Intro to Slalom








Watching Whitewater Slalom Racing

Whitewater slalom racing is colorful, action-packed outdoor sport that demands just under two minutes of precise canoe or kayak paddling on a constantly changing playing field, a whitewater river. Twenty slalom gates hang across a natural or artificial whitewater river to test the competitor's skills, physical abilities, luck and finesse. On every whitewater slalom course, there is a single invisible fastest line down the whitewater rapids to the finish line.


The slalom athlete must pass through 18 to 20 gates in numerical order through a series of downstream gates and upstream gates; green and white striped poles are downstream, and red and white striped poles are upstream.  Six upstream gates are typically placed in the slower moving currents behind rocks, other river features or along the shore. Whitewater racers are accessed a 2 second penalty for touching gates with their body, boat, or paddle.  The racers entire head must cross between each gate, the imaginary gate line between each set of poles. Gates negotiated in the wrong direction including upside down and missed gates incur a 50 second penalty.


Athletes get two timed race runs down the whitewater slalom course. The racer's raw time plus any penalties are added together, and the two race runs are combined for the overall results.


4 Whitewater Slalom Olympic classes


K1W Women's Kayak
C1 Men's Single Canoe
K1 Men's Kayak
C2 Men's Double Canoe


At first glance, it may be tough to distinguish the difference between the decked racing canoes and the kayaks. Kayakers sit in their boats and use a double bladed kayak paddle, while canoeists kneel in the boat and use a single bladed canoe paddle.


Whitewater Slalom Training and Racing


Whitewater Slalom athletes train year-round, primarily working-out in their boats for strength, conditioning, whitewater skill development and technical focus. Major international slalom competitions include multiple (five to seven) World Cup events held each year since 1988, and the World Championships held in odd numbered years since1949.  After 2001, the World Championships are held in every non-Olympic year.  Whitewater Slalom is part of the Olympic Summer Games in 1972, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.


Athens 2004 Whitewater Slalom Animation - What is Slalom Racing?

USA World Medalists & National Champions

eSchool for more on canoeing & kayaking

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Last updated: January 18, 2006 HOME