It all started when...
Sprint racing is probably best known as a Olympic event, since it has been a part of the Olympic games since 1936. However, there is a established community of paddlers that regularly paddle Olympic Sprint boats year round regardless of Olympic cycles. These narrow tippy boats are the Ferraris of kayaking. And, like a Ferrari, they require a flat course to open up fully. They will also take the most dedication to master. As hard as they are to tame, their seductive sleek lines and intimate fit make for arguably the most rewarding experience out there.
Sprint Racing is all about speed on the flat water. It takes place on a straight course divided in lanes. The distances recognized by the ICF rules for international races are over distances of 200 meters, 500 meters and 1000 meters in K1 - single, K2 - double and K4 - four, for men and women. Each boat has its own designated lane, except for races over more than 1000 m, where there also may be turning points. Men race in canoes and in kayaks, women in kayaks except in Canada and the United States where women's canoe is an event raced at both Canada Games and National Championships. For each race a number of heats, semi-finals and a final may be necessary, depending on the number of competitors.
The craft that have developed are sleek and fast but unstable. The official boats recognized by the ICF as 'International Boats' are the following: K1, K2, K4, C1, C2 and C4, where the number indicates the number of paddlers, “K” stands for kayak and “C” for canoe. The ICF rules for these boats define, among others, the maximum length, the minimum weight and the shape of the boats. For example, by ICF rules, a K1 is at most 520 cm long, and weighs at least 8 kg for marathons or 12 kg for sprints. In 2000, after the Olympic Games in Sydney, the ICF withdrew width restrictions on all boats, spurring a fury of innovations in boat designs.
Sprint kayakers use specially designed allowing paddles for extra power and efficiency. For kayaks so-called wing paddles are generally used, the blades of which are shaped to resemble a wing. These paddles are more efficient than traditional paddles, presumably because they create extra "lift" in the direction the kayak moves. The wing blade has undergone many evolutions in the past two decades, evolving from a flatter blade to one with a more pronounced curve to better catch the water. For racing canoes, the blade will typically be short and broad, with a 'power face' on one side that is either flat or scalloped out. The shaft will typically be longer than a tripping canoe paddle, because the kneeling position puts the paddler higher above the surface of the water.
The latest technology in boat architecture combined with ideal technique, Sprint Kayaking provides an indication of the true athlete showcasing the pinnacle of strength, speed and endurance on water.
Sprint paddlers also participate in Marathon Racing, which requires a combination of strength endurance and fitness plus tactical and technical skills.