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Canoe Sprint

It’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 ‘flat water canoeing’. 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