||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (June 2013)|
Canoe sprint is a sport in which athletes race boats on calm water. The sport is governed by the International Canoe Federation. Race categories vary by the number of athletes in the boat, the length of the course, and whether the boat is a canoe or kayak. In a kayak, the paddler is seated in the direction of travel, and uses a double-bladed paddle. In a canoe the paddler kneels on one knee with the other leg forward and foot flat on the floor inside the boat, and paddles a single-bladed paddle on one side only. Canoe sprint is sometimes referred to as flatwater racing.
Canoe sprint takes place on a straight course divided in lanes, on calm water. The distances recognised by the ICF for international races are 200 m, 500 m, and 1000 m. Each boat has its own designated lane, except for races over more than 1000 m, where there also may be turning points. ICF recognised races over 1000m include the 5000m and 10000m events. For each race a number of heats, semi-finals and a final may be necessary, depending on the number of competitors. Women's canoe debuted internationally at the 2010 championships in Poznań, Poland, although there is still not women's canoe in the Olympics.
The International Canoe Federation is the worldwide canoeing organization and creates the standard rules for the different disciplines of canoe/kayak competition. The ICF recognizes several competitive and non-competitive disciplines of canoeing, of which Sprint and Slalom are the only two competing in the Olympic games. The United States Canoe Association is widely considered the American authority in sport and recreational canoeing, and recognizes many ICF classes. Other national competition rules are usually based on the rules of the ICF.
ICF disciplines also include slalom, wildwater, marathon, dragon boat, playboating, canoe sailing, surfski, Va'a, and Waveski. Non-ICF disciplines include outrigger canoeing, canoe orienteering, and concrete canoe.
The official boats recognised by the ICF as 'International Boats' are: K1, K2, K4, C1, C2 and C4, where the number indicates the number of paddlers, “K” stands for kayak and “C” for Canadian or canoe, depending on location. Kayaks have a rudder, which is operated by the feet of the paddler in the front. The ICF rules for these boats define, among others, the maximum length, the minimum weight and the shape of the boats. For example, by ICF rules, a K1 is at most 520 cm long, and weighs at least 8 kg for marathons or 12 kg for sprints. In 2000, after the Olympic Games in Sydney, the ICF withdrew width restrictions on all boats, spurring a flurry of innovations in boat designs. Modern boats are usually made of carbon fiber and/or aramid fiber (e.g., Kevlar) with epoxy resin.
In Canada, a racing class exists for the C-15 or WC or "War Canoe", as well as a similarly designed C-4 (which is much shorter and more squat than an 'International' C-4). An antiquated boat class is the C-7, resembling a large C4 which was debuted by the ICF with little success.
Paddles for propelling are double-bladed for kayaks, and single-bladed for canoes, and are usually made of carbon fiber with epoxy. For kayaks so-called wing paddles are generally used, the blades of which are shaped to resemble a wing or spoon. The wing blade has undergone many evolutions in the past two decades, evolving from a flatter blade to one with a more pronounced curve to better catch the water. For racing canoes, the blade is typically short and broad, with a 'power face' on one side that is either flat or scalloped out. The shaft will typically be longer than a tripping canoe paddle, because the kneeling position puts the paddler higher above the surface of the water. More recent designs of canoe racing paddles often have a slight bent shaft (a concept of Gene Jensen in the 1950s) but not to the degree used in marathon paddles. Many high-performance canoe paddlers prefer the feel of a carbon-fibre shaft mated to a wooden blade, while nearly all high-performance kayak paddlers use paddles made completely of carbon fiber.
- "Canoe sprint". ICF. Retrieved 26 April 2014.