The International Canoe Federation is excited to announce it has joined the International Olympic Committee as a partner of the UN Environment’s ‘Clean Seas’ campaign.

The campaigns aim to raise awareness around the problem of marine plastic, and affect real change that will help turn the tide on this form of pollution. The campaign aims to contribute to cleaning up the waterways that are so important to canoe paddlers all over the world.

The ICF will work alongside the IOC and the United Nations to draw attention to the damage humans are doing to the planet’s rivers, streams, lakes and oceans, especially through the use of plastics.

Thousands of ICF athletes paddle millions of kilometres every year, and are in a unique position to act as ‘Guardians of the Waterways’. The ICF and the IOC are thrilled to announce two-time Olympian Mike Dawson has agreed to take on a role as an ambassador for the ‘Clean Seas’ campaign.

New Zealand’s Dawson has built a reputation as one of the most intrepid paddlers on the planet, regularly visiting waterways all over the world. He has paddled on every continent, and is planning a major trip to Africa later this year.

He is excited to be able to combine his passion for paddling with a program to raise environmental awareness.

“I absolutely love paddling and the opportunities it has provided me,” Dawson said.

“But it has also given me an opportunity to see first hand how we are trashing our environment. There are few scenes more heartbreaking than to be ripping down a rarely traversed river, and seeing plastic bottles and other junk floating by.

“If we can raise awareness and help educate people through ‘Clean Seas’, it will maybe give our environment a second chance.”

“It’s great to have this support – we need more and more people paddling against plastic pollution, and the backing of the sports and outdoor community is crucial in helping us get the message out,” the head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, said.


The ICF trialled a new sustainability project earlier this year at a canoe slalom World Cup in Augsburg, Germany. The program encouraged athletes and spectators to recycle, avoid the use of single-use water bottles, and to help keep the pristine waterway clean.

The plan is to expand the project across the dozens of events every year across the 11 disciplines within the ICF family. This will include a good practices toolkit focusing on recycling and the reduction of plastic used during competition.

“Sport and sustainability is about collaboration, so we are thrilled that the ICF has joined Clean Seas with us so that we can unite sport to beat pollution and make an active contribution to society and the environment,” Julie Duffus, Olympic Movement Sustainability Manager at the IOC, said.

Specific targets for plastic reduction will become part of future host city agreements, and to show leadership on this issue, ICF headquarters will also set ambitious targets for cutting out the use of plastic around the office.

The ICF will not just focus on the elite athletes and the top events. The wider recreational paddling community, numbering in the hundreds of thousands around the globe, will also be encouraged to do their bit.

“Augsburg was a tremendous success, and was embraced by all our athletes and officials,” ICF Marketing Manager and Sustainability Co-ordinator, Catherine Wieser, said.

“What was obvious is that our athletes feel very passionate about the water they paddle on, and they want to do whatever they can to help keep these waterways clean.”

“Almost every day of the year, at points all around the globe, they are out on the water doing what they love. Sadly, hardly a day goes by that they don’t see pollution. That’s why athletes like Mike Dawson are so keen to lead the charge to make a difference.”

“With people like Mike leading the charge, we are confident paddlers all around the world will see they can make a difference.”

Dawson will head to Rio next month to compete in the 2018 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, and will then head to Africa to attempt to conquer the incredible Kwanza River, Africa’s fourth largest river.

There will be dangers both on and off the water, with fierce rapids, gun-toting illegal diamond miners and, of course, unpredictable wildlife. Dawson, an exceptional photographer and cameraman, will document his journey for the ICF, the IOC, and the UN’s ‘Clean Seas’ campaign.

Stay tuned for more information about Dawson’s daily vlogs from the Kwanza, and make sure you check out the ‘Clean Seas’ website.

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