - A fallen log spanning the river with enough room to
scrunch down in the boat and limbo beneath. Arrggh, wait, maybe there
isn't enough rooSPLASH!

Low Head Dam - Envision a horizon line with a riverwide keeper at the
base. These dams are often small in size and appear runnable. They are
not. You will die. Don't even think about it, portage these killers.

Minicel - Closed-cell foam favored by paddlers for a variety of
outfitting needs in canoes and kayaks, including padding and
flotation. Pricey, but fun and easy to cut, shape and install. See
John R. Sweet Company.

OC1/OC2 - Open Canoe One/Open Canoe Two. Solo and tandem canoes. What
skilled paddlers utilize when they have graduated from kayaks and
brightly colored pool toys.

Oil canning - This surprisingly has nothing to do with having torn the
oil pan off a buddy's car on a dirt access road. It describes when the
floor of a poorly constructed or flat-bottomed OC1 or OC2 bounces up
and down in turbulent waters.

Old school - Paddlers who started their waterborne adventures in
Grummans. If two old schoolers are present one will claim to have
started in a wood and canvas Chestnut. If three old schoolers are
present one will harken back to birch bark. Four gets you back to a
hand-hewn dugout. A collection of more than four old schoolers
indicates that the bus from the Sunset Community Center made a wrong
turn on the way to bingo.

Outfitting - All the things you need to do to a canoe or kayak after
you buy it. Adding minicel paddling, bungie cords, floatation bags and
lacing, D-rings, ect. If cars were sold the way boats are you would
get an engine, wheels and a chassis - the rest would be up to you.

Paddles - Wood or composite sticks with a blade at one or both ends,
used to propel and maneuver the boat. Not to be confused with "oars",
which is a colloquial term for streetwalkers in Liverpool.

Painters - Line attached to the bow and stern of canoes, used for
tying the boat ashore or lining the boat down through rapids. These
should not be stored loose, and should have no knots that can catch
and hang up the canoe. Painters are also useful to grab hold of after
a capsize, aiding in boat rescue and recovery, so that you can go
paddling again next weekend instead of staying home outfitting a new

Park & Play - Parking close to a river feature and paddling a short
distance to "play" a wave, hole or other river feature with no shuttle
required. Also what the local teenagers are doing in the backseat of
their cars at the take out after dark.

PFD - Personal Floatation Device. AKA life vest or life jacket.
Federal law requires one per person and requires that children under
13 wear a PFD when on the water. Thirteen seems like an odd cut-off
age, since we all know how responsible teenagers are, and what good
decision they can be counted on to make. Adults too for that matter.
Wear one.

Pin - The final result when your bowman misses a critical draw stroke
and your boat broaches against an immovable object. Watch as the force
of the water folds your boat up like a cheap tortilla shell. Hopefully
you are not in it at the time. See Z-drag.

Pogies - Mittens that attach to the paddle shaft for cold weather
paddling. Not to be confused with perogies, which make poor cold
weather hand protection since the mashed potato filling makes the
paddle shaft very slippery.

Poling - Using a long wood or aluminum pole to push the boat upriver
from a standing position. Also known as going up a creek without a

Portage - An opportunity to labor up a trail wearing a really large
hat that weighs sixty pounds. Unless you own a kevlar boat, in which
case this is an opportunity stroll merrily up a trail wearing a
thirty-pound hat while your fellow paddlers shoot you nasty looks.

Primary Stability - Also know as initial stability. What big ole
flat-bottomed canoes have gobs of, so that they are hard to capsize.
Up to a point. In calm conditions. But lean the canoe past that point
of primary stability, or take on some quartering waves, and a flat
bottomed boat will roll over faster than a Ford Explorer with
Firestone tires.

Pry - A stroke performed by placing the paddle near the gunwale with
the blade parallel to the hull and prying the shaft outward off the
gunwale. Not good for the paddle shaft. Or, after a while, for the
gunwale. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Put-in - The place where you start a trip by putting your boat in the
water. Unless you are paddling in a circle, poling upriver or are
simply out for some park-&-play the put in is almost always upstream
of the take out. See Take Out. See Shuttle. See your State's laws on
hitchhiking if you leave the car keys at the put in.

