Sprint Kayaking is a type of kayaking done on flat water using narrower and lighter boats than sea kayaking or whitewater kayaking. Being able to balance on these kayaks takes practice since they are built for speed rather than for stability. It is performed with one person (K1) or a team of two (K2) or a team of four (K4).
The paddler sits down with the legs stretched towards the front, and the feet upon a footrest. A stick in the middle of the footrest allows the paddler to steer the kayak by foot. The paddle used has two blades, one at each end of the shaft.
Flatwater racing boats tend to be lighter, narrower and longer than recreational boats. They are to conform to the International Canoe Federation rules when used in competition.
The kayak used for sprint racing is longer and narrower than the recreational or sea kayak. The beam (width of a kayak) is between 39cm to 51cm (15″ – 20″) and the length is at maximum 520cm (17′). Beginners are placed in kayaks with a 51cm wide beam that are more stable, whereas the competitive athletes sit in kayaks as narrow as 39 cm. Within the kayak is a foot rest with a steering stick that controls the rudder.
To have an idea how they compare to the other kayaks, the beams are as follows:
Paddles used in competition are different than paddles used for recreation. The materials used are lighter and the shape is built to improve stroke efficiency.
For kayaking, the paddles are light and strong, being made from carbon. The blades tend to have more of a “scoop” shape to catch the water harder. The length of the paddle should be from toe to an arm reached upwards with the fingers curled over the blade. When holding the shaft, the elbows should be at a 90 degree angle.
For the most suitable paddle for yourself, ask your coach.