In August we watched the world’s best freestyle kayakers rip apart the Garburator Wave in Ontario, Canada, with power, precision and finesse. But the world’s best freestyle kayakers aren’t just one-dimensional wave monkeys. Many of them also happen to be among the world’s best creek boaters, and there is a reason.

Although playboating seems to have lost its cool lately—most beginner and intermediate boaters buy creek boats and focus on river running. But many boaters at the highest level of the sport still recognize how playboating skills are crucial to creek boating.

The most obvious of these skills is the roll. Play boating forces you to flip over a ton, and leads to a bombproof combat roll that is critical in hard whitewater.

The roll is not, however, the only vital playboating skill that translates to river running success. Six of the world’s top pro paddlers (some of them just competed at the World Championships in Canada) are here to tell you about the play boating skills that will take your whitewater paddling to the next level.

Wishing for directional awareness in Colorado. Photo by David Spiegel

Clay Wright: Directional Awareness

Be aware of your surroundings after an unexpected roll


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Leif Anderson: Stern Squirting

Take control of unintentional back enders


David Spiegel Sidesurfing

Pat Keller: Side Surfing

Get comfortable in trashy holes


Quinn Connell Mexico

Quinn Connell: Bow Angle

Control your bow on waterfalls and boofs


Bryan Kirk surfing

Bryan Kirk: Super Ferry

Practice surfing to perfect your ferries


DSpiegel underwater

Kim Russell: Environmental Awareness

Build a mental map of river features