Racing Rules





Revised May 2000*




by the





Open Canoe Slalom Committee



Bob & Jill Stecker, Co-Chair

Barry Butterfield,  Northern New York           Keech LeClair,  Atlantic

Pat Cleary,  New England                        Carolyn Peterson,  Red River

Harold Deal,  At Large                                     David Simpson,  Dixie          

Carol Figdore,  Middle States                     Craig Smerda,  Midwest

Dan House,  At Large                              Alan Whittern,  Rocky Mountain

John Kazimierczyk,  At Large                   










* Note: These rules update the Whitewater Open Canoe (WWOC) Slalom Rules of January 1, 1994.  The name “Open Canoe Slalom” used herein replaces  “WWOC.”  The WWOC was abolished in November 1999 when the Slalom and Downriver sub-components of the WWOC were divided into two separate ACA National Activities.  Other changes herein are limited to format alterations to improve readability.




Gray hilite = topics under consideration

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                       page


I. Object………………………………………………………..        3

II. Sanctions……………………………………………………        3

III. Eligibility…………………………………………………..       3

IV. Specifications of Canoes…………………………………..      3

         REC and RAC defined………………………………..      3

         Canoe width/length ratios (1)…………………………    3

Weight (2)…………………………………………….       3

Depth (3)………………………………………………       4

Gunwales, decks, floatation (4-10)……………………    4

REC and RAC length requirements (13)………………   4

Commercial publicity (15)…………………………….    4

V. Measuring……………………………………………………       4

VI. Classes of Competition……………………………………..     5

         Awards …………………………………………………       5

Number of entries per class…………………………….    5

Age classes defined (1)…………………………………     5

Slalom classes defined (2)……………………………..     5

Combined (slalom-downriver) classes (3)……………..   6

Racing in both RAC and REC classes (4)……………..   6

Forming new classes (5-6)……………………………..    6

VII. Course and Schedule Requirements……………………….    6

         Course difficulty (1)…………………………………….    6

         Days allocated (2)………………………………………     6

VIII. Organization of Competition……………………………… 6

         Selecting race officials………………………………….    6

         Race notifications……………………………………….    7

IX. Duties of Officials…………………………………………..     7

X. Invitations……………………………………………………      8

XI. Instructions for Competitors………………………………..   9

XII. Disqualifications……………………………………………     9

XIII. Means of Propulsion………………………………………    9

XIV. Starts………………………………………………………       9

XV. Overtaking………………………………………………….      10

XVI. Finish ……………………………………………………..       10

XVII. Safety……………………………………………………..      10

XVIII. Slalom Competition……………………………………..    10

         Bib numbers (1)…………………………………………     10

         Race course layout (2)………………………………….    10

         Gate specifications (3)…………………………………     11

         Negotiation of gates (4)………………………………..    11

         Penalties (5)……………………………………………      12

         Capsize (6) …………………………………………….      12

         Interference, Dead heats (8-9)…………………………   13

XIX. Determining the Results………………………………….     13

         Slalom Race scoring (1)……………………………….     13

         Combined Race scoring (2)……………………………     13

XX. Protests…………………………………………………….       13

XXI. Amendments……………………………………………...      14


Article I: OBJECT

1. The object shall be to promote and regulate Whitewater Open Canoe Slalom Racing. Promotion and regulation shall include, but not be limited to, producing quality competition to increase skills and awareness of paddlers and spectators, encouraging new competitors and new canoeists in general, providing safe and fair racing conditions and quality recreational experiences for all involved.

2. It shall also be to coordinate whitewater open canoe racing rules with the existing National Marathon, Slalom, and Downriver Rules.



1. The annual National Whitewater Open Canoe Championship and all Regional or Divisional Championships shall be sanctioned by the Open Canoe Slalom Committee of the American Canoe Association, and shall abide by the following rules.

2. Non-championship or local races should be run in general compliance with the non-safety aspects of these rules, though some reasonable adaptations to suit local conditions may be made at the discretion of the Divisional Open Canoe Slalom chairman. Safety Standards should be strictly followed.

3. Application for race sanctioning shall be made to a Divisional Open Canoe Slalom Chairman, or to the National Open Canoe Slalom Chairman.



1. Whitewater open canoe competition sanctioned by the ACA shall be open to amateur canoeists as prescribed by current ACA by-laws and policies.

