Picture of Christian Hliounakis by Peter Holcome at the 2017 ICF Freestyle World Championships in Argentina
Canoe Freestyle is a whitewater Canoe Disicpline where the paddler performs a range of acrobatic tricks and manoeuvres on a river feature such as a wave or hole. Freestyle kayaking is one of the newest and most exciting canoeing disciplines. Similar to Freestyle Skiing, athletes perform tricks using the water to help manoeuvre themselves about. Each competitor has 45 seconds to complete as many moves on one given ride. The more complex the athlete’s routine, the higher their score.
Canoe Freestyle, also referred to as Playboating, is enjoyed by many as a recreational sport. At the top level, Canoe Freestyle athletes participate in competitions both nationally and internationally. The sport is constantly moving forward with paddlers with new spectacular moves emerging at each competition, year in, year out.
The moves and tricks are similar to those seen from Freestyle snowboarders, surfers and skaters, where the athlete completes spins, flips, turns and more. What’s more with today’s boats, athletes can get the kayak completely airborne while performing tricks.
There are nearly 30 different moves, including the 180-pointer Helix (a 360° spin with at least 180° of which the boat must be inverted. The boat must also be aerial at some point of the inverted part of the move) and the 10-pointer Spin (a 360° rotation of the boat at a 0°-45° vertical angle). Other colourfully named moves are the Roundhouse, the Phonics Monkey, the McNasty and the Donkey Flip.