Ramp - The place where the river pools up before dropping through a
chute. Also a boat launch shared motorized vessels. Not to be confused
with ramps, which are foul wild onion weeds that West Virginia natives
trick visitors into eating.

Rapid - See the current speed up and the water cascade around rocks,
over ledges and down drops. See whitewater. See carnage if a novice

Release - An event that draws hordes of boaters in which water is let
out of a dam. Accent on "horde"; some baseball teams draw fewer people
their home games. If you value solitude run like the devil. Also what
a trip leader may have you sign so your next of kin don't sue.

Ribs - Structural material, often wood, that form the frame of a canoe
on the inside. Also pairs of curved bones that are less likely to
break when you slam into a rock during a swim if you are wearing your
PFD. Broken canoe ribs are easier to repair.

River Right - The right-hand side of the river when facing downstream.
The opposite of River Left. Not to be confused with River Wrong, which
is when you mistakenly leave the take out vehicle in a different
drainage basin.

Rocker - Longitudinal curvature in the bow and stern of a boat along
the bottom of the hull. A heavily rockered boat will turn easily and
track straight only with practice and good technique. Novice paddlers
in heavily rockered boats are an endless source of entertainment.

Roll - Recovering from a capsize while remaining in the boat,
requiring a coordinated hip snap and paddle stroke to bring the boat
back upright. Kayakers often use a sweep roll or an Eskimo roll. Most
canoeists prefer a deli roll, with ham, pepper jack and mayo.

Scouting - To disembark and look over a section of river before
running it. Or portaging it, if you happen to espy a large waterfall
with sharp rocks at the base. Not to be confused with Boat Scouting,
in which you convince yourself that it isn't necessary to get out of
the boat to have a look, and so don't see the large waterfall before
plunging over the edge. Also not to be confused with Boy Scouting, in
which merit badges are awarded for bashing the hell out of Grumman

Secondary Stability - Also known as Final Stability. What round
bottomed canoes (hopefully) have gobs of, because sitting quietly in
one is like sitting quietly on a unicycle. These boats are however
less likely to capsize suddenly when leaned over. Mostly because
you'll have fallen out long before the boat gets that far.

Shuttle - The shuttle is the thing besides paddling that needs to
happen between the put in and take out. This usually involves
vehicles, but can sometimes involve hitchhiking and arguing about who
left the keys back at the put in. The shuttle is a strangely
unfathomable concept for some people. These are usually the same
people who propose harebrained variations to an established shuttle
routine, resulting in all the drivers arriving at the put in but none
of the boats, or whose inability to count higher than ten without
removing their shoes and socks forces twelve passengers to cram into a
single Corolla at the take out.

Shuttle Bunny - A non-paddling person who agrees to run shuttle.
Shuttle bunnies willing to wait at the take out without drinking your
beer are thought to be an urban myth.

Skid Plate - AKA bang plates or grunch pads. Additional materials,
usually Kevlar, fiberglass or vinyl, added to the stems of canoes to
protect against damage from scratches and sharp impacts. See
Outfitting. See buying a car without fenders or bumpers.

Spray Skirt - A tight fitting waterproof tutu kayakers wear around
their waist that fits around the cockpit rim to keep out water. I
guess you need to be very secure in your masculinity to wear a skirt
and sit in something called a cockpit.

Stems - The pointy ends of a canoe hull. What you remove along with
the sticks and seeds.

Stern - See bow. The stern is the part you don't see, provided you are
sitting in the boat facing the right direction.

Strainer - Woody peril. Strainers are trees that have fallen over into
the river, sometimes including other trees and debris that have washed
up against the original tree. Consider these hazardous to your health.
Called a strainer because the water will go thorough, but large
particulate matter like you and your boat will not. Ponder the

Sweeper - Trees or branches that overhand the river, or sometimes just
barricade the river with their branches. Before those overhanging
braches knock you out of the boat you'll have a faceful close up of
spiders, hornet nests, assorted rusty fish hooks and something brown
and disgusting and you really don't want to know what that was, do
you? Don't worry about it, you are taking a bath in a second anyway.

