Downriver / Wildwater Racing

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['Wildwater Canoeing' (International Canoe Federation terminology) refers to canoe and kayak wildwater/downriver.]

Downriver, also known as 'wildwater' is an exhilarating, highly-physical river descent over 3 to 4 miles of challenging whitewater.

Everything is tested from tactical skill, technique, balance, timing to strength, power, stamina, breathing, mental prowess and fitness.

Competitions are essentially divided into 2 formats; 'Classic' downriver – the longer 4-mile course through grade 3 or 4 rapids which can last up to 35 minutes and the 'Sprint' – 500 to 750 metres of whitewater speed-paddling.

Racing in both disciplines is divided into the following classes: K1M, K1W, C1M, C1W, and C2M (individual and team for canoeing).

Boats are long (up to 4.5), narrow, with rounded hulls and look like split tweezers sitting on the waterline. They are designed for speed but with that they are quite unstable and not that easy to turn.

Governed by the International Canoe Federation, downriver paddlers have busy seasons including national selections, ICF ranking races, national and international open competitions, continental championships and usually 4 World Cup races with a further World Championship.

World Championships are divided into 2 formats: 1) Sprint-only Worlds occur every 2 years, they have done so since 2011, and 2) Classic-Sprint or 'full' Worlds which happen every even 2 years, participation has been since the sport's birth in Switzerland in 1949. Junior Worlds also feature. Each country can have up to four boats per class, a total of 20 with a maximum of 22 competitors overall.

Downriver is not an Olympic discipline at present.


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