Competition / Freestyle


Freestyle is a sport where you’re judged on the moves and tricks you can link together in a white water feature. What started as paddlers simply showing off has evolved into a dynamic, athletic sport that calls for the very highest levels of boat control.
What’s a competition like?

Most competitions are fairly relaxed – often linking the freestyle event with a head-to-head race. The competition part sees paddlers timed through 45 second runs on the wave or in the stopper, trying to link together as many moves as they can. That might be spins and paddle-throws to start with, or cartwheels and loops for the expert. At the very top level, people are linking aerial moves together into dizzying combo-moves like the ‘Phonics-monkey’ or the ‘Bread-and-butter’. Each move scores a certain amount of points, which are then added up for each run.

Most paddlers compete in the K1 (single kayak) class, which is divided into men’s and ladies’, and junior and senior. There are also other classes, including C1 (single canoe), OC1 (open canoe) and squirt boat, which is a very specialist ultra-low volume boat which specialises in linking flatwater moves.

How do I get started?

It might be as simple as getting a handful of mates together at your local playhole with a stopwatch, and deciding who’s looking best! To try competing with a more structured scoring system, there’s an annual Junior Freestyle league with rounds held in Wales every year, normally on the Dee or the Tryweryn. For seniors, there are other competitions throughout Britain held every year, including British Championships and the Alpkit series. To find out more about British events, check out GB Freestyle Kayaking's website. 

What are the opportunities in Wales?

In Wales we’ve got plenty of playspots to sharpen up your skills on. From Stanley Embankment, the Tryweryn and Dee in the North to the Bitches tidal race and the Cardiff White Water course, we’ve got plenty of places to get to grips with playboating.

What do I need?

Mostly, you just need a willingness to get stuck in, and a reliable roll. Learning some of the basics will really help you get to grips with your boat control, especially handling your boat when it’s vertical or capsized.

Playboats are normally quite short (under 2m) and with a flat bottom to surf river waves. The sharp rails help them carve around, while the short length helps give them the pop for explosive moves.
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