Lost in Translation

Learning the lingo of kayakers.

Whitewater boaters, like Trekkies, have a jargon all their own. But instead of completely fictional, original terminology, most river terms also translate into land-lubber. So to clarify, I’m offering complete definitions—both river-rat and land-based—just to muddy the waters a bit more. Get it, muddy the waters? Nevermind…

Roll: The act of righting a capsized kayak with a hip-snap and paddle stroke, and the most important whitewater skill for boaters. Also, a category of food including egg, spring, California, kaiser, lobster, salted nut, and of course, Tootsie.

Carp: A failed roll that allows a boater to get a quick breath before going back under, or a giant, bottom-feeding freshwater fish native to Eurasia. Could also be “CRAP” spelled wrong, since that’s often what is yelled or gurgled during the failed maneuver.

Swim: The desperate maneuver undertaken after a few carps, when a defeated boater ignominiously abandons his watercraft and doggie-paddles for dear life. In married couples, a successful impregnation is often attributed to “good swimmers.”

Hole (also, Hydraulic): Where water tumbles over a river obstacle and forms hydraulic suction that may trap boats and corpses, err, kayakers. Holes are also found on land and are handy places to poop, or hide—depending on the volume of the hole (and the order of the aforementioned activities).

Keeper: A hole known to grab and hold paddlers, thrashing them about until they are forced to swim. Also refers to any romantic partner whose combined IQ, number of teeth, and hours worked per week exceeds 150.

Beatdown: The actual physical beating that happens to a boater caught in a keeper. Alternatively, the beating that sometimes happens to a PETA member at a Montana rodeo.

Huck: The act of running a waterfall, and the nickname of the ultimate hardcore river rat, Huckleberry Finn.

Boof: A kayak technique that propels you over drops and lets you control your landing angle—the only reliable way to clear “holes” and avoid hitting the riverbottom. Can also be used at any time, in any context to make someone laugh. Seriously, say “boof” out loud, right now. See? That lady across the room is laughing at you.

Burly (also, Meaty): Big, intimidating, fast-moving whitewater with many “holes,” or a very manly man, usually adorned with facial hair, above-average musculature, and a generally disagreeable disposition. For an example, swing by the O/B offices and ask for Mike England.

Mank: A shallow rapid filled with sharp, chunky rocks that will give you a beatdown if you roll. Alternatively, the male equivalent of a “skank.” Can be found most often in the Rocking R Bar and identified by copious use of hair gel and cologne, slurred pick-up lines, and a clinically tanned appearance.

Brace: A paddle stroke used to prevent capsizing, or what you’ll be wearing on your neck if you screw up and get a beatdown in that burly mank.

Sneak-Line: An off-center, much safer route down a meaty section of whitewater, or the route used by underage co-eds to slip past the Bar IX bouncer on Friday nights.

Splat: Bouncing the bottom of your boat off an exposed rock, and the sound you hear under your truck tire after swerving to hit a gopher on the way to the put-in.

Pushing Rubber: Rowing or paddling a (gasp) inflatable raft, especially one full of tourists. Also, selling imitation designer shoes on the streets of Tijuana.

Booties: Neoprene shoes designed to keep kayakers' feet warm in freezing water. Also the plural for plump, healthy buttocks. Again, there are a couple of these on display at the O/B offices.

Pimp: To run the ideal line; when the rapid couldn't have been run better. Can also be associated with fine booties.

Juicy (also, Stompin’): High-volume river with lots of water flowing, or an adjective used to describe something that is moist—at best, a delicious piece of fruit; at worst, that oozing blister you got from the shoes that Tijuana rubber-pusher sold you.

Hole Bait: Boats, or their operators, that have a bad tendency to get caught in a hole's recirculation and sucked back in. Also, the arms of Southern “noodlers,” who stick them into underwater holes hoping a giant catfish will bite them. And people think kayakers are crazy…