About Sprint Canoe/Kayak

Sprint or Flatwater Canoe/Kayak:  A classic test and combination of speed, explosive power, endurance and balance.  One of the oldest Olympic Sports.  This is where you will find the “Fastest Female and Male Paddler on the Planet”!


There are 2 disciplines in Olympic Canoe/Kayak – Sprint and Slalom.  Here we focus on the Sprint discipline, which has two styles or classes of boats – canoes and kayaks.

Sprint canoeing is also known as “Canadian” canoeing or “high-kneel”. This is currently an Olympic discipline for men, but not for women.  Sprint kayak includes both men’s and women’s events on the Olympic program.

Canoeing requires the paddler to kneel on one knee (similar to the position of one being “knighted”) with the other leg placed out in front of them for balance support.  Paddlers use a single bladed paddle (which is slightly shorter than the height of the athlete, usually up to the eye level) to propel the boat forward.  The paddle itself includes a blade on one end and a “T” grip handle on the other end of the shaft.  The paddler can only paddle on one side.  The canoe itself is an open deck boat, a maximum of 17 feet (or 5.2 meters) long, 11-12 inches (or 28-30 cm) wide with a minimum weight of 16kg (or 35.2 pounds) for a singles canoe  and is steered using a “J” stroke with the paddle.

Kayaking requires the paddler to site on a seat in a boat that has a deck has enough of an opening for the paddling to sit in the kayak with knees visible. The paddler uses a double bladed paddle (a blade on both ends of the shaft) and propels the boat forward paddling on both sides.  Kayaks are also max 17 feet, approximately 11-12 inches wide with a minimum weight of 12kg (or 25 pounds) for single kayaks.  The kayak has a rudder for steering (using the feet), as opposed to the canoe – which has no rudder.

International race distances are 5000, 1000, 500 and 200 meters, respectively, and are competed on a straight, buoyed flatwater course with 9 lanes, each boat in a separate lane.  Olympic distances are 1000 and 200m for men and 500 and 200m for women.

The aim of a sprint competition is for paddlers to race each other in canoes and kayaks over a clearly defined straight and unobstructed bouyed course in the shortest possible time according to the rules of the International Canoe Federation (ICF).

Canoe/Kayak (or “Canoeing”) became an Olympic sport in 1936, for men only,  though, in 1924, both canoe and kayak were included as exhibition events at the 1924 Olympic Games – also for men only. There are currently 12 flatwater sprint events on the Olympic Program.  Men compete in single and double canoes (C1 and C2) and kayaks (K1 and K2) at distances of 200 and 1,000 meters and in four-man kayaks (K4) over 1,000 meters. Women compete in single, double and four-women kayaks (K1, K2, K4) in 500 meter races and singles Kayak (K1) for 200m.

A few videos from the 2013 season for women’s canoe


In non-Olympic competitions (e.g., World Championships, Pan American Championships, World Cups, etc.) there are kayak events for men and women in K1, K2 and K4 in all 3 distances and singles kayak 5000m and 200 meter relays.  There canoe events  for men in C1, C2 and C4, aand singles canoe 5000m and 200m relays.  At the Senior and Junior/U23 World Championships, there are now 2 official events for women’s canoe:  C1 200 and C2 500.  The Pan American Championships has included women’s canoe for C1 and C2 1000, 500 and 200 meter events since 2001, the only continental federation to have this many events.  The European Continental Championships now includes C1 200 and c2 500 only.  The 2013 African Canoe Sprint Championships included women’s C1 200 and 500m events for the first time ever.  In 2011, the All Africa Games included C1 200.

Early in 2013, the Pan American Canoe Federation announced that the women’s C1 200 event would be added to the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto for the first time.  They rejected our request for C2 500.   We are working on getting women’s canoe included in the 2015 European Games.