What is Canoe Slalom?

Canoe slalom is a timed event where competitors navigate a whitewater course by passing through a combination of upstream and downstream gates. Each course is different but can be a maximum of 300 metres in length and contain a maximum of 25 gates, with a minimum of six upstream gates. The type of gate is designated by colour, red for upstream and green for downstream. Courses are designed so the leading athletes will complete them in a time of between 90 and 110 seconds, though time penalties can be incurred for touching a gate (two seconds) and missing a gate (50 seconds).

Canoe slalom is contested by two types of boat, canoe (C) and kayak (K). In canoe, a single-blade paddle is used by an athlete who is strapped into the boat with their legs bent at the knees and tucked under their body, in contrast to the double-bladed paddle used in a seated position in kayak. At international level there are four individual events (K1W, K1M, C1W, C1M). The C1W event will make its debut at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, replacing the men's C2, which had been part of the Olympic prorgram in 1972 and then from 1992 until 2016.

The decision to replace the men's C2 with the women's C1 was taken to ensure slalom met the IOC's gender equity criteria.

Canoe slalom originated in Switzerland in 1933 as a summer alternative to slalom skiing, and was initially competed on a flatwater course. Switzerland hosted the first world championships in Geneva in 1949 and the discipline made its Olympic debut as an introduction sport at the 1972 Games in Munich, when all four gold medals were won by East Germany. It was a further 20 years before canoe slalom returned to the Olympic Games, but this time as a core sport.

Slovakia (7) hold the record for most gold medals in canoe slalom at the Olympic Games. It is the only sport Slovakia has claimed a gold medal in at the summer Games. The only three people to claim more than three medals in the discipline at the Games are all Slovakian, Michal Martikán (G2-S2-B1) and twins Pavol and Peter Hochschorner (both G3-B1). The Hochschorners have finished on the podium in the C2M at each of the last four Olympic Games.

France (56) has won the most world titles in canoe slalom, but combining Czechoslovakia (33), Czech Republic (27) and Slovakia (24) would both exceed that total. Martikán (14) has won the most world titles in the discipline (individual and team events), while the leading female is Jessica Fox (9) of Australia. A paddler representing Africa has never finished in the top-three at the world championships, but in 2008 in Beijing, Benjamin Boukpeti claimed Togo’s first medal in any sport at the Olympic Games when he took bronze in the K1M.

Things you need to know
  • Canoe slalom is a race against the clock through a combination of up and downstream gates on a whitewater course.
  • The course length and number of gates varies with a maximum of 25 gates and length of 300 meters.
  • The course is set with a mix of upstream and downstream gates; each presents a unique challenge for the athlete, significantly testing their ability to read and work with the water flow whilst maintaining their trajectory, balance and speed.
  • The direction the athlete must travel through each gate is indicated by colour: red for upstream and green for downstream.
  • There are a minimum of six upstream gates on each course.
  • Course designers set the gate patterns with the aim of utilising the water features - eddies, waves and stoppers - to create a competitive course. No two courses are the same.
  • The course is designed so that the fastest athletes will stop-the-clock between 90 to 110 seconds.
  • Athletes can incur time penalties with two-seconds added for a gate touch and 50-seconds for missing a gate.
  • International competitions have a qualification round followed by a semifinal and final with only 10 athletes in the final.
  • There are six events within canoe slalom with both men and women contesting the kayak and canoe singles (K1W, K1M, C1W, C1M); there is also men's and mixed canoe doubles (C2M).
  • The Olympic Programme currently consists of four classes K1M, K1W, C1M and C1W.
  • The difference between a kayak and a canoe is simple; it’s the number of blades on the paddle and the athlete’s position in the boat.
  • In kayak, the paddler is seated and uses a double-bladed paddle pulling the blade through the water on alternate sides to propel the boat forward.
  • In canoe, the paddle has a single-blade and the athlete is strapped into the boat with their legs bent at the knees and tucked under their body.
Key milestones
  • Canoe slalom, which was originally modelled on ski slalom, began in Switzerland in 1933 on flatwater, but soon switched to whitewater rapids.
  • The first Slalom World Championships were held in 1949 in Geneva under the auspices of the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and were a biannual event until 1999. 
  • Since 2002, the senior World Championships are run every non-Olympic year with Junior and U23 age categories contested annually since 2012. 
  • In the 1960’s canals began to be diverted from rivers to create dedicated man-made competition runs. 
  • Canoe slalom was an introduction sport at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, and became a core sport at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. 
  • The Augsburg Eiskanal course that was used for the Munich Games was the first artificial whitewater course constructed and set the blueprint for modern day competition courses. 
  • The women’s C1 class was introduced at the 2010 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships and will make its Olympic debut in 2020 at the Tokyo Games. 
  • Boat design has changed dramatically since the sports inception with canvas folding canoes replaced by fiberglass and now carbon fiber.

