Action Man - anatomically incorrect in almost every respect, with the possible exception of his facial expression whilst at the helm of a kayak.
The first thing you should know is that kayaking and canoeing are essentially the same thing – that is to say, all kayaking is canoeing – but not all canoeing is kayaking. The second thing you should know is that this isn’t as hard to grasp as I’m making it sound.
There are two types of canoeing race – flatwater (or sprint) and slalom. In an Olympic games, the sprints take place on the same stretch of water that the rowers use (although not at the same time), while the slalom is run through 25 gates on a specially constructed white water course.
There are also two types of canoe – the Canadian and the kayak. The Canadian is paddled from a kneeling position with a single-bladed paddle. The kayak is paddled from a seated position with a double-bladed paddle.
Well… simple to understand anyway – simple to watch on TV even. However, I’m reliably informed that ‘simple’ isn’t a word I’ll be using much to describe the actual experience of having a go. This weekend I’m heading to Nottingham to the National Watersports Centre to be put through my canoeing paces by a former Olympian, who is now a coach with the Great Britain team. His first question was “Can you swim?” and his answer when I asked him what I should wear was more or less “Something you don’t mind getting wet.”
The BBC website has an interesting brief history of canoeing if you’re keen to know more about where this sport came from. The essential Olympic facts are:
Flatwater racing became a display sport in the games of 1924, and was included as a full Olympic sport for the first time in Berlin in 1936 for men and London in 1948 for women.
Slalom made its debut in Munich in 1972, but did not appear again until Barcelona in 1992 (where my mentor for this weekend finished 17th – he then finished 9th in Atlanta four years later).
It should be an interesting weekend – BBC Nottingham have threatened to send a radio crew down to laugh at my efforts, and I’m hoping to convince the Nottingham Evening Post that there may be an opportunity to get some exclusive shots of a drowning canoe novice. I shall, of course, report back on Monday.
In the meantime, to keep you amused, check out Statue John’s brilliant Internet find – it’s a tailor made training video for the freestyle urban athlete!
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Posted by John McClure at 8:15 pm