2. Only amateur canoeists who are members in good standing of the ACA may compete in championship competitions. To be National Champion, the competitor must be a citizen of the USA or have been a bona fide resident of the USA for two years. To be divisional and/or regional champion, the competitor must be a member of that ACA Division or region.



A whitewater open canoe is a traditional open Canadian or Indian canoe which is a boat with ends pointed and higher than the middle, symmetrical side-to-side, and propelled with single bladed paddles.

There will be two categories of canoes. They shall be known as Recreational (REC) and Racing (RAC). Canoes of the Racing classifications are built and used with racing as the primary intent, whereas Recreational canoes are built and used primarily for recreation. The Recreational classes are included so that a large number of whitewater paddlers can race without investment in special equipment. It must be emphasized that National Championship race classes exist for both. A Recreational canoe may be used as a Racing canoe, except when specifically prohibited by some other racing rule. The REC Classes are intended to include canoes sold for general recreational use. In general, ABS, polyethylene, aluminum and wood/canvas canoes will qualify for inclusion (assuming they meet all weight and dimension requirements) while fiberglass/kevlar/composite and woodstrip canoes will not. A canoe MUST be or have been a commercially available, general production model to qualify for REC Classes. In questionable cases, the Race Chairman shall decide with reference to the intent of this rule.

1. Canoe width shall be a certain percentage of the overall length of the hull, at a point within one foot of the center of the hull length, measured at the 4 inch waterline, not including a keel. The minimum width for a RAC canoe is 14.375 percent of the length. The minimum width for a REC boat is 16% of length.

2. For safety and economy, canoes shall meet minimum weight requirements. This weight includes all permanent fixtures and all flotation used for the race, but does not include paddles, containers, unattached portage yokes or other removable equipment. Legal fixtures or flotation may be added to bring a canoe up to the required weight.

RAC Category : no minimum weight requirement

REC Category: 6 pounds plus 3 pounds per foot of length

3. Depth shall not exceed 16 inches at a point within one foot of the center hull length, measured vertically from the highest point to the outside bottom, not including a keel. The gunwale shall form a smooth curve or series of compound curves.

4. Width of the gunwale and tumblehome shall not exceed 3.5 inches, measured horizontally from the extreme outside of the hull or outwale to the inside of the inwale.

5. Width of the outwale shall not exceed 1.5 inches measured horizontally from the adjacent hull to the outside of the outwale. Width of the inwale shall not exceed 1.5 inches measured horizontally from the adjacent hull to the inside of the inwale except where it merges into or is under possible decks.

6. Length of deck shall not exceed 36 inches, measured parallel to the centerline, from the extreme end of the hull to the extreme end of the deck. No part or attachment of the deck may extend more than one inch above the canoe's gunwale.

7. There shall be no devices to remove water other than bailing scoops or sponges.

8. There shall be no devices to assist portaging other than carrying yokes, pads, tumplines, and bow and stern lines.

9. Flotation is used to protect the paddler, the equipment, safety personnel and bystanders who may offer assistance, yet should not be so excessive that the open canoeing tradition is compromised.

There must be enough permanent flotation (air bags excluded) to float the canoe horizontally if the canoe is full of water. Full boat-width flotation shall be limited to the volume under possible decks. Additional flotation shall not be higher than the gunwales, and shall be no more than six inches from the centerline of the canoe. Side flotation may be installed under possible inwales (maximum 1.5" thickness). Flotation shall not be arranged to impede the flow of water toward the bottom of the canoe. When airbags extend beyond possible decks, they must be deflated to three inches below the gunwales where they extend beyond possible decks.

10. The canoe shall not be covered by any device or material other than normal seats, thwarts, decks and flotation as limited above.

11. There shall be no attachment to the exterior of the hull between the waterline and the gunwale other than safety lines or grab loops.

12. Safety lines of at least 1/4" in diameter and 6 feet of length, or a six inch diameter grab loop of at least 1/4" line shall be attached to each end of the canoe.

13. Length measured along the centerline of the hull only, as follows:

Class REC Category                  RAC Category

OC-1   any length

OC-1   Short under 15 feet              at least 4 meters (13ft., 1.5in.)

