Sprint and Marathon

Competition / Sprint


In some ways, sprint and marathon paddling are very similar. They're both flat-water disciplines that use very narrow and tippy, but very fast, boats, racing over a course against the clock. Ultimately, they're both about speed and fitness - and they're a fantastic way to get out on the water and get some exercise.

The difference is down to range. Sprint races run over a short course, from 200m to 10,000m. Marathon races tend to run over a longer course and often involve portages, which are sections where you have to carry your boat around locks, weirs or sluices.
What’s a sprint racing competition like?

Sprint racing's an Olympic sport, running events over 200, 500, 1000 and 10,000m. The locations are race courses marked out on flat water, like in Cardiff bay.

What’s a marathon competition like?

Marathons normally run over longer courses than sprint races, but there's no fixed length. They can range from four miles for beginners in regional races all the way up to the world's most famous canoe race, the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster race in England. One of the most famous Welsh races is the Conwy Ascent, where competitors paddle upstream on the river Conwy in North Wales, helped by the currents that flow upriver during a high tide.

How do I get started?

The best way is to find your local racing club. They often have more stable boats to help you work on your balance before you move on to tippier race boats. You can use our club finder to search for a club near you - just tick the box for sprint or marathon to narrow the results to clubs with a racing section.

What are the opportunities in Wales?

Most competitions in Wales are locally-run races organised by individual clubs. They tend to be friendly, informal events which are ideal for getting a flavour of competitions.

We also run a talent pathway programme for up-and-coming young sprint athletes. Athletes who have been selected for this programme receive extra coaching through our team of Talent Pathway Officers and coaches at regional Talent Pathway sessions.

What do I need?

Marathon paddling has different boats for different classes - all very long and narrow, and built from fibreglass. K1 and K2 are one and two-seater kayaks respectively, where racers sit and use twin-bladed paddlers. C1 and C2 are one and two-person canoes, with the paddlers kneeling up in a very aggressive but unstable race position. Sprint paddling also has classes for K4, a four-person kayak, and more rarely C4, a four-person canoe. Children can also paddle 'Lightning' boats, a more stable and predictable single kayak.
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