Marc's WhiteWater Gear Reviews

Creek Kayaks Explained

Creek kayaks are designed primarily for downriver paddling.
In general, creek boats are designed to run tight, steep, and technical whitewater (while river runners are designed for down-river speed, catching eddies, and the occasional surf on a green wave).
There are a few design characteristics set creek boats apart:
Weight, rocker, edge profile and volume distribution.
The same principles do apply on WhiteWater Creeking Canoes.


We’ll start with the most obvious. Weight is not your friend. Neither kayaking, loading it onto your car, during portage or in a rescue and retrieval situation.


The term rocker refers to the curvature or angle of a boat’s hull towards the bow and stern. Boats with longer effective waterline / lower rocker are faster but do not turn as easily as boats with shorter effective waterline. Boats with longer effective waterlines typically are better suited to river-running, where speed is key to moving through large waves and holes and the boat needs to avoid being easily knocked off line.
Shorter waterlines / higher rocker tend to be slower but turn more easily. These boats are better suited to more technical whitewater where manoeuvrability is more important than speed.

The shape of the rocker largely determines how a boat will behave when entering the water from a vertical drop (i.e. a waterfall). The advantage of a progressive rocker is twofold:
first, it takes stress off the paddler’s back when landing larger drops, a
nd second, it allows for more efficient transfer of vertical energy (from falling) into horizontal energy (moving quickly away from the hole at the bottom of the drop).
This makes progressive rocker very desirable on creek boats and less common on river-runners.


Creek boats with indistinct or soft edges tend to have a “mushy” feel, because they do not engage with water as much as hard edges. They do allow for faster “pivoting” turns, however, as well as smoother moves off rocks, and do not get hung up in boily water as easily. Creek boats tend to have softer edges.

Volume displacement

Boats with proportionally more of their volume distributed into the bow and stern tend to resurface more quickly and under more control. This is the result of increased buoyancy in the bow and stern.
They also tend to be more resistant to burying the bow off ledges, and punching holes (instead they ride over holes).
For these reasons, creek boats tend to have more volume distributed in the bow and stern than river-runners.

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