Canoe Slalom Rules. Top ten rules you need to know.

Canoe slalom rules made simple

Canoe slalom rules are not as difficult as you may think. If you are new to Canoe Slalom, it is a visually exciting sport where competitors dance down a white water course and through coloured gates in a race against the clock.
To the newbie, it can look like there’s a lot to learn about the rules of canoe slalom. But don’t worry, we’ve compiled a top ten list of the key rules.
Our need-to-know canoe slalom rules below will turn you from newbie to expert in just a few minutes!
And to help you out further, check-out our video introduction to Canoe Slalom. Let Olympic champion Joe Clarke and Tokyo 2020 hopeful Mallory Franklin talk you through the basic elements that make up canoe slalom.
If it is interesting Canoe Slalom facts you are after, read our Top Ten Canoe Slalom Facts article here.

Canoe slalom rules – top ten rules you need to know

  1. Paddlers race in categories. There are five categories that paddlers race in: C1M, C1W, K1M, K1W and C2M. C stands for canoe and K for kayak. M stands for male and W for women. Some athletes will compete in both canoe and kayak.
  2. C1 are single person canoes. The rules state paddlers kneel in the boat and use a single-bladed paddle to navigate the course. K1 are single person kayaks – where paddlers sit in the boat and use a double bladed paddle to navigate a course. C2 are double person canoes.
  3. To win, competitors must navigate the course from the start line to the finish line in the fastest time possible.
  4. There are between 18 and 25 green and red gates to navigate between the start and the finish line.
  5. The colour of the gates indicates the way paddlers should navigate it. Green gates are downstream gates and red gates are upstream gates. In a nutshell, you go down through the
    green and up through the red.
  6. If you touch or miss a gate you get a time penalty. If you touch a gate, 2 seconds will be
    added to your time. If you miss a gate, 50 seconds will be added to your time.
  7. The gates must be navigated in numerical order. The numbers are shown above the gates.
  8. Courses are no longer than 300m in length and paddlers should be aiming to complete the
    course in between 90-110 seconds.
  9. To reach the final and be in with a chance of winning a medal, the paddlers must first quality
    through heats and semi-finals. There are 10 athletes in each final.
  10. OK, this one isn’t a rule but it is useful to know. Spectators shout ‘up, up, up!’ as encouragement to paddlers on the course.