Race Day

Your first race might seem a little intimidating. But remember, everyone has been there at some point and will only be too happy to help and answer questions and point you in the right direction. So just ask no matter how silly your question might seem.

It is more than likely that your first race will be at Stone. We hold three Div 3/4 race weekends and three one day Mini Slaloms out of season. No matter what your age or ability, you will start your racing journey in Div 4. So, 10-year olds-race against 50-year-olds (the 10-year-olds normally win!).

Entry to a Div 4 race is normally made on the day at the race. Most races can also be entered online via the Canoe Slalom UK Website. You will also find all the information about all races in all divisions here. When you arrive, if you haven’t entered online, go to registration and fill in your race card. Hand it in with the fee for the race. It is normally possible to register for the second day at this point if you wish.

Once registered its time to practice. At Div 4 races it tends to be open practice, so arriving early means the course is quiet and you get more time to practice, but don’t overdo it! As you move up the divisions or the races are busier you get allocated a time to practice.

Soon after registration closes the start list will be put up. Find out what time your two runs are. One in the morning and one after lunch. You will need to collect your race bib with the number allocated on the start list. Then it’s a case of relaxing, watching and supporting the other racers, eating and drinking at the appropriate time and finally being on the water about 15min before your start time to gently warm up.

Its race time..

Near the start line will be the pre-starter. They will call you around 1 min before your run to get ready. Look to see where other paddlers line up. They will call again 30 seconds before your start and then give you a 5 second countdown to start.  At the 5 second count start to sprint to the line, your time actually starts as you cross the start line, the count is just a guide.

Now it is down to you getting you lines and gates correctly as practiced. The race is timed and penalties are added. A two-second penalty is given  if a boat or paddler touches one or both poles.

A 50-second penalty is given to any paddler that:

  • Intentionally pushes a gate to allow negotiation.
  • Negotiates a gate in the wrong direction.
  • Fails to negotiate a gate.
  • Negotiates a gate without the head and part of the boat in the gate line simultaneously.

If a gate is missed it can be worth paddling back to get it as this will normally take less than 50 seconds. But if the next gate in the sequence has been negotiated or touched all previous gates are now dead and the 50 second penalty will apply.

You might find yourself being caught up by a faster paddler or catching up a slower paddler. In this event the judge for that section will sound a whistle and call the slower paddlers number. If it is you who is too slow you will need to get out if the way of the faster paddler quickly and not impede their run. If you catch a slower paddler up and feel that your run was effected it is possible to ask to re do your run. You will need to go and see the officials in race control, not the judges or starters on the river bank.

Once through the final gate it’s a sprint to the finish line, paddle all the way and don’t stop until you are well across the line.

The rules state that 2 paddlers stay on the water at the finish for safety, so whilst you get your breath back wait until the next two paddlers come down before you get off. This is important for safety, but can also mean disqualification from the race if you get off early. It is also worth bearing in mind that bad behaviour, bad language, rudeness to officials, deliberately hitting poles in frustration (affecting the next competitor) can all lead to being disqualified.

Between your first run and second it’s important to refuel, rehydrate and relax. It is also a good idea to get some pointers from your coach if they are available.

That all said the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy yourself.

Up Up Up Up

It might seem odd at first but everyone shouts Up, Up, Up at races! Not go, go, go. So what does it mean? The general thinking is: Sit Up, good posture. Head Up, in line with body. Paddle Up, high position creating good A-shape. Paddle Up, faster paddle rate, as encouragement especially when fatigue sets in. So now you know!


In a Div 4 race one in five (or part of) racers will be promoted. So, if you have 11 paddlers in a race, the top three will be promoted to Div 3. If you gain promotion you will be given a promotion certificate by the race organisers. You will then need to send your promotion certificate and proof of British Canoeing membership to the correct Bib officer for the next division and class, with the appropriate form and fee. Get your bib application form here along with details of where to send it. 

Once in Div 3 and above, promotion is based on the number of points gained in a season.

Racing Away

Slalom races are held all over the country. It is entirely up to you as to how many you will attend. For Div 3/4 paddlers you are likely to go to Marple, just south of Manchester and Oughtibridge, near Sheffield. Other popular races are Bala in North Wales, Nene Valley in Northamptonshire or Symonds Yat in Monmouthshire. These races and many others generally require an overnight or two. Many events allow you to camp, caravan or motorhome on site for a nominal fee. But it is worth checking this is possible and facilities will vary. Symonds Yat have no camping on site but you can find lots of sites close by in the Forest of Dean or local hotels and B&B’s.