Wild Water Racing

Competition / Wild Water Racing


Wild Water Racing is simple concept. You start at the top of a river or section of rapids and race against the clock to the bottom. The fastest paddler wins.

What sounds so simple, though, needs a subtle blend of line choice, boat-handling skills, tactics and planning and – of course – fitness and power. What might be a straightforward section of river in a general-purpose plastic boat becomes a lot more challenging in a fast, twitchy fibreglass race boat.
What’s a competition like?

Races run on various grades of water, from regional races on grade 1-2, all the way up to international races on grade 4. Paddlers start off at intervals for individually-timed runs, aiming to pick up the pace through line-choice in the rapids and powerful paddling in the pools between.

You can enter different classes, depending on the type of boat you’re paddling. The main classes are single kayak (K1), single canoe (C1) and two-person canoe (C2), with junior, senior, masters and open classes.

How do I get started?

It’s as simple as finding an event and entering. You can enter the open class in any boat you like, from a playboat to a thoroughbred racer. A lot of people start by using plastic Wavehopper boats, which are a slightly more stable and durable alternative to lightweight race boats. If you want some help getting started, find a club near you that is actively involved in racing. Just use our Club Finder and tick the box for Wild Water Racing to narrow down your search.

What are the opportunities in Wales?

There are both Division A and Division B races in Wales as part of the national Wild Water Racing series, including the rivers Dee, Tryweryn, Taff and Usk. If you catch the bug and want to start shaving down your course times, the best way to get fitter and faster is to join a club which is actively involved in racing.

What do I need?

You can enter the open class in any boat you’re happy to paddle the race course in, but you’ll want to pick up some more specialist equipment as you start to get faster.

Often, paddlers use a boat called a Wavehopper to get to grips with racing. It’s made to be a bit more durable and stable than most race boats, but it’s still fast and manoeuvrable enough to get to grips with racing technique.

Soon, though, you’ll be wanting to move on to a composite boat, which is lighter and nimbler, and so faster. The boats are generally 4.5-5m long, and have a winged profile behind the cockpit to give them stability. Racers use scooped ‘wing’ paddles, which are less versatile than common flat-bladed paddles, but reward the right technique by improving stroke efficiency.
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