Paddling Terminology

Photo courtesy of Sawyer Harris 

This is a work in progress, so please bear with us!  If you have any terminology to add, please email us at


ACA:  American Canoe Association.

Amateur Boat, Am Boat:  A 4″x32″ racing canoe, that complies with the North American Marathon Racing Canoe Specifications.

ARCM:  AuSable River Canoe Marathon!

ARICM:  AuSable River International Canoe Marathon, Inc., which is the name of the non-profit organization that manages and plans the AuSable River Canoe Marathon.


Bailer:  A device in the bottom of the canoe which extracts water when the canoe has forward motion.

Baker Run:

Bank Runner:

Bar:  A shallow part of a river, usually with sand or gravel, that is typically found on the inside bend of a curve in the river.

Blade:  The wide, flat portion of a paddle.

Bonk:  To become exhausted during the race, usually because of dehydration, a lack of nutrients, a lull in energy, or psychological fatigue.

Bottom:  The part of the canoe that is under the water.

Bow:  The front end of the canoe.

Bow Paddler, Bowman, Bow Person:  The person who paddles in the bow.  In canoe racing, this person is typically the larger, heavier, and/or stronger of the paddling team.

Brush Dam Run:  A training session in Oscoda in which the paddler(s) paddle upstream from Riverbank Park to Whirlpool landing, and back.

Buzz:  1) To “psych out” a competing team by using some sort of psychological ploy, as made famous by canoe racing legend Irvin “Buzz” Peterson. 2) To pass a competing team quickly and (relatively) cleanly.

C-1, C1:  A one-person (solo) canoe.  While a C-1 looks much like a kayak, it has a larger volume and rides higher, and is typically propelled with a single-bladed paddle.

C-2, C2:  A two-person (tandem) canoe.

Capsize:  What happens when a canoe is flipped by a combination of wind, waves, obstacles, or a lack of stability.

Carbon Fiber:  A thin, strong, and lightweight material used in the manufacturing of racing paddles and canoes.

Chine:  The curved transitional section where the side of the canoe merges with the bottom. Hard chines are angular; soft chines are rounded.

Chine Line:

Daytripper:  A person leisurely floating or paddling in a recreational canoe or tube.

Deck:  The covered section in the middle of the canoe.

Deadhead:  A stump or log that is mostly or fully submerged.

DNF:  Did Not Finish.

Dragging Your Hose, Hose is Dragging:

Drop:  1) A withdrawl from the race.  2) To leave a canoe behind, usually by sprinting or taking advantage of a mistake.  3)  A significant change in river level.

DQ:  Disqualified.




Goo:  A gel consumed by paddlers to give them a temporary boost in energy.

Grip:  The handle formed on the top of a paddle Shaft.

Gunnel, Gunwale:

Hit the Wall:  Same as Bonk.

Hup:  A cadence called aloud to indicate the paddlers to switch the side of the canoe they are paddling on.  Typically called by the Stern Paddler.

Hut:  Same as Hup.  Typically used by paddlers from New England and/or Minnesota.

In Sync:

Intermediate Water:  Water which is between one-to-four feet in depth and therefore very difficult to paddle in.

Iron Paddler:  A paddler who has finished the Marathon ten times in the Professional Division.

Junk Water:  Same as Intermediate Water.

Masters:  1) Paddlers aged 40 or older. 2) A team of two paddlers aged 40 or older.

MCRA:  Michigan Canoe Racing Association

Mixed:  A team consisting of a male paddler and a female paddler.

Newbie:  A paddler who is racing the Marathon for the first time.

Oar:  Not used in canoe racing.



Pro Boat:  A 3″x27″ racing canoe, that complies with the North American Marathon Racing Canoe Specifications.

Racing Bug:


Rookie:  A team of two Newbies.

Seniors:  1) Paddlers aged 50 or older.  2) A team of two paddlers aged 50 or older.

Shaft:  The cylindrical section of a paddle between the Grip and the paddle Blade.  

Shallow Water:  Water that is less than one foot deep.


Spare Paddle:  Any paddle in or on the canoe that is not in the hands of the paddlers.

Splash Cover:

Starboard:  The right side of the canoe.

Stern:  The rear end of the canoe.

Stern Paddler, Sternman, Stern Person:  The person who paddles in the stern. In canoe racing, this person is typically the smaller, lighter, and/or more technically skilled of the paddling team.

Stripper:  A wood strip canoe.

Suck Water:  Same as intermediate water.

Swamp:  When a canoe fills with water but does not capsize.


Throw a Rudder:

Thwart:  A cross brace from gunnel to gunnel.

Tip Over:

Trim:  The balance, fore-and-aft and side-to-side, of a canoe on the water.

Up All Night:  To have spectated the Marathon from Start to Finish without sleeping.

USCA:  United States Canoe Association.

Veterans:  Paddlers aged 60 or older.



Youth:  1) Paddlers aged 19 or younger.  2) A team of two paddlers aged 19 or younger.

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