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-- Briefly --

Canoeing is the recreational or sport activity of paddling a canoe or kayak

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 wild water 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 a portages. Course lengths typically vary from 10km to the Olympic course length of 42km (???)

- Canoe Polo - A fast-action competitive goal-scoring ball game on water, between two teams of 5 players.

- Wild Water Racing - Racing over a longer course of wild water (typcially 4km to 6km), without the gates of Slalom. (Previously called "Down River Racing")

- Canoe Sailing - Racing a canoe using sail power. A long history.

- Dragon Boat Racing - Since the 1970's 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.

There are some other forms of competitive canoeing which do not come under ICF auspices:-

- Rodeo - a radical form developed from Slalom, where the competitor performs tricks and stunts, such as striking a suspended ball with the nose of the kayak, and receives points for style as well as times. (This defintion is very much guesswork. Anyone know better ?)

- Extreme Canoeing - a form of canoeing competition developed specifically for TV, generally involving tackling extreme, dangerous rapids. (Welcome a better definition)

- Outrigger 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.

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.

- 'Sea Kayaking - specially designed long kayaks enable sea voyages. These increasingly popular craft closely reflect the original eskimo kayak designs.

- White Water Touring - paddling down wild water rivers for fun, recreation, 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. In the long distance remote form it may be known as Expedition Canoeing'

- Touring, or Cruising - as for White Water touring, only limited to flatwater 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.

- Wave Skiing - paddling a small, manoueverable craft (waveski) 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.

- Surf Skiiing - 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 sits on top of the ski.

- White Water Rafting - one or a group of people paddle a small or large inflatable raft down a wild water river. (I ma not awre of a competitive form of this activity). Has much in common with White Water Touring.