With the lockdown tunnel end in sight and the Irish government to start easing restrictions in the coming weeks – it’s time to start thinking about kayaking again, especially summer camps and flat-water sessions. I thought I would share my favourite flat water games. These games build basic kayaking skills and are great fun for adults and children. 


Country conquer

Sometimes I get my kayaking students to develop their own games, this is how ‘country conquer’ came about and it’s now probably my favourite game. 

Aim – Conquer all the other kayaks

Skills developed – Forward, back and sweep stroke, speed changes, balance, teamwork 


Divide the group into pairs and get each pair to choose a country.

Make sure to define an area.

Get all pairs to call out their country so there is no doubling up on countries.

Each pair must then try to conquer all the other kayaks by double tapping each kayak with their paddle and call out the country name.

Once you have been conquered you must then become that country and try conquere the other kayaks. Everyone will change country numerous times during the game. 

Stop the game after 4 or 5 minutes and see which country has the most kayaks conquered wins the game.


Low brace balance

A great game for warmer days, or at the end of the session when I want to get the group in the water. 

Aim – Sit on the back of your boat as long as you can 

Skills developed – Balance, low brace, water confidence. 


Sit on the back of your kayak with your legs out either side. Paddle around and try to lean as far over as you can. Use your low brace to help. 

If this is too easy sit on the back of your kayak with your feet on the seat. 


Water dragon

This is such a fun game. To the idle bystander it may look chaotic, but it is organised chaos. With animal noises, splashing, and rock, paper, scissors game all in the one, it’s not a quiet game, but very entertaining. 

Aim – Become a water dragon – first to splash the other paddlers.  

Skills developed – Forward, back, sweep, speed changes, how to splash!


Pick five animals numbered 1 to 5. Everyone starts on animal number one.                     

For example – 1.Cat, 2.Dog, 3.Pig, 4.Monkey, 5.Horse and 6.Water Dragon. 

The group paddle around making the sound of the first animal (meow like a cat).

When you meet another kayaker of the same animal you play ‘rock, paper, scissors’. The winner gets to move to the next animal (the dog).

The winner paddles around making the new animal noise (for example barking like a dog). 

When they find another kayaker barking like a dog play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ again and the winner moves on to the next animal.

The loser of ‘rock, paper scissors’ finds another kayaker of the same animal and plays ‘rock, paper, scissors’ again, until they win and can move up to the next level. 

The first person to go through all the animal levels becomes the Water Dragon and can splash the rest of the group. 

If there is one left at a particular level on their own they can play the instructor to move up to the next level.



This is another game to play at the end of a session to encourage your group to swim and re-enter their kayak. This game is also ideal to play after teaching your group how to rescue one another. The group will have ample opportunities to practice the technique of re-entering their kayak in this game. 

Aim – The last ‘man’ standing, or in this case, last one in your kayak

Skills developed – Balance, water confidence, self-rescue, X-rescue


Different stages:

  1. Sitting
  2. Sitting on the back of the kayak
  3. Kneeling in the kayak
  4. Lying across your kayak
  5. Standing in your kayak

The group plays ‘rock, paper, scissors’. The winner stays at the same level and the loser moves to the next stage. Working on their balance as they try to stay in their kayak. When they fall in just get back in and try again. 


One, two, three

I often find after teaching on flat water, when I bring a group on a river, they find it hard to drive their boat into an eddy or find changing pace on the river difficult. I developed this game to help with this. 

Aim  Change paddling pace

Skill development Changing the power of the paddling stroke


The group paddles together at a slow speed – ONE

The group increases paddling speed, a faster pace but not a sprint – TWO

The group sprints as fast as they can – THREE

I shout out different numbers and the group paddle at that speed. To make the game more enjoyable, I up the tempo and change the speeds more regularly so the group have to quickly change their speed up and down. 

I usually combine this game with asking questions like;

How do you change your paddling speed? 

What is your paddle/body doing differently each time?

There are so many fun flat water games. I love trying to adapt each game to change the difficulty level to help the group improve their technique. It’s a challenge for me and sometimes spawns new games to play. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the water soon with groups and teaching kayaking. Thanks to Poulapoucha paddlers for the photos and playing all the games.