How It Began
Canoes were developed over the course of thousands of years by the native peoples of North America. The word 'canoe' originiated from the word 'kenu' - meaning dugout. These seagoing boats were used by the Carib Indians of the Caribbean islands, and were made of large tree trunks which were shaped and hollowed, and were strong enough to travel between the islands.
North American Indians are responsible for creating the more well-known version of the canoe - a frame of wooden ribs covered with the lightweight bark of birch trees, and sometimes elm or cedar trees. These boats, which have remained virtually unchanged in design for thousands of years, proved to be ideal for travelling the numerous streams, rivers and lakes of North America.
Evolution Of Canoeing
As the commerce of early North America grew, so did the need for canoes. The fur trade became so large, in fact, that the French set up the world's first known canoe factory at Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, around the year 1750. Many of the canoes that fur traders used were capable of carrying a crew of up to 12 people and a cargo weighing around 2400 kilograms.
The origin of canoeing as a recreation and sport is often attributed to Scottish explorer John MacGregor (1825–1892), who was introduced to canoes and kayaks on a camping trip in Canada and the US in 1858. On his return to the United Kingdom, he constructed his own canoes and used them on waterways in various parts of Britain, Europe and the Middle East. He wrote a popular book about his experiences; "A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe" and founded the Royal Canoe Club in 1866. The first canoeing competition, the Paddling Challenge Cup, was held by the club in 1874. In 1924, canoeing associations from Austria, Germany, Denmark and Sweden founded the Internationalen Representation for Kanusport (IRK), later to become the International Canoe Federation. Canoeing became an Olympic sport in Berlin in 1936.
"The primal nature of the practice of Canoeing and the very image of this basic watercraft, serves as a unifying symbol among cultures and nations whose peoples share a common experience over time as well as space." - ICF
Canoeing In The Olympics
In the Olympics, the sport takes two forms, the oldest is the power-packed Canoe Sprint and the other is the visually spectacular Canoe Slalom which has been a permanent part of the Olympic programme since 1992 (it first appeared in the 1972 Munich Games, had a short break and was permanently re introduced twenty years later).
More recently, on 13 August 2009, it was announced by the International Canoe Federation that the men's 500m events would be replaced at the 2012 Summer Olympics by 200m events, one of them being K1 200m for women. For the first time, women will have two individual events in sprint canoeing. Because of the event changes, the finals will now be spread over a three day period instead of the two-day finals which had been in effect since the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Disciplines Of Canoeing
A canoeist can transport significantly heavier and bulkier loads than a backpacker or kayaker, and can therefore travel farther and more easily under similar conditions. Portaging by foot is sometimes necessary to pass between water bodies or around hazardous obstacles such as rapids or waterfalls, but most of the time canoe campers travel on water. Because they usually don't continuously carry their gear on their backs, canoe campers can bring more food and gear and undertake longer trips. Compared to backpacking, canoeing produces less noise, with no crunching boots and bouncing packs, and a lower level of exertion. Maneuverability on the water and the easy shift to portaging allow canoe campers to go places that cannot be accessed conveniently by other means of transportation
Canoe slalom is one of the most spectacular watersports, demanding skill, stamina and courage. The aim is to run a rapid river course marked by "gates" fast, and without touching. A "gate" is two poles, suspended over the water. Green and white gates are negotiated in a downstream direction, red and white gates upstream. The gates are placed so that you must make tricky cross-current moves and use the eddies and waves. You have to pass through all the gates in number order, and in the right direction - red ones upstream, green ones downstream. If you touch a pole with anything - paddle, boat, buoyancy aid, helmet or any part of your body - a 2 second penalty is added to your time. If you miss a gate out, or go through in the wrong direction or upside down, the penalty is 50 seconds - a wipeout in serious competition! The aim is fast and clean. Each competitor takes two runs, and the best run of the two counts.
Wild Water Racing
Wildwater is one of the most physically demanding of the ICF’s Canoe Disciplines. In the Classic Wildwater races, athletes race down a course of four to five miles of class three to four whitewater, yet it also requires strategic insight to balance raw power and speed with considered execution and perfect timing. In other words, athletes need to be strong and fast yet calm and calculating. An athlete’s success depends on their ability to pass over waves, holes and rocks of a natural riverbed while remaining “zen-like”.
The oldest discipline of ICF canoeing, sometimes referred to as "Flatwater Racing", races are typically held for single, double and four-person sprint canoes and kayaks. Canoe sprint takes place on a straight course divided in lanes, on calm water. The distances recognised by the ICF for international races are 200 m, 500 m, and 1000 m. Each boat has its own designated lane, except for races over more than 1000 m, where there also may be turning points. ICF recognised races over 1000m include the 5000m and 10000m events. Above 10 km is considered marathon distance. 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.