You know what seems like a really good idea? Designing a kayak to sink…
Allow us to introduce you to squirt boating, whitewater kayaking’s weird cousin with dodgy fashion sense. Generally the aim in kayaking is to stay upright, on top of the water, and as warm and dry as possible, but squirt is weird. Squirt is all about spending as much time UNDER water as possible…
Squirt kayaking stemmed from slalom racing around 1970. Racers found that slicing their sterns underwater like a knife enabled them to make large degree turns much faster than carving on their edges, with an extra speed boost as the trapped air in the stern ‘squirted’ the boat forward like a melon seed when it fought back to the surface. This led to a move called the stern squirt, where the kayak pirouettes vertically around its stern; other moves like cartwheels soon followed as kayaking increasingly moved beyond the horizontal plane, and eventually modern freestyle was born.
Claire O’Hara takes you through the ICF Squirt Boating definitions and moves in this Paddle Education Series. Covering everything from Bow Stalls to Mystery Moves this series will give you a real insight into this unique paddle sport.
Squirt’s core move these days is the mystery move, where the kayak is sliced into converging currents on eddy lines like a sort of reverse wing, corkscrewing down beneath the surface into the ‘green room.’ To facilitate this the boats are literally designed to sink; extremely low profile with as little volume as possible, they’re so tight that most have to be moulded with special foot bumps so boaters are able to endure the cramped fit for more than just a few minutes!
Despite it’s obscure status, squirt is one of kayaking’s most interesting disciplines, with several competitions around the world each year. Points are awarded for each different rotation during a 60-second choreographed routine, with bonus points for how deep and how long competitors can remain underwater during mystery moves. British paddler Claire O’Hara is a multiple world champion, which combined with the several world championship titles she’s won in other disciplines makes here the most successful female kayaker in the world.
If you’d like to try squirt kayaking you can contact Claire through her website to enquire about coaching courses.