Both the canoe and kayak were developed by Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Honouring this past, today’s racing canoe is often called the “Canadian.” Men’s canoe/kayak sprint racing was included in the 1936 Olympic Games, with women’s events 12 years later. The sport made its first Pan American Games appearance in 1967 in Winnipeg.
The racing kayaks are built for one (K-1), two (K-2) and four (K-4) competitors and must meet international standards governing length and minimum weight. In tandems (K-2) and fours (K-4), the “stroke” or first paddler, controls the rudder bar. As with the kayak, canoe racing takes place in three boats: the C-1, C-2 and C-4. Although the C-4 is not an Olympic event, it is a popular feature at the World Championships. The paddler is positioned on one knee centred in the boat and stroking is always on the same side as the bent knee. In C-2 and C-4, the back paddler is responsible for the steering.