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Canoe Sprint

Canoe Sprint participants compete head to head over 200m, 500m, 1000m and 5000m usually on regatta courses. Teams or individuals in either a Kayak (K) or Canoe (C) race over the set distance with the winning boat being the first to cross the finish line.

In Kayak events, the paddler is seated and uses a double-bladed paddle pulling the blade through the water on alternate sides to propel the boat forward.

In Canoe events, the paddle has a single-blade and the paddler uses a more upright position by kneeling on one knee with the other leg forward and foot flat on the floor inside the boat; this creates a stable position and allows the paddler to power the boat forward by placing the paddle in the water in front of the boat and pulling the paddle down their preferred side.

What do K1 and C4 signify?

In competition the number of paddlers within a boat is indicated by a figure besides the type of boat; K1 and C1 signifies an individual Kayak or Canoe race, K2 and C2 pairs, and K4 and C4 quartets.

How are lanes decided?

Races are split into nine lanes with lane selection at random in the initial heats. Following the heats lane selection is then based on qualification time: 5 being the fastest to qualify, then 6, 4, 3, 2, 7, 8, 1 and 9.

Canoe sprint has been the traditional form of racing and is the oldest discipline under the control of the International Canoe Federation (ICF), it is also an Olympic and Paralympic event.

British Success

Great Britain has a long tradition of success in Canoe Sprint producing World Champions, as you can see from our medal record. Canoe Sprint is an Olympic sport, with Great Britain enjoying medal success in Olympic Games including London 2012, Rio 2016 and more recently, Tokyo 2020. 


Specific Paddle-Ability events are held at National Sprint Racing Regattas in Nottingham from April to September. 

Paddle-Ability is the term used by British Canoeing to describe all Paddlesport activity for athletes with a disability.  The term focuses on a person’s ability to take part in Paddlesport rather than their disability.  British Canoeing encourages and supports anyone with any disability or impairment to participate in competition in specific Paddle-Ability events and mainstream competitions.

The Sprint Racing Committee have webpage with additional information which you can find here.

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