OC-1   Medium at least 15 feet                  at least 15 feet

OC-2   any length                        at least 15 feet

14. It is not permissible to make the boat meet the required dimensions by the addition of taped-on extensions or by similar means. The boat should be designed to and remain within, the required dimensions. To be permissible, corrections must be of a permanent nature except where applied to repair damage during an event, and must in no case constitute a potential safety hazard.

15. During championship competitions and during training, it is forbidden to indulge in commercial publicity. Boats, accessories, and clothing shall carry the same trademark as the corresponding articles on sale to the public except for individual names that are not commercial in nature. Any boat or accessory not complying with these requirements shall not be accepted for boat measurement to start a competition.

                                                                                                      [ Note: this prohibition removed, March 1998]


1. Conformity to the specifications is necessary for a safe and fair race. It is the responsibility of paddlers to race a canoe which conforms to specifications. Measurements will be made by the chief boat measurer or other experts designated by the chief boat measurer. Measurement will be made by a combination of instruments and experienced "look and feel".

2. All canoes competing in national and regional championships must be measured and marked prior to the start of competition during times specified by the race committee. Spot checks may be made at any time during and after the competition at the discretion of the race officials. At divisional championships, measuring will be at the discretion of the race officials.

3. Any canoe failing to comply with the official specifications shall be disqualified and not allowed to start the competition.

4. When using instruments, all measuring shall be to the closest 1/8 inch or pound of weight. Marginal decisions shall be determined by judgment of whether the difference gains the competitor any appreciable advantage over others. All final determinations will be made by the chief boat measurer.



Championship Open Canoe Slalom awards shall be presented to at least 3 places, or to at least one half of the competitors of the class (rounded up), whichever is smaller. A competitor must finish within 200% of the winning score in order to be eligible for an award.  Classes may be combined to attain five entries when necessary as follows: If a REC class has less than five entries, it may be combined with the comparable RAC class.  If a Master class has less than five entries, it may be combined with the comparable Premier class.  If an RAC class has less than five entries, it may be combined with the logical, more difficult RAC Class. Classes solely for Women or Juniors will not be combined.

[ Note: Participation Certificates are required for Junior, youth, and cadet, by vote March 1998]


1.     The following age classes are defined:

A Premier competitor may be of either sex and of any age.

A Cadet Competitor shall be 16 years of age or younger as of January 1st of the calendar racing year.

A Junior competitor shall be 18 years of age or younger as of January 1st of the calendar racing year.

A Senior competitor shall be 25 years of age or older as of January 1st of the calendar racing year.

A Master competitor shall be 40 years of age or older as of January 1st of the calendar racing year.


2. Slalom Classes

There shall be separate competition for RAC (Racing) and REC (Recreational) categories. The 12 RAC classes and 6 REC classes are given in the table below.


OC-2 Premier any two paddlers                                             RAC    REC

OC-2 Mixed two paddlers, one male, one female                 RAC    REC

OC-2 Cadet/Sr two paddlers, one cadet, one senior               RAC

OC-2 Women two paddlers, both female                          RAC

OC-2 Master two paddlers, both master                                    RAC    REC

OC-2 Junior two paddlers, both junior                             RAC

OC-1 Short one paddler, short boat                                RAC

OC-1 Medium one paddler, medium boat                          RAC

OC-1 one paddler                                                             REC

OC-1 Woman one paddler, female                                 RAC    REC

OC-1 Mstr/Sh one paddler, master, short boat                    RAC

OC-1 Mstr/Md one paddler, master, medium boat                RAC

OC-1 Mstr one paddler, master                                                       REC

OC-1 Junior one paddler, junior                                             RAC


Race organizers may limit Competitors to a maximum of four classes. A competitor entering four classes must enter at least one solo class and at least one tandem class.



3. Combined Classes

Combined classes must use exactly the same paddler(s) and canoe for both the slalom and downriver parts of the race. The hull may not be altered in any way and outfitting may be neither added nor removed. There is no subdivision according to canoe category.

a. OC-1 CM one paddler                  RAC REC 

b. OC-1 CM/W one paddler, female    RAC REC

c. OC-2 CM two paddlers                 RAC REC

d. OC-2 CM/Mixed two paddlers, one male, one female    RAC REC

4. No paddler can race in the same class for both the RAC and REC categories at the same National or Divisional event. Moreover, no paddler may race twice in the same class and thereby compete against herself/himself.

