What is Squirt Boating?
Squirt Boating is a type of whitewater kayaking using specially designed kayaks, called squirt boats, that allow you to do tricks and maneuvers that you wouldn't be able to do in a normal kayak.
What's the difference between a squirt boat and normal kayak?
There are two main differences between squirt boats and other kayaks. One is the volume. Squirt boats are usually less than half the volume than a normal kayak of similar length. They are also very flat compared to normal kayaks. Because of the decreased volume and flatness of squirt boats, they sit lower in the water than normal kayaks, with about 80% of the boat under the water line.
In the photos below, the top boat is an 8 foot Angst Squirt Boat (photo credit) and the bottom boat is a 8 foot flat-water boat (photo credit). Notice the squirt boat is much flatter than a normal kayak.
Squirt boating is known for the tricks that squirt boaters perform in their boats. Probably the one trick that sets squirt boating apart from everything else is called the Mystery Move. During this move the paddler and boat get 100% immersed underwater.
It's best to see for yourself. Here's a YouTube video I found of squirt boaters doing the mystery move:
Going below the surface of the water is also called "downtime."
Whoa, were those hand paddles in that video?
Some, but not all, squirt boaters use hand paddles instead of traditional kayak paddles (you know, two blades at either end of a shaft). Hand paddles use a different set of muscles, and may not give you as powerful a stroke as a traditonal paddle, but add manueverability underwater. (Some traditional kayakers use them as back up paddles, just in case they lose their paddle.)
Is Squirt Boating for me?
Squirt Boating is definitely an andreline rush, but it's probably not for everyone. For starters, if you don't feel comfortable being completely underwater in wild river, you probably want to go for a tamer version of kayaking. Also, squirt boating is not for beginners. You probably want to be proficient at other types of whitewater kayaking first.
The boats are also somewhat expensive ($1700 or more for a custom made boat). Squirting is more dangerous than traditional kayaking. And squirt boats may be a little less comfortable (i.e. more cramped) than other types of kayaks.
Despite all that, squirting offers you something you can't do any other way: 3 dimensions of kayaking.
Normal kayaking let's you travel in 2 dimensions. You can go forward and back, and from side to side. Squirt boating allows you to go up and down. Riding the undersurface currents is a different experience than just riding on top of the water.
How to get started
As far as I know, there are no places you can take lessons in squirting. You want to be good at other types of whitewater kayaking first, such as play boating or creek boating.
If you feel up to the challenge of squirt boating, here are some suggestions. After you purchase your first squirt boat, try it out in flat water first, such as a lake or swimming pool. You might not be able to do the mystery move in a swimming pool, but you'll want to be used to your boat before going out in swift waters. (You can still do some cool tricks, like cartwheels, etc, on a lake or in a pool.)
Buy a book. There are two illustrated books that describe squirting tricks, both written by the same author. Squirt Boating and Beyond and The Squirt Book will not only help you understand squirting better, but also teach you about river flows and how whitewater works. The Squirt Book is a good book not just for squirt boaters, but anyone who kayaks, canoes, or rafts on whitewater.
Where to buy a squirt boat
Popular Places to Squirt Boat
The Ocoee River in eastern Tennessee is one of the most popular places to squirt boat.
You can find hundreds of places to do the mystery move in 11 different countries in a database at sinkspots.org.