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Canoe Sprint

Itโ€™s a head-to-head race between you and 8 other boats in an all out dash to the finish line.

When you hear someone refer to kayaking or canoeing, you might think of canoe slalom – short stubby boats, hurtling down a white water course. Canoe sprint is a different genre entirely. Races are held on calm water, which is why you might also know canoe sprint as โ€˜flat water canoeingโ€™. The race itself is anything but calm with paddlers pushing themselves to the absolute limit to get across the line first. It’s a race of strength, endurance and tactics. Let’s cover some of the basics.


Canoes vs Kayaks

What’s the difference?


  • Kneel on one knee.
  • Use a single bladed paddle.
  • Steering via special strokes.


  • Sitting down position.
  • Use a double bladed paddle.
  • Have a rudder for steering.

Boat Sizes

Boats can consist of 1, 2 or 4 paddlers in both the canoe and kayak classes. You would refer to these boats as a K1, K2 and K4 for kayaking and a C1, C2 and C4 for canoeing.


Single Canoe


2-person Canoe


4-person Canoe


Single Kayak


2-person Kayak


4-person Kayak


Sprint races are over three distances

All canoe/kayak boat sizes can compete over the same set of distances, which are 200m, 500m and 1,000m. Only a select few combinations are chosen for the Olympic program. Some competitions also run a 5,000m race, but most longer distances are only available for the canoe marathon discipline. Rachel currently holds the world speed record for k1 1000m with a time of 3:52.461.




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Canoe sprint clubs are located all around the UK.

Find your nearest club