5. Special classes may be formed at the discretion of the organizers of non-championship races when demand for them is sufficient.

6. New classes may be formed as follows: A Open Canoe Slalom Committee member submits a request for a new class to the Open Canoe Slalom Chairman by September 1. The request consists of the definition and motivation for the class followed by endorsing signatures of five other ACA members. If the proposal is approved by the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee, the class becomes a trial class for the next two Nationals (and, optionally, Divisionals). Open Canoe Slalom Championship awards will not be presented for trial classes, but other awards should be arranged by the race committee. If 5 or more boats race the trial class in each of the two trial years, the class then becomes permanent.

7. Any class, trial or permanent, in which 5 boats have not raced for each of 2 consecutive years may be dropped as a class for subsequent years by a vote of the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee in November.



The course shall be of sufficient difficulty to test the whitewater ability of the paddlers.

1. A slalom race course should be set such that the best paddlers of each sex and age group have a good chance of making a clean run. The Open Canoe Slalom Chairperson shall appoint a representative to review, test and approve the course. The course must be approved prior to the opening of the course for official training. Additional information is presented in Article XVIII.

2. The schedule of events shall be as follows: There must be at least 3 days allocated, including one day for practice and two days for racing. The slalom classes should be divided into two days of competition.  Additional scheduling information can be found in Appendix III.



The Open Canoe Slalom Committee will appoint the Chief Judge, who will act as the representative of the Committee and see that the races are run in accordance with these rules, and to the satisfaction of the Open Canoe Slalom Committee. All Competitions shall be under the jurisdiction of a race Chairperson and a Race Committee, approved by the Chairperson of the sanctioning body. It shall be their responsibility to supervise the competition for which they are appointed, by enforcing the paddling rules and performing the following duties:

1. Publish at least five weeks in advance of the date set for such race, suitable notices announcing the title, site, date, programs of events including eligibility of entrants, address where entries and fees will be received, distance of each event, entry fee, type and class of canoes to be used, closing time for receipt of entries, name of sponsor and name of sanctioning body.

2. Appoint the officials as prescribed in Article IX.

3. Provide all physical equipment necessary for the race.

4. Supervise the laying out and marking of the race course, and certify to the sanctioning body the accuracy of the courses.

5. Authority to investigate the eligibility of any contestant, irrespective of the entering of any protest, and if the circumstances so justify, the Race Committee is empowered to refuse entry.

6. A race headquarters shall be established at some convenient location to post information about the events, such as time schedules, maps, lists of competitors, and race times and places. Headquarters should be staffed for at least 3 hours per day from two days before the first race until the day of the last race.

7. Protests - See Article XX.

8. Within two weeks after the conclusion of the race, render to the sanctioning body a complete report, covering the finances for each event, the name and position of each paddler. Such report shall contain a statement of any protest lodged with the Committee and the decision rendered. A final financial report must be sent to the sanctioning body three weeks prior to the next annual National Congress.

9. Within one month after the conclusion of competition, forward the names and positions of all competitors to all race participants.

10. The Race Committee shall see that proper provisions are made for the presentation of the awards to the contestants.

11. The Open Canoe Slalom Nationals should take place between June 20 and August 20.

12. Open Canoe Slalom members should solicit bids for the Nationals event so that they may be discussed at the paddlers meeting 2 years before the actual event. A bid consists of a formal letter from the local organization with an appendage containing as much of the information listed in Article X as is known at the time. The National Open Canoe Slalom Committee shall make the site selection in November and publicize the decision by January, roughly 18 months before the actual race.

13. If, in case of extreme conditions, the race cannot be properly held at the published site, the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee may move the race to any course on which it has been held in the last 10 years. If such action is taken, the decision must be made at least one week before the first scheduled event with all necessary new information available at the national office of the ACA.

14. In extreme circumstances at the race site, race rules may be temporarily altered by a decision supported by a majority vote of the competitors attending the competitors meeting or by a majority vote of the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee present at the race plus the Race Chairperson and Chief Judge.



Officials shall be appointed by the open canoe slalom Chairperson and his/her designees. Depending on the availability of personnel, an individual may have more than one official capacity.

1. The Race Chairperson, who is also the Chairperson of the Race Committee, appoints the Jury and other officials (with the exception of the Chief Judge) as needed to assure the smooth execution of the race. The