In the butter hole...

In the butter hole...

Wash riding terms from around the world

Banner photo credit: David Anderson Photography

Wash riding is a term very dear to Wash Rider as a company as it is our namesake. Wash riding or wash hanging is the canoe/kayak marathon term for using another paddler side waves or rear wave to reduce the effort required to maintain the same speed. Similar to cyclists, paddlers race smart and wash ride over the long distances working together with other competitors to complete the long distances of canoe marathon racing and surf ski events. This conserves the athletes' energy for the attacks from breakaway groups and the final sprint. If you like reading academic papers, the article by the Fundación Deportiva Municipal de Avilés of Spain gives an analysis of the benefit of wash riding being between 18% and 32% depending on your position.

The general rule of riding a wash is to stay approximately 30cm to the side or behind of where the leader’s paddle exits the water. This location will change with a large number of variables.

  • Weight of the paddler, for example, a heavier paddler will produce a greater wave with their kayak
  • Speed at which the group is paddling – faster groups will usually have a narrower pack shape which is longer
  • The hull shape and the trim of the kayak
  • The type of water river versus still water of lakes

 The position of the paddler is very important with the language changing all around the world. The normal behaviour is for the lead position to be shared often through a race as this is the position doing the most work and the paddler in the V or A wash doing the least. Each paddler on the side or V wash will feel the rear of their kayaks raise up when on the wash as if paddling downhill. The below photo by Carolyn Cooper outlines these positions:

Kayak marathon wash riding positions

Wherever in the world, you travel to train or race marathon paddling or surf ski you will usually pick up the local paddling technical terms. However, like all travelers to foreign countries, it is always better if you know some paddling specific language before you get there.

So while competing and training around the world in the ICF World Marathon Classic Series I met paddlers from all around the world and learned their specific terms for wash riding and the sought after V wash. Some of the technical local terms are just sensational like my favourite being the Danish and Swedish term for the V of being "in the butter hole". This wonderful phrase perfectly reflects the ease of the position and the relief a paddler gains while keeping up with the front pack.

If you have a correction, addition or more terms to add, let us know in the comments. Or if you have ever used these to your advantage in an international race, let us know the story!


Club wash ride

In the V-wash


Mitta Mitta Canoe Club

Wash ride

V Wash

UK and Ireland

Salmon Leap Canoe Club

Wash hang

A Wash


Kolding Canoe Club

Paa haenger

Smoehul (the butter hole)


Escuela Canotaje Ceppron


Ir a ola



Saint Vit Canoe Club

Surfer la vogue prendre



Wassersportverein Ploen Fegetasche

Welle fahren

Koerbchen (little basket)


Clube Nautico de Crestuma

Ir a ola



Scd Ribadesella Piraguismo

Coger la ola

Ir a V

South Africa From the comments Side slip Diamond wash


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  • Kieran Babich
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