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Playboating Tricks for the Freestyle Kayaking Enthusiast

Top Playboating Tricks for Freestyle Kayaking

Top Playboating Tricks for Freestyle Kayaking

Updated on 6/11/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
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Playboating, commonly referred to as freestyle kayaking, is an activity that strikes the ideal balance between fun and technique. This sport is a subset of whitewater kayaking, which is the most popular activity among individuals who desire a high level of excitement. It focuses on utilizing the water's waves, holes, eddylines, and force to accomplish fantastic stunts.

Do you want to test your limitations, soar above the competition, and expand your skill set simultaneously? 

The staff here at Northshore Watersports has compiled a detailed instructional guide on some of the most impressive playboating kayak stunts for you to learn and perfect. Have a look at some of our tutorials to get an idea of how simple it is to become a skilled freestyle kayaker.

What Is Freestyle Kayaking?

freestyle kayaking

freestyle kayaking

What exactly is meant by the term "freestyle kayaking" before we get into the tricks?

Playboating, also known as freestyle kayaking, is a type of whitewater sport in which paddlers perform maneuvers and stunts in a single location known as the playspot. You can participate in freestyle kayaking tournaments to perfect your techniques, or you can practice these maneuvers at a leisure level first. There are many various sorts of routines and combinations of tricks to master, ranging from spins and surfing to airborne rolls. To assist you in getting started with playboating, we have included a rundown of several of the more well-known maneuvers.



If you are just getting started with freestyle kayaking, the first thing you should do is learn how to perform the "surf motion." Learning how to surf is the first step toward becoming proficient in any of the other methods, and this may be accomplished on both holes and waves. The challenge lies in the fact that you have to be able to catch the tide in the first place; therefore, if you are inexperienced in playboating, this may take some time to get the hang of!

To surf, you must first paddle your playboat kayak onto a wave on a river or in the ocean and then position it so that it is perpendicular to the direction of the current.

Put your paddle in the water behind you, and keep your body rotated so that it faces the blade of the paddle.

Find the area of the wave that is the lowest and start paddling as quickly as you can to get to the top. When you finally get on the lock, you should try to match its speed as closely as possible so that you can ride it for a more extended period of time.

Because the foam makes it easier to keep your playboat kayak in position while riding the wave, wave holes, which are when the waves have a foam pile at the top, are ideal for playboat surfing. Wave holes may be identified when the waves have a foam pile at the top. When you feel comfortable with this maneuver, you can move on to back surfing, which involves performing this feat in the opposite direction.



The spin technique is yet another fundamental and fundamentally important aspect of playboating. In a playboat kayak, spinning, often referred to as flat spinning, is a maneuver that can be accomplished with relative ease and is dependent on proper timing and location. Find a wave hole that is relatively deep, clear of barriers, and has a small foam pile if you want to be able to perform a good spin.

Get your boat to the top of the foam pile as quickly as possible, then accelerate upstream.

Do a reverse sweep with the paddle blade on your left hand to start the spin while keeping an eye on the water ahead of you and ensuring sure your body is upright.

Continue paddling until your kayak is almost entirely pointing in the downstream direction. Flatten out your playboat only a split second before you indicate your boat downstream.

After you have paddled past the point where the water flows in a straight line downstream, you should switch edges by elevating your left leg and making a forward sweep with your right blade.

Stern Squirt

0:00 / 5:44 Learn how to Stern Squirt a Kayak

The stern squirts are the next maneuver on our list of playboating skills. Hard jets are performed by driving the stern of your playboat below the water's surface to create a wave. Since being able to complete a stern squirt is the prerequisite for being able to perform a cartwheel, this maneuver is an important one to get excellent at if you want to progress in freestyle kayaking.

To execute a stern squirt as follows: 

Paddle towards the direction of the eddy line. Turn your upper body towards the direction you want to pivot, and stare in that direction with your eyes. Establish a point of anchorage by firmly establishing your blade in the water behind your playboat.

This will serve as your anchor point. Your playboat or kayak ought to wobble as a result of this. Turn your body around and use the strength of your torso to push the stern of your boat down into the water.

This movement is called a reverse sweep. In order to help lever your turn and pull the stern down, which will get the boat as close to vertical as it can get, push the blade of your paddle all the way down.

With the assistance of your body strength and the tilt of your kayak, you should be able to get it to rotate.

Take the paddle, which serves as your improvised pivot, out of the water and continue rotating your torso by relying solely on the momentum provided by the paddle and your power. While keeping your body in front of the rotation and maintaining your position on the blade you used as a pivot, allow your boat to once again become level on the water.

Even though stern squirts may be performed in flat water, they are most effective in eddy lines because the currents work together to help pull the stern down and the bow up. Even though stern squirts can be performed in flat water, they are most effective in eddy lines.


The Blunt

The blunt move in freestyle kayaking is when a paddler performs a vertical spin while switching from edge to edge at an extremely high speed.

Beginning on the crest of a wave is the best place to start an excellent blunt technique. Put all of your strength towards turning your body into the spin. While doing so, move your playboat onto the opposite edge of the water and perform a backstroke stroke with your paddle on the upstream side of your kayak.