Sweep boat - The last boat in a group. This is a good position for an
experienced paddler, who can ride herd and bring up the rear. Unless
you paddle with the Squatters (Motto: Not as fast as they look"), who
can out dawdle any sweep boater ever born.

Sweep Stroke - Stroke used to turn the boat to the side opposite the
paddle by reaching out and forward and pulling the blade in an arc
from bow to stern. Not to be confused with the Sweeper Stroke, which
is a modified breaststroke, used to extricate your entangled and
exhausted body from a mass of in-water branches.

Take-out - The place where you take your boat out of the water and put
it back on the roof racks. Also the place where your paddling partner
gets huffy and shouts "No, I thought you had the car keys!". Not to be
confused with put out, which is what you forlornly hope the attractive
young shuttle bunny will do.

Tandem - A two-person canoe or kayak. In kayaks this is sometimes
called a divorce boat. There are also canoes and kayaks designed for
three (or more people). These are known as a reason to buy a portage

Throw Rope - AKA Throw Bag. Floating rope in a throwable bag used for
rescue. Since it is difficult to throw a rope to yourself you better
hope your friends carry one too. For that reason they make ideal
Christmas gifts.

Thwart - The crosspiece between the gunwales that braces the sides of
the canoe. See Yoke. See the imprint of your kneecaps in the rear
thwart after the bow slams into a barely submerged rock below a step
drop. See thigh straps.

Tie-Downs - Ropes or lines used to secure a boat to the car top. Boats
should have belly lines (often tied off o the rack) and bow and stern
lines tied off to the car. Any lost boat plea that begins "Flew off my
roof somewhere between." indicate the lack of a bowline and a
foolhardy dependence on belly lines alone.

Trim - The angle of the boat in the water along the keel line. Heading
downwind the boat may perform better bow light. Into the wind, bow
heavy or neutral may be advantageous. Trim can be altered by shifting
gear, moving a sliding seat or knocking your bowman out of the boat
with a convenient low-slung tree limb.

Trip leader - A god-like creature who has volunteered shoulder the
burden of responsibility, make arrangements, coordinate meeting times
and organize the shuttle, not to mentions leading who-knows-what down
the river of his or her choice. In homage to these great souls trip
participants typically proffer an unending supply alcohol, tobacco,
drugs of choice and undying respect. Trust me on that, it's the norm.
I'm partial to India Pale Ales, non-filter camels and 200mg Ibuprofen.

Tumblehome - The cross-section shape of a hull that decreases in width
from the waterline to the gunwales. Not to be confused with stumble
home, which is what you do after the post-paddling libations have been

Undercut - A shelf, rock or ledge with a cavity or recess below water.
Avoid at all costs, even if this means flipping over from the
proscribed feet-first position and swimming for your life. Better
battered and bruised than stuffed back in an undercut trying to hold
your breath for several days.

Volume - The total overall capacity of a hull. The knob you don't
touch in my truck if you are a shuttle passenger.

Wet Exit - Popping the sprayskirt and going for an impromptu swim. See
roll, missed again, must breathe. Canoeists forego the egress
nomenclature and simply call it going for a swim.

Wet Suit - A form-fitting neoprene suit that helps prevent hypothermia
by trapping a thin layer of water between the neoprene and your skin.
Or a thin layer or urine. Combine a colorful wet suit with a matching
spray skirt and you too can live out a secret fantasy life as an
incontinent transvestite superhero.

Yard Sale - The appearance of the downstream eddies when your gear
floats away after a capsize. See a good reason to write your name on
your gear.

Yoke - A scalloped amidships thwart that rests on your shoulders when
portaging a canoe. After several hundred yards you will begin to
appreciate the wonder that is lightweight kevlar construction.

Z-drag - No, it's nothing to do with inhaling a hand rolled Zig Zag.
It's a rescue rope technique using pulleys or carabineers for
mechanical advantage to free a pinned boat. The river runner's version
of Archimedes' big enough lever.




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Last Modified: September 23, 2009 7:29 PM