Canoeing Sport Icon

A water based sport which involves paddling with a single-bladed paddle. A canoe bears some resemblance to a kayak, but there are several differences between the two sports, with kayaking involving two blades and a different technique.

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The Basics

  • There are many different variations of canoe and kayak racing. The most common of these is the simple spring, in which racers attempt to get from the start line to the finish line in the quickest time possible. 
  • Other variations include the slalom, in which competitors must race downhill between gates in the quickest time possible, with times compared at the end of a run rather than individuals racing side-by-side. 
  • The narrower the boat the faster it travels across the water, making smaller boats much more popular when it comes to racing. Smaller boats also provide more of a challenge to those operating them, with a great sense of balance required.


  • Canoes and kayaks originated as forms of transportation, but as with almost all other forms of travel, a sporting equivalent was eventually found – with the sport of canoeing officially born in the late 19th century.
  • Canoeing became an Olympic sport in 1936. The most successful nation has been Germany, who has won 70 Olympic medals in the sport, 32 of which have been gold. East Germany has also won an additional 30 medals.
  • The sport is extremely European dominated. New Zealand is the only non-European nation in the top ten for Olympic medals in the sport’s history. Great Britain is in 13th place, with 17 medals in total.

Famous Competitors

  • Birgit Fischer – only five Olympians have won more gold medals than Fischer’s eight. Birgit, who also won four silver medals during a 24-year Olympic career, initially represented East Germany before the nation reformed ahead of the 1992 Games in Barcelona. She won both individual and team medals during her career, including 28 World Championship golds.
  • Liam Heath – Heath won his first Olympic gold medal in Rio in 2016, winning the K-1 200m event. He also took silver in the K-2 over the same distance, having won bronze four years earlier. The Guildford-born racer also has five World and four European medals to his name, including gold in the 2016 event in Moscow. 

National Governing Body

Canoe England – please click here for more information.


  • Intra-School Primary: Challenge Card
  • Intra-School Secondary 
  • Local Inter-School
  • Inclusive Specific Sport Format

In order for a competition to be considered part of a School Games provision, it must follow a School Games format. All School Games registered users have access to our sport formats and can access the formats for this sport by clicking the button below. Alternatively, you can download the full Canoeing format pack by clicking here

Emily Webb Canoeing 1
“Hear the story of Team GB kayaker Emily Webb”
During the summer of 2016, we conducted a series of interviews with Team GB kayaker Emily Webb, entitled: 'The Diary of a Wannabe Olympian'. You can read the series in full here. Go there now

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