Put your weight on the stern, which will help it rise into the air if you push it forward. When it slices into the water, this assists it in turning around the bow more easily.

You can go as vertical as you like by simply adjusting the tilt to your preference. As the stern comes down, you should level off your edge.

After you've mastered this technique, move on to the backstab motion, which is exactly like this one but performed in the opposite direction.

The Move Of The Boof

How to Lean Boof

In freestyle kayaking, the boof is one of the most common moves to learn. Booking, often known as roofing, is essentially the art of keeping the front of your playboat up above the surface of the water while traveling over obstacles such as drops, rocks, or waterfalls.

In order to pull off a boof, you need to increase your speed as you get closer to a drop so that you are sure to make it over it. Utilize any rocks that are located at the edge of the decline as a ramp to get you started!

At this point, you should begin preparing your boof stroke. The final stroke you perform before you dive over the pit or waterfall is called a boof stroke.

Planting your boof stroke just a little bit over the drop's edge will provide you with the proper timing and power.

Put as much force as you can behind your paddle, and then do a vertical forward stroke that will truly propel your playboat forward without causing it to roll over too much.

Upon landing, shift your body weight forward and place a paddle blade in the water to assist you in maintaining control of your kayak.



The airscrew is one of our personal favorites among all of the freestyle kayaking maneuvers that we know. This spectacular-looking aerial barrel roll is not anywhere close to being as challenging to perform as you may assume it would be based on its appearance.

Finding the proper spot to take off from the peak of a wave and then accelerating down the face of the wave is the first step in performing a good airscrew. While you are doing this, stamp your feet firmly and draw yourself up on your knees to get the front of your playboat as high in the air as you possibly can.

To complete a back deck roll, lean backward and reach across with your paddle, gripping the water and pushing yourself in the direction you reached. This will cause you to turn over onto your back. After you have completed the roll, you will need to use a power stroke to bring your playboat around so that it is facing forward again.

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the cartwheel

The cartwheel is a classic move in the world of freestyle kayaking, and it involves turning around in a full circle.

To do a cartwheel, the first step is to position your playboat so that it is atop a wave hole. Put your canoe or kayak on its right side, then do a forward stroke on the right-hand side to bring the bow of your playboat up and out of the water.

Now, make a stroke in the opposite direction in order to cut the bow in a downward trend.

As soon as the bow of your boat touches the water, push forward with the weight of your body and rotate your shoulders so that they are facing in the opposite direction of the turn you are making.

As your body rotates and releases its hold on the kayak, the kayak will follow. Make sure to start paddling forward as soon as you notice the bow coming out of the water.

Make another fast twist and plant another backstroke in the water to bring the bow back down to its original position the split second before the kayak is about to move over your head.

Keep in mind that the more forcefully and precisely you twist your torso, the more quickly you will be able to maneuver the kayak. Watch the video that is above if you are having trouble visualizing the freestyle kayak maneuver known as the cartwheel.


Freestyle kayak loop

When you perform a front flip in your playboat while freestyle kayaking, you are said to have completed a loop. The most excellent part about it is that you won't have to worry about edging your kayak with this one!

Find a hole that is pretty deep, and then get your boat on top of a foam pile. This will allow you to conduct a loop maneuver effectively.

Place your head in the direction of the bottom of the pile, lean forward, and drive the heels of your feet down.

Once your bow has penetrated the water and begun to tilt in a vertical direction, gaze upstream and towards the sky.

At this point, you should stand on your footrests and raise your paddle up toward the sky. When you reach the highest point of your upward momentum, you should thrust your body forward and drive your chest towards the direction of your sprayskirt. This will cause your kayak to perform a loop in the air.

In order to ensure a safe and smooth landing, you should sharply lean back when the back of your playboat lands on the water again.

Since you are now aware of how to perform a few of the more well-known freestyle kayaking maneuvers, you can now begin to hone your skills. Once you have mastered these freestyle kayaking techniques, there are plenty of others to keep you refining your skills. These are just a handful of the methods available to you. Check out our selection of kayaks, paddles, and watersports clothing to ensure you have everything you need for enjoyable playboating before you venture out on the water.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Boof stroke in kayaking?

Over the lip of the drop, the boof stroke is a power stroke. Using a vertical paddle will minimize the amount of turning your kayak makes while boofing. Keep your bow by thrusting your hips forward while pulling on your stroke.

Should your knees be bent in a kayak?

Ensure that your backside is firmly planted in your seat and that your knees are bent comfortably. You may find that you put a strain on your lower back if your legs are too straight when finding the proper foot well.

Why do kayakers pump their legs?

As kayakers move their legs up and down like pedals, they gain power and momentum and develop strong and lean quadriceps, glutes, and adductors (inner thighs).

Should your legs be bent in a kayak?

If you sit in a sit-in kayak, your legs should be bent at the knees and hooked under the thigh braces or cockpit rim. In sit-on-top kayaks, the bend in the knee is equally as important, so thigh straps (optional extras) are helpful.