Competitors race alone against the clock through rapids on a course marked out by poles (called slalom gates). The challenge is to pass through approximately twenty gates suspended above the water, avoiding a touch with any part of the boat, paddle, or body. The competitor must pass through the gates in the correct order and direction. Green and white striped poles must be passed in a downstream direction and red poles in an upstream direction.

The aim is to be Fast and Clean, that is, negotiate the course as quickly as possible without incurring any penalty points, Penalty seconds are added on to the overall time to produce a total score. The course designer’s job is to hang the gates in a sequence which forces the competitor to work out best possible route choices.

Canoe Slalom


Within Canoe Slalom there are four categories – Men’s and Women’s Kayak (MK1 and WK1) and Canoe Singles (Men’s & Women’s C1) and Canadian Doubles (C2).

There are a number of slalom training facilities at clubs in Ireland, including Wild Water Kayak Club, Sluice, Clonmel, and several other sites around the country.

The National Slalom Committee organise events for beginners and advanced paddlers. The domestic slalom racing season goes from March-May and the September and October. The International season peaks in the Summer with the World Cup Series and World Championships being held every year.

Alterations are often made to natural rivers to create more interesting slalom courses. Where natural rivers do not provide enough power, artificial courses can be made, which pump water through a man-made river channel. Examples include Holme Pierpoint in Nottingham and the Olympic courses in London and Tokyo.

Type of Boat

A slalom boat is specialized for their role, being extremely light and manoeuvrable. A plastic version, call the Fox, allows novices to take the challenge. Top level racing boats are composite, with a very small stern to allow for quick, dynamic turns to navigate a slalom course.