• A canoe is a light, narrow boat.

  • It is open. 

  • A kayak is a light, narrow boat.  

  • It has a closed top.

  • They are moved using different kinds of paddles. 

A caonoeist uses an oar with a single blade ©Getty Images

A caonoeist uses an oar with a single blade ©Getty Images

Canoes and kayaks are small boats that are used in competitions and also for recreation. 

Both men and women compete in canoeing and kayaking events.

Competitors in canoeing events kneel in their open-topped canoes.

They use a paddle with a single blade. They grip the top of the paddle by its handle.

They steer their canoe by making stokes with their paddle on the left and the right hand side of the canoe.  

 

A kayaker in a whitewater competition ©iStock

A kayaker in a whitewater competition ©iStock

Competitors in kayaking events sit in their closed-topped kayaks.

They use a paddle with a blade at each end. They grip the middle of the paddle.

The kayak has a small rudder and the competitors use their feet to move the rudder and so steer the kayak.

Some canoeing and kayaking events are for just one competitor in a boat. They are called singles events. Other events are for boats with two competitors. They are called doubles events. Team events are four four athletes.

Canoe and kayak events at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020

Sprint Events

Some canoeing/kayaking events are held on a river where the water is 'flat'. These are called 'sprint' events. Sprint events will be held for single (one person in the kayak) and doubles kayak (two people in the boat) races in 2020.

Single kayak men will race in events over 200 metres, 1000 metres, while women single races are over distances of 200 metres and 500 metres.

This single athletes paddles and steers the canoe with a single oar with a paddle at each end during a sprint race. ©iiStock

This single athletes paddles and steers the canoe with a single oar with a paddle at each end during a sprint race. ©iiStock

Double kayak events are over 100 metres for men and over 500 metres for women.

Teams of four men or four women will race in kayaks over a distance of 500 metres.

Canoe sprint and doubles races for men and women will be over distances of 200, 500 and 1000 metres.

Doubles kayak slalom event. The athletes must pass through a series of gates. ©iStock

Doubles kayak slalom event. The athletes must pass through a series of gates. ©iStock

Slalom Events

Other events called slalom events are held on a course of rushing water and are called 'whitewater' events. In slalom events, there are poles set through the course of rushing water, and they are called gates. Competitors must zig zag around the gates through the course. The competitor with the fastest time wins.

History of canoeing and kayaking

Kayaks and canoes are also used for peaceful recreation ©iStock

Kayaks and canoes are also used for peaceful recreation ©iStock

Thousands of years ago the first canoes and kayaks were used as transport by hunters of caribou, fish, birds, and sea mammals such as seal, sea otter, walrus, and whale. Canoes and kayaks were used on rivers, lakes and in the sea.

Read about canoe/kayak events at the Olympic Games: