Canoe slalom is one of the most spectacular water sports, demanding technical skill, stamina, strength and courage. The aim is to run a marked river course fast and without touching the gates.
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 gates must be passed through upstream, and 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, 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.
As a beginner to the sport you start in Division 4. At this level it's not too hard - a rush of water from a weir, or moving water in a stream. You work your way up the Divisions by winning points at each race you compete in, with a set target to reach to gain promotion to the next Division. There are five Divisions. Races in Division 1 and the Premier Division are very challenging.
The gates are positioned to test your skill in using, and coping with, the water. This is perfect training for running big whitewater rivers.
The gates are set to test your ability to break out of and into eddies, ferry glide and surf waves to reach them before the river pushes you past. It takes skill, as well as speed. You must pick, and paddle, a line that turns the current to your advantage. You must learn to read the water.
There are five different classes of event: Men's and Women's Kayak, Men's and Women's Canadian Singles and Canadian Doubles.