Freestyle kayaking is a form of white water kayaking probably best summed up as gymnastics on water. Participants use specially designed kayaks to perform a range of acrobatic tricks and manoeuvres, usually whilst surfing a fast-flowing river-wave. While many enjoy freestyle kayaking as a recreational sport, there is also a serious competition scene, with events at national, European and World Championship level.


Many of the freestyle moves can be attempted on flat water, and this is how many people first get into the sport. Most rivers contain waves and holes that can be used for training purposes. However, advanced events require powerful features such as Sluice weir in Dublin, Curragower in Limerick and Clifton in Galway. Most of Ireland’s top competitors spend time abroad, training on world-class rivers such as the Ottawa in Canada and the White Nile in Uganda.


Freestyle is a sport that is constantly evolving, with new moves being invented every year. The general format for freestyle competition involves each competitor getting a timed run, in which they have to perform as many moves as possible. Scores are awarded for their technical difficulty and the variety of moves the competitor completes.

Type of Boat

As the sport evolves, so does boat design. Most manufacturers release a new design each season. In general, a freestyle kayak is very short (often under 2m) and made of plastic. In recent years composite boats have become more popular, their light weight making it much easier to perform tricks.