Canoe marathon is an International Canoe Federation governed sport in which athletes compete over long distances. The race usually starts and ends at the same place, and includes portages. 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.
The canoe marathon is unlike the so-called classic canoe marathon competition in which athletes start in one place and finished in another. Many events are raced down sections of river, where the paddler must negotiate the currents or portage around obstacles. Some events attract over 2000 athletes each year and are often run in several stages over several days.
For many years only national events were held, such as the Liffey Descent Canoe Race, the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon, and the Tour de Gudenå. Starting in the late 1970s, international events are organised by the ICF with a Grand Prix-Series and a World Cup as most important yearly event. Today the premier event is the bi-annual ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, first held in 1988 in Nottingham. Canoe marathon is not an olympic event, but is in the inviational programme of the World Games since 2013.
The minimum distances for international races are 20 kilometres (12 mi) for men, and 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) for women. The races may be divided in several parts and/or several days. World Cup and World Championship races normally are about 30 to 40 kilometres (19 to 25 mi) long.
- The Dusi Canoe Marathon (South Africa)
- The Avon Descent (WA, Australia)
- The Sella Descent (Spain)
- The Hawkesbury Canoe Classic (NSW, Australia)
- The Texas Water Safari 262 miles (422 km) (Texas, USA)
- The Triple Crown of Canoe Racing consists of:
- The Fish River Canoe Marathon (81 kilometres (50 mi)) (South Africa)
- The Vaal River Marathon (South Africa)
- The Murray Marathon, 404 kilometres (251 mi) down the Murray River in Australia
- The Yukon River Quest (715 kilometres (444 mi)) from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River, and the longest canoe and kayak race, the Yukon 1000 (1,000 miles (1,600 km)) on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to the last road access point on the river in Alaska.
- "What is canoe marathon?". ICF. Retrieved 26 April 2014.