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Catch big air in a small plastic boat on B.C.'s Skookumchuck Rapids

What's the deal?

Perform acrobatic moves on a two-metre-high standing wave in a kayak.

Where's it at?

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Skookumchuck Rapids, which means "turbulent waters" in Chinook, is one of the fastest tidal currents in the world. When the voluminous waters of Sechelt and Jervis inlets, on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, are moving through the narrows, currents can reach speeds of more than 30 kilometres an hour and a two-metre-high standing wave rises up. For freestyle kayakers, that wave is like a snowboarder's terrain park.

Using playboats - short, lightweight kayaks, with blunt bows and angled hulls to maximize manoeuvrability - paddlers play on the giant wave. Top kayakers can perform cartwheels, stern squirts, front loops and spins. Since the wave lasts only one or two hours, and is big enough for one boat at a time, etiquette demands you make big moves. Miss your move, and you get rolled off the wave and go to the back of the line where there may be a dozen boats waiting. Tip: Old-school front surfing is not a move, so go for some air or face the ire of your fellow paddlers.

Who's it for?

Those who want big air in a small plastic boat. Playboating courses are available through Sea to Sky Kayak in Vancouver ( squamishkayak.com), and you can find several play waves on the Ottawa River. Madawaska Kanu Centre ( owl-mkc.ca/mkc) offers courses.



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