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History of our sport

Intrepid Scottish barrister, John MacGregor was the first European to use an Inuit Kayak for tourism and excursion purposes, he also formed the first-ever kayak club “The Royal Canoe Club of London” on the 25 July 1866 in London.


The first Canoeing competition, organised by MacGregor, was held in 1869. In 1871 the “New York Canoe Club” was established. By the 1890s, canoe sport was popular all over the European continent.

Canoe Sprint became a full medal sport at the 1936 Berlin Games with the Women’s category being added to the Olympic programme in 1948. The British Canoe Union itself was formed in 1936 in order to send a Canoeing team to the 1936 Olympic Games. Canoe Sprint’s Olympic Programme has varied a great deal over the years and has changed and adapted in order to improve its overall standing and to follow current trends and technological advances.

Great Britain won its first Olympic medal in Canoe Sprint in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics when Tim Brabants took bronze in the K1M 1000m. Since then, Sprint athletes have now won a total of 6 Olympic medals. On the whole, Europe has dominated the sport, winning over 90% of all available medals.


Kayak racing at the Olympic canoeing events at Henley (1948). 

Folding Canoes
Folding Canoe

A typical 11ft folding Canoe. 

Photos courtesy of Tony Ford