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Paddle Sports | Suntan Sports | Under the Sun



Paddling refers to the act of propelling a small boat through water with the use of a long, handled shaft with a blade on the end that is used to navigate and provide propulsion. Some of the boats of the world are dependent upon the paddle or paddles as the case may be. Paddling a boat is ancient history in Northern Africa, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. The main difference between paddling and rowing is that the paddles are not connected to the boat and the oars for rowing are attached.


Canoeing began as a competitive sport in the Olympic Games back in 1936 in Berlin. There are two activities of canoeing in the competition called slalom and sprint. Slalom is where there is a zigzag or winding course to follow. Participants in this sport compete by being timed navigating a course that will descend down rapids or whitewater. They must steer their canoes through gates or poles going up against the flow, against the flow, across the flow and surfing the standing waves of the rapids. Sprint is a short race going very fast from point A to point B. Another difference is that rowers (with oars) face toward the aft (rear) of their boat, whereas the paddlers always face toward the bow (front) of their boat. There must be two oars on a boat with one person (or even two people). Another difference is that a person holding a paddle can move the boat forward, backward or sideways in a straight line without changing paddling sides and when using oars the person(s) needs two in order to achieve the end result of moving the boat forward in a straight line.


The word canoe actually originated from the word “Kenu”, which means “dugout”. Many thousands of years ago, canoes were developed primarily by the Indians of North America. The Native Americans would chop down large trees, make small fires at the top of the log and scrape out the ash. It took quite a long time to get the canoe hallowed out sufficiently enough to use. You can imagine this canoe must have been extremely heavy, therefore, the Indians usually made canoes close to a river or lake.


Canoes were the way to transport over long distances, but eventually were replaced by motorized boats for transporting goods and people.


The two organizations that create the rules and are the authority of canoeing are the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and the United States Canoe Association. However the United States Canoe Association is considered the leading authority in the sport and recreational category.


Kayaking and canoeing are very similar however the sitting position for the participant in the canoe of the paddler and also the number of blades on the paddle is different. The kayak gained popularity in the 1990s. In kayaks the paddler faces forward and uses a double bladed paddle. Most kayaks have large decks and the crafter sits in the “cockpit” but the demand is growing for sit-on-the top kayaks. The cockpit style is when the person sits with legs and hips inside the hull with a “spray skirt or deck” that creates a water resistant seal around the waist. When kayaking on the sea or ocean the organized groups usually take long expeditions that will cover many miles and days. Many participants take their craft whitewater kayaking which involves rapids. Kayaking is categorized by polo, slalom, whitewater, surf, touring/expedition, light touring/day trips and just general recreation. There are fishermen who use kayaks to fish from. In fact, these crafts are also used for diving and wilderness exploration also.


Rafting is the act of navigating a river or other body of water on a raft. A raft is an inflatable watercraft with generally high seating capacity and consists of hard-wearing rubberized (or vinyl) fabrics with a number of independent air chambers. White water rafting is a very challenging recreational activity which is usually conducted on rivers of white water with different degrees of rough water. The symmetrical raft steered with a paddle on the stern is commonly used in Europe. In Russia, their rafts are often handmade in a catamaran style with two inflatable tubes that are attached to a frame. Two people are used to navigate this raft. This style became quite popular in America also, but most people will row instead of paddle the raft. When white water rafting, bodies of water are usually categorized one of six ways:


1) very basic skill  – There are very small rough areas, but still require maneuvering.

2) basic paddling skill – There is some rough water and might even be some rocks that require some maneuvering.

3) experience paddling skills – There are small waves and maybe a small drop-off and requires some maneuvering.

4) whitewater experience – medium-sized waves, rocks, larger drop-off, quick maneuvers.

5) advanced whitewater experience – large waves, large rocks and hazards, possibility of large drop-off and requires exact and accurate maneuvering.

6) too dangerous of rapids, not navigable waters, extreme whitewater, huge waves and rocks, very hazardous and/or huge drops that could damage the rafts.


Rowing may be a sport done on a river, lake or ocean and is dependent upon the type of race. Rowing is also a very popular recreational pastime, but it is also one of the oldest Olympic Sport still played today. There are many different types of competition, but the way to row a boat and the equipment used is pretty much the same. The endurance races are called bumps racing, time trials, stake racing and side-by-side that is used in the Olympic Games. The most popular in London is bumps racing. The crews leave the starting line at the same time on the river and try to catch up with the boat ahead of them. If the one boat catches up with another and overtakes them or makes physical contact with them, a bump is awarded. The time trial races are when the crews (teams of athletes competing in a race) race against the clock to complete the course in the shortest time of their age, ability and boat-class category possible. The stake races are most popular with the spectators because they get to watch the boats start and finish. The competitors race to a marker, make an 180˚ turn as quickly as possible and return to the starting line which is the finish.


There are two kinds of rowing called “sweep” or “sweep-oar” rowing and sculling. With sweep each rower has one oar which is held with both hands and can be by 2s, 4s or 8s. In sculling, each rower has two oars (or sculls), one in each hand. The oar in the right hand extends to port side and the oar in the left hand extends to the bow side of the boat.


It does not matter whether a boater is competing or just enjoying some fun recreational time because being on the water means a greater chance for getting sunburned due from the reflection of the sun off the water. It is very important for boaters to make sure they have the protection they need with a good sunscreen. Check out the sections of our web site under “facts” and “sunscreens” to make sure you use the best coverage for your skin - suntan facts. One of the most relaxing past times I enjoy is being out on a boat with the warm breezes blowing, looking at all the beautiful scenic surroundings and watching all the other people enjoying their day in the same way also. If this is your favorite also, let us know! We’d love to read all about your experiences and even see a special picture you have of your special day boating, too. Write us at Suntan Crew.


-Ms. Suntan


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