The Sport of Canoeing
Canoeing, or Canoe sport, is organised at the top level by the ICF - International Canoe Federation. The ICF recognises several competitive and non-competitive disciplines of canoeing, of which Sprint and Slalom are the only two competing in the Olympic games :
Competitive Canoeing Disciplines
- Sprint Canoeing - the oldest discipline of ICF canoeing, sometimes referred to as "Racing", and involves principally kayaks, and some canoes. Flatwater races over distance from 200m to 2000m
- Slalom Canoeing - Competitors are timed in completing a descent down the rapids of a whitewater course, in the process steering their canoe or kayak through "gates" (a pair of suspened poles about 1m apart), including going up against the flow, across the flow, and surfing the standing waves of the rapids.
- Marathon Canoeing - Longer distance races over mostly flatwater courses, possibly including one or more portages. Course lengths typically vary from about 6km to the epic 125 mile Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon on the Thames.
- Canoe Polo - A fast-action competitive goal-scoring ball game on water, between two teams of 5 players.
- Whitewater Racing (also known as Wild Water Racing) - Competitors race specialised canoes or kayaks down a whitewater river (typically grade II to IV whitewater is used).
- Canoe Sailing - Racing a canoe using sail power. A long history.
There are some other forms of competitive canoeing which do not come under ICF auspices:
- Dragon Boat Racing - Since the 1970s racing of the traditional Chinese Dragon Boats has been organised. In general there are about 18-20 paddlers per boat, plus a drummer and a helmsman. The IDBF is the international governing body for Dragon Boats.
- Playboating (also known as Rodeo) - a form of canoeing or kayaking where the competitor performs tricks and stunts in standing waves such as front and back surfing, flatspins, cartwheels, and blunts, and receives points for the variety of moves performed within a fixed time. Points are also awarded for style.
- Extreme Racing - a form of canoeing competition involving racing down dangerous whitewater rivers (often with many grade V rapids and typically requiring excellent river running skills).
- Outrigger Canoe Racing - racing of traditional Pacific Ocean outrigger canoes. Very popular in Hawaii (it's the state sport), Tahiti, and other Pacific nations including Australia and New Zealand; well established in western North America and the eastern US, also catching on in Asia and Europe. International ruling body is the IVF. Outrigger canoes are traditionally referred to as wa'a, va'a, or waka ama. Standard racing canoes carry six paddlers; one and two person canoes are also widely raced.
- Canoe Surfing - The canoeing equivalent of surfing, but in a specialised surf kayak. Points are scored for the variety and quality of moves performed on a wave. Also whitewater kayakers and playboaters often surf non-competatively.
Non-Competitive, or Recreational, types of canoeing
All of the competitive disciplines have defined rules, but are also practiced for recreation and exercise, where the rules may be varied, waived or simply ignored.
Other recreational aspects of canoeing are not strictly defined, and distinctions are rather articifical, and growing increasingly blurred as new hybrid canoes, kayaks and similar craft are developed. Some of these forms may be nominally organised at the National level of canoeing, but are largely unorganised, individual, group or club activities.
- Whitewater Canoeing or Kayaking - paddling down whitewater rivers for fun, recreation, or getting away from it all. Can vary from short local trips on easy grade rivers, to extreme expeditions on raging torrents in remote locations for many days carrying all equipment. Whitewater Kayaking is probably the most popular form of canoeing.
- Sea Kayak ing - recreational kayaking on the sea. Includes everything from short day trips to year-long expeditions, may include paddling on heavy seas, in surf, or in tidal currents, and usually requires navigational skills.
- Playboating - surfing and performing tricks on one feature on a river.
- Touring, or Cruising - as for White Water touring, only limited to more placid rivers, lakes, and canals.
- Canoe Life Saving - life saving activity in some countries (notably Britain ???) may use kayaks. (Don't know much about this!)
Other Forms of Paddling which are similar, but not generally classed as Canoeing
In some countries, these forms of paddling may come under the National Canoeing organisation, but they are not universally accepted as canoeing, even though they involve propelling a small craft with a paddle.
- Surf Skiing - paddling a small, manoueverable craft (surf ski) a little like a bigger surfboard, amongst the breaking waves of the sea or ocean, variously sliding down the face of the wave or performing tricks on the face of a breaking wave. Close affintiy to surfing. The paddler sits on top of the ski. Competition is based on points for tricks and style.
- Wave Skiing - paddling a long (5M?), slim racing craft on the sea, out through the waves and back through the waves, but not manouevering on the waves. The paddler is strapped to the top of the wave ski.
- White Water Rafting - one or a group of people paddle a small or large inflatable raft down a wild water river. (I'm not aware of a competitive form of this activity). Has much in common with White Water Touring.