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Canoeing - Competitive

Version control: Original 1986 / Updated 1999 / Updated 2003 / Updated 2015




You must refer to the Requirements for All Sport and Physical Activity (PDF  466KB) to understand your overall compliance responsibilities.

Many schools engage in competitive canoeing associated training sessions as part of their sport program. Participation by students in the forms of competitive canoeing should be commensurate with their skills and abilities. The general forms of competitive canoeing are:

  • Flatwater (sprint, marathon, ocean).
  • Slalom and wildwater.
  • Canoe polo.
  • Dragonboats and outrigger canoes.

Parents must be informed of full details of the location, instruction and supervision to be provided and activities to be undertaken when seeking their written permission.

Students are to be instructed to use adequate sun protection, e.g. an SPF50+, broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen reapplied regularly and a hat where appropriate.

The information, procedures and requirements described in the Recreational Canoeing section should be read in conjunction with these guidelines.

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Common competitive canoeing requirements

The following requirements are common to all forms of competitive canoeing. All students must:

  • Wear type 2 or 3 PFDs, an approved helmet and suitable footwear.
  • Demonstrate that they can swim 50m wearing a type 2 or 3 PFD.
  • Demonstrate self rescue techniques.
  • Successfully undergo a capsize routine.
  • Have successfully participated in an appropriate theory session(s) on canoeing and general water safety prior to practical participation on the water.

A teacher must be present who has first aid and aquatic rescue qualifications.

A direct means of communication back to a base must be available. This could be a mobile phone or two-way radio with prior site testing required, to avoid potential signal blackout spots.

The teacher in charge must have prepared an emergency plan for the activity site. Students and staff must be briefed in regard to safety issues. The teacher in charge should carry a card detailing procedures to follow in emergencies and contact numbers. All participants must know how to put these procedures into practice.

The teacher in charge should produce a documented risk assessment of the activity prior to the activity being approved by the principal. This assessment will identify major risks and hazards and make judgements as to the likely occurrence of difficulties, their severity and consequences. It will indicate any actions that are being taken to minimise or reduce risks and hazards.

Flat Water Canoeing

Flatwater Kayaking encompasses the competitive sports of sprint kayaking, marathon kayaking and ocean racing.

Suitable craft are K1s, TK1s, sit on top craft, surf skis and open cockpit estuary kayaks.

All kayaks are designed for racing and can be classed in a NSW Canoeing race. They must have a rudder, an open cockpit allowing easy entry and exit in the event of capsize and also have flotation in the front and rear of the craft to prevent sinking.

The teacher or instructor must have flatwater coaching or paddling experience in the craft being used. Ideally, the teacher or instructor should possess a Level 0 or Level 1 coach accreditation or be recognised as a NSW Canoeing Inc. Paddle Action Program Leader.

A competitor may participate without a PFD (as per Waterways regulations when paddling within 30m of the shore) when a student has consistent paddling experience in excess of one year, holds an appropriate aquatic rescue qualification, and is under supervision of a Level 2 coach.

Water movement should be less than four (4) knots with minimal exposure to wind. Tidal water venues should not have any distinguishable flow. Water in which canoeing is to take place should be at least (1) one metre in depth and contain no surface weed.

Entry and exit must be from a sand or mud beach or a pontoon.

Coaching should be conducted at a fixed site with paddlers being no more than 30m metres from the shore, and always in the line of sight of the teacher/instructor and no more than 500m from the entry and exit point. A suitably equipped safety boat or kayak must be designated for all coaching sessions and competition events.

Dragon Boats and Outrigger Canoes

Dragonboats seat 22 students and outrigger canoes 6 students. Competition is conducted on flatwater not more than 50m from shore.

Students must be accompanied by a teacher or instructor in the craft who has recognised experience in the particular craft. Ideally, they would be recognised as a NSW Canoeing Paddle Action Program Leader. Dragonboats and canoes must be accompanied by a suitably equipped motorised rescue craft with an experienced and suitably qualified and licenced operator. The guidelines for flatwater canoeing must be followed.

Canoe Polo

The teacher or instructor must be a Level 1 coach or Basic Skills Instructor.

Swimming pools with a minimum depth of 1.5m are commonly used. Alternatively, a site designated as flatwater with a minimum depth of 1.5m and containing no obstructions (such as weed snags or rocks) may be used. For flatwater locations, the teacher or instructor must have a readily available craft to right capsized canoes.

An open flatwater site must be inspected by a NSW Canoeing Inc. official prior to use for canoe polo and listed as an official training or competition site.

Slalom and Wildwater

The teacher or instructor must be either a Level 1 coach or Whitewater Instructor.

All participants must use craft that are suitable for the activity.

Participants must have had appropriate flatwater training prior to undertaking whitewater coaching. They must have successfully undertaken at least four (4) hours of documented instruction on flatwater prior to participation on moving water.

The venue should be a fixed site on one set of rapids with a pool of water located at the end of the rapid. The rapids used must be visible at all times by the teacher or instructor.

There must be no more than two students on a rapid at any one time. A double buddy system applies. Students on the water will have a buddy while paddling down the rapid. In addition, each student on the water will have a buddy on the river bank. For each student on the water, a student must be at a designated rescue station at the rapid with throw ropes.

All students must be instructed in the use of throw ropes and river hydrology before paddling on rapids.

School slalom canoeing must not take place if the water flow is graded in excess of a grade 3.

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