Canoe freestyle is a whitewater discipline that focuses on acrobatic movements while paddling within a whitewater feature, such as a wave or hole., The moves done by freestylers resemble those performed by surfers, snowboarders, and gymnasts. The dynamic movements, called tricks, are given descriptive names such as spins, loops, and pirouettes, or unusual names (by their inventors) such as donkey flip, lunar orbit, and space godzilla. With many of the more advanced tricks, athletes become airborne and combine several of the basic moves into new, complex combinations.
At International Canoe Federation (ICF) events, athletes have two to three 45-second rides to perform as many different and difficult moves as possible, scoring additional points for accuracy, amplitude, (height in the air) and complexity of moves. The final category judges athletes on the skill level of these movements along with the fluidity of the tricks, while also considering how much the paddle is used in making these moves happen. Freestyle skills are constantly evolving, and the sport is consistently growing.
There are four types of boats used to compete in canoe freestyle: surface kayaks, decked canoes, open canoes, and squirt boats. In kayak, athletes use a double-sided paddle in a seated position. In decked canoe the athletes propel their boats with a single-bladed paddle in a kneeling position. Open canoes are paddled similarly to decked canoes but are not enclosed boats. They are required to be able to hold a certain volume of water which is free to spill into the boat from the cockpit. The competitors must contend with the boat filling with water in addition to the characteristics of the dynamic feature. Squirt boats are low volume boats designed to sink underwater; these boats use currents within the water to perform spins and rolls underwater and on the surface. Squirt boating is usually done on an eddyline of converging currents and sometimes additionally within a dynamic feature such as a wave or hole.