Paddle Tasmania aims to encourage safe enjoyment of all paddlecraft, including canoes, kayaks and ocean-skis amongst others.
Clubs which are affiliated with Paddle Tasmania are also affiliated to Paddle Australia – Australia’s peak body for most paddle-sports.
Paddle Tasmania Paddle Education is a committee which is not directly linked to any one discipline but provides an education and award scheme and promotes education within the paddling community. Safety is promoted extensively by the Paddle Education committee.
So what is canoeing all about?
Canoe Slalom originated in Europe and is a popular discipline in Tasmania as the sport requires whitewater which is abundant in this state. Slalom courses are typically around 400m long and consists of good whitewater with up to 25 gates suspended from wires across the river. A gate is a pair of poles hanging about 1 metre apart and must be negotiated in either the upstream or down stream direction depending on the colour of the poles. Upstream gates have red and white poles, whereas downstream gates have green and white poles. Each competitor’s time is recorded for the course and 2 second penalties are added to the time for each gate which was hit by the paddler, and 50 seconds added for each gate missed or incorrectly negotiated. Thus the essence of the sport is to negotiate the course of gates in the correct sequence without hitting the poles as fast as possible. This requires a great degree of skill and fitness. The kayaks and canoes which have evolved for canoe slalom are very maneuverable, and are low in profile. This allows the end of the boat to pass under the poles with less chance of striking the pole and incurring a penalty. Tasmania has 4 slalom courses and a strong tradition of slalom canoeing. The Tasmanian Institute of Sport also has a Canoe Slalom program, to see what is happening in that program click here.
Wildwater racing is an exciting competitive discipline where individuals race down a section of whitewater in super sleek, high volume boats designed to cut through waves and stoppers. Typical lengths of wildwater racing courses range from five to ten kilometres of river. A relatively recent development is the “Rapid Sprint” competition, with wildwater race competitors racing down rapids at top speed for 350-800metres. Maneuvering boats designed for speed in whitewater requires exceptional skill. To be fast also requires excellent physical fitness. This facet of the sport is relatively strong in Tasmania, with a range of good race courses across the state and a large number of highly competitive and technically skilled paddlers. Tasmania hosted the International Canoe Federation’s Wildwater World Cup in 2009.
Canoe Polo is a fast exciting team sport which has also developed kayaks specifically designed for the discipline. The kayaks used are around 3 metres long with rounded ends and are referred to as polo BATs (Baths Advanced Trainer). Bumpers bow and stern protect the players and their boats. This sport can be crudely described as being like basketball on water. It involves two teams of five, each aiming for a 1 metre square goal suspended 2 metres above the water at either end of a 25 metre square area. A water polo ball is used and may be thrown by hand, blocked with the paddle and pushed with the paddle blade, but for safety reasons may never be hit with the paddle. Paddles are designed with rounded ends and must meet certain thickness, radius and construction specifications to ensure the safety of participants. Helmets with face guards are required, and PFDs must protect the torso. Canoe Polo helps develop boat control and is a lot of fun for children and adults alike. Canoe Polo rosters run in Launceston (Tamar Canoe Club) and Hobart (Derwent Canoe Club) for around 6 months of each year.
Ocean Racing is a relatively recent but fast growing paddle-sport. Paddlers generally use either specially designed ocean racing skis (similar to surf-life saving skis), multi-sport kayaks (6m long, specialist racing kayaks) or fast sea-kayaks to race on exposed stretches of ocean or estuary, with some races organised specifically as “down-wind” races to exploit opportunities for surfing following chop and swell and the higher speeds this enables. The most famous race is the Molokai Challenge between two islands in Hawaii, with the Rotnest Island race in W.A being an Australian equivalent. This sport has grown quickly in Tasmania with the Derwent Canoe Club hosting fortnightly summer twilight races, the inaugural State Championships held in April 2010, and the Tasmanian Canoe Club also hosting races in the North West through the year.
Sprint Canoeing is probably one of the best known competitive canoeing disciplines in Australia but is only relatively small in Tasmania. Sprint canoeing is all about speed on flat water over distances of 500 and 1000 metres. The craft that have developed are sleek and fast but unstable. Sprint Kayakers (and Wildwater and Ocean Racers) use specially designed ‘wing’ paddles for extra power and efficiency.
Marathon Canoeing is about long distance paddling and although Australia is well represented in this discipline there is no official marathon events held in Tasmania. The nearest would be the Cradle to Coast race held each year in March and the 10km races held in Souther Tasmania through winter. The Murray River is host to probably the most famous Australian marathon event.
River Touring is the most popular form of canoeing in Tasmania and many clubs focus their activities entirely on this enjoyable recreational activity. Many of Tasmania’s rivers provide spectacular scenery and excellent whitewater features which vary from easy Grade 1 and 2 through to advanced Grade 4 and 5 rivers.
Sea Touring has a large number of enthusiasts in Tasmania as there are a large number of sheltered waterways and spectacular coastal scenery, as well as opportunities for wild and challenging coastal touring for more experienced paddlers. Like other facets of the sport, it has become highly specialised using specially built boats.