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All about Canoeing [ History, Rules, … ]

Canoeing it must be from the oldest activities there are as you can imagine. It was characterized by the freedom and ease of being able to walk through the rivers, and more recently even through the seas, cheaply and at the same time amused.

These were some of the reasons that canoeing began to expand and gain more and more popularity until it eventually evolved into a sport and is now practiced by thousands and millions of people around the world, professionally or only recreationally.

History of Canoeing

This one does not have much that is told to him. As we have already mentioned, for thousands of years people have built some kind of small boat to sail on rivers for the most varied reasons.

Speed canoeing is an Olympic modality since 1932, and later also added to the Slalom Canoeing in 1972, which after that passed 6 editions of the Games without appearing and after that appeared in all the Games.

Types of Canoeing

This sport has many variants that have come up over the years, mostly in a way to personalize and increase certain aspects that they liked more about canoeing (a bit like cycling).

Let’s now list the most popular variants and explain each one.

Speed Canoeing

Speed canoeing or canoeing sprint is the oldest variant of canoeing but is also one of the least known (having as a reason not to be as enthusiastic as other variants).

This is practiced in river beds or artificially made channels with a length of 2000 meters long and 3 meters deep, divided into 9 lanes or tracks. The goal is to get to the goal as quickly as possible, first doing all the others.

Canoeing can be practiced with canoes or with kayaks. Their biggest difference to the naked eye is the way the kayakers are and the rowing they use.

In canoeing of sprints, canoeists with canoes have one knee supported on the canoe and the other leg at an angle of 90 degrees ahead and use a paddle with only a shovel.

In kayaks, the canoeists are seated with their legs straight and use a paddle of two blades, alternating the blades to advance (right / left).

The kayaks are denominated with the letter K, being the K1, K2 and K4, being that the number corresponds to the number of competitors in the same boat.

Canoes are called with the letter C and there are also the same categories.

In the Olympic Games, the male events are of 200 and 1000 meters and in the female are 200 and 500 meters.

Slalom Canoeing

In the opposite direction to sprint canoeing, the slalom canoeing is the most popular of all variants.

This is also competed in beds of artificial rivers and channels and has the characteristic of being down the river and with strong currents. Each test has between 18 and 25 ports (composed of 2 suspended posts) and has 2 possible colors. The greens indicate that they must pass in favor of the current, the red ones must pass against the current.

If you touch the posts with the boat, the body or the oar, then it is penalized in 2 seconds. If it is more serious and you do not do what the ports indicate, ignore a port, etc … has a penalty of 50 seconds. Those who make the journey in less time with the penalties will win.

Usually, the tests count on two rounds where the valid time is what the competitor did of a minor.

Slalom canoeing can also be competed with kayaks or canoes, and the only difference to sprint is that in canoes athletes go with both legs on their knees.


The individual canoes/kayaks measure about 3,50 meters long and weigh between 9 and 10 pounds. The paired canoes are 4,10 meters long and weigh about 15 kilos.

In this variant, in games only the categories C1, K1 and C2.


This is a very recent variant, which has already been approved by the International Canoe Federation in 2004 and consists of maneuvers and acrobatics in waves and river streams for 40 seconds and the objective is to gain the most points by performing maneuvers. The points are already all tabulated according to the maneuvers that it executes.


Marathon Canoeing

The test consists of making a long run (usually over 15km) and arriving first than all others.

Here the rules are a bit more flexible, at the point where there is not a right extension for all races and the place where they practice can also vary widely, from large riverbanks to rapids, over rocks or even in the open sea, depending a lot on the evidence itself.

You should also be prepared to walk ashore with your canoe if necessary to go from one place with water to another.

The existing categories here are:

  • Men: K1, K2, K4, C1, and C2
  • Women: K1 and K2
  • Mixed: K2 and C2



This variant has several types of kayak designs, and they are optimized for surfing on the waves of the beach and offer the kayaker a better ability to maneuver the kayak and maneuver.

She came up with savior swimmers from South Africa and Australia to use sea kayaks to get to the places they wanted, and then fashion caught on and started to popularize.

Currently, a World 2 Kayaksurf Championship is held in 2 for years, there are several categories, in which kayaks differ in size and some forms.


Kayak Polo

It’s a mix of water polo using kayaks. Each team is formed by 5 canoeists and these compete in a pool of 30 meters long by 20 meters wide and the kayaks measure 3 maximum meters.

The goal is to score as many points as possible by putting the ball in the opponent’s “goal” that is suspended in the air at 2 meters from the water level and has 1 × 1,5 meters in dimension.

Each player can only have the ball in hand for 5 seconds, being able to pass to a teammate or try to score. Canoeists may use the oars for defense and carry the ball, but the ball must not touch the ball while it is being made.


There are other variants, but these are the main variants. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience, do not hesitate to leave us comments.

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