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['Paracanoe' (International Canoe Federation terminology) refers to va'a and kayak sprint racing for disability athletes.]

Paracanoe [sprint] is contested at World Championships, World Cups and continental championships (Europe, Pan America); paddlers compete in kayaks (K1, K2 and in va’a canoe outriggers (V1, V2) - both men and women, plus mixed-pairs events are becoming more prolific. Currently all international paracanoe competitions are held over 200m.

Disability sprint-racing came about in 2009 because, at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Halifax, Canada, it was a demonstration event run by the ICF Canoeing For All Committee. Officially-recognised at the 2010 ICF World Championship in Poznań; 63 athletes from 31 nations competed.

Proudly, paracanoe became the latest addition to the Paralympic Games voted in in 2010 and will feature for the first time at Rio 2016 where record numbers of athletes are predicted to compete. However, only kayak races will feature on the Paralympic programme, both men's and women's, for the time-being.


Athlete disability was reclassified by the ICF in April 2015 ahead of Rio into a new classification system – it is unique to paracanoeing as opposed to originally deriving from para-rowing:

  • KL1 (formerly 'A'; Arms) – arm and shoulder function only, no trunk use.
  • KL2 (formerly 'TA'; Trunk and Arms) – upper body only, weakened use/function of lower limbs.
  • KL3 (formerly 'LTA'; Legs, Trunk and Arms) – functional use of all 3 for paddling, paddlers can apply force to the foot board or seat to propel the boat forwards.

Non-Paralympic competitions including va'a events use the same system (V1 VL1, V1 VL2, V1 VL3).

The previously-known combined category 'LTA, TA, A', allowing speed-matched athletes from any category to compete against each other, was disbanded ahead of the 2013 World Championship.

In other va'a competitions, governed by the International Va'a Federation (IVF), classification differs again.

Para-paddle sports

At present para-canoesport is primarily a flatwater sprint discipline, although para-ocean-outrigger and para-slalom are slowly evolving in established canoeing nations.

There are increasing numbers of athletes with a disability who, with help getting to the river from their entourages, paddle whitewater (extreme).

Waveski also has the potential to attract para-athletes looking to pursue adaptive paddle-surfing.


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