Everything you need to know about the canoe and kayak slalom

With the Olympics now in full swing, we’ve got a little guide to the canoe and kayak slalom events to help you get the full experience from watching. We’ll cover the rules and a few extra details about the history of Olympic canoeing and kayaking.



In slalom racing, there are several classes including: men’s and women’s single kayak; men’s single canoe and men’s double canoe, which each require a slightly different approach.

The basics rules are that there are eighteen slalom gates, which change position from heat to heat, keeping the athletes on their toes and demanding very quick reaction times to succeed. These gates are placed along 300-meters of white-water and obstacles with a very strong current. Each gate must be navigated in a specific order and the paddler must pass through the gates in a specific direction to avoid penalties, proving incredibly challenging for even the most experienced kayakers and canoers.

The paddlers are given penalties based on a variety of violations, for example, if the boat, paddle or body hits a gate that results in them being given a two-second penalty, or if the paddler misses a gate or enters the gate the wrong way, they are lumbered with a great 50-second penalty. Granted that the runs usually last around 80-120 seconds, the penalties must be kept to an absolute minimum if the paddler wishes to successfully move onto the next round and potentially win a medal. The fastest singles or teams to complete the succession of heats will then be the winner of one of the prestigious Olympic medals.

The training in the lead up to competing in such events is incredibly intense, requiring a great amount of upper body strength, ultimate focus, stamina and an eye for precision. The biggest difficulty being the lack of facilities to cater for those training to compete in the Olympics. However, as the Olympic kayaking and canoeing events gain popularity, it is being seen that there is a need for more, better facilities and a greater following of the sport which is great to see, particularly with participants as young as nine years old!

White-water slalom events made their big break into the Olympics back in 1972, however it wasn’t a part of the program again until 1992, and the events have increased in popularity ever since with this year’s Rio Olympics holding the biggest events yet.

If you wish to being your training to complete in the next big Olympic games, take a look at our kayaks for sale and try your hand at the canoe and kayak white-water slalom!

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