General information

Competitions information

Organisers information

Venues and Competitions courses informations

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

27 - 28 Abril 2019
PLPoland
KOLNA SLALOM COURSE Details
27 - 28 Abril 2019
SISlovenia
LJUBLJANA Details
11 - 12 Maig 2019
SKSlovakia
LIPTOVSKY MIKULAS Details
30 Maig - 2 Juny 2019
FRFrance
PAU Details
4 - 9 Juny 2019
ESSpain
LA SEU D'URGELL Details
clarke joseph gbr 2017 icf canoe slalom world championships pau france 025 1
14 - 16 Juny 2019
GBUnited Kingdom
LEE VALLEY Details
22 - 23 Juny 2019
PLPoland
KRAKOW Details
21 - 23 Juny 2019
SKSlovakia
BRATISLAVA Details
22 - 23 Juny 2019
SISlovenia
SOLKAN Details
29 - 30 Juny 2019
SKSlovakia
BRATISLAVA-CUNOVO Details
28 - 30 Juny 2019
SISlovenia
LJUBLJANA Details
4 - 7 Juliol 2019
SKSlovakia
LIPTOVSKY MIKULAS Details
1 Juny - 31 Juliol 2019
ITItaly
VALSTAGNA Details
3 - 4 Agost 2019
CZCzech Republic
PRAGUE Details
2 - 4 Agost 2019
PEPeru
LIMA Details
10 - 11 Agost 2019
SKSlovakia
BRATISLAVA-CUNOVO Details
16 - 18 Agost 2019
CACanada
MINDEN HILLS Details
17 - 18 Agost 2019
ATAustria
VIENNA Details
30 Agost - 1 Setembre 2019
DEGermany
MARKKLEEBERG Details
6 - 8 Setembre 2019
CZCzech Republic
PRAGUE Details
2019 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup Final Prague poster
6 - 8 Setembre 2019
CZCzech Republic
PRAGUE Details
12 - 16 Setembre 2019
ESSpain
LA SEU D'URGELL Details
2019 ICF CANOE SLALOM & WILDWATER CHAMPIONSHIPS LA SEU D URGELL
25 - 29 Setembre 2019
ESSpain
LA SEU D URGELL Details
5 - 6 Octubre 2019
GBUnited Kingdom
LEE VALLEY WHITE WATER CENTRE LONDON Details
6 Octubre 2019
ATAustria
KLAGENFURT Details
18 - 20 Octubre 2019
JPJapan
TOKYO Details
25 - 27 Octubre 2019
JPJapan
TOKYO Details
21 - 23 Febrer 2020
AUAustralia
PENRITH Details
15 - 17 Maig 2020
GBUnited Kingdom
LEE VALLEY Details
1 Juny 2020
ITItaly
VALSTAGNA Details
5 - 7 Juny 2020
ITItaly
IVREA Details
6 - 7 Juny 2020
ITItaly
MERANO Details
6 - 7 Juny 2020
ITItaly
MERANO Details
12 - 14 Juny 2020
FRFrance
PAU Details
7 - 12 Juliol 2020
PLPoland
LJUBLJANA-TACEN Details
Denis Gargaud Chanut Fance Rio 2016 Olympic Gold Medallist
26 - 31 Juliol 2020
JPJapan
TOKYO Details
21 - 23 Agost 2020
SKSlovakia
LIPTOVSKY MIKULAS Details
18 - 20 Setembre 2020
CZCzech Republic
PRAGUE Details
24 - 27 Setembre 2020
DEGermany
MARKKLEEBERG Details
24 - 27 Setembre 2020
DEGermany
MARKKLEEBERG Details
5 - 7 Març 2021
CNChina
TBC Details
21 - 25 Abril 2021
NZNew Zealand
AUCKLAND Details
14 - 30 Maig 2021
JPJapan
KANSAI Details
18 - 20 Juny 2021
DEGermany
MARKKLEEBERG Details
25 - 27 Juny 2021
CZCzech Republic
PRAGUE Details
3 - 5 Setembre 2021
ESSpain
LA SEU Details
10 - 12 Setembre 2021
FRFrance
PAU Details
21 - 26 Setembre 2021
SKSlovakia
BRATISLAVA Details
1 Gener - 31 Desembre 2022
DEGermany
AUGSBURG Details
1 Gener - 31 Desembre 2023
CNChina
MIYI COUNTY Details
1 Gener - 31 Desembre 2023
GBUnited Kingdom
LEE VALLEY Details
26 Juliol - 11 Agost 2024
FRFrance
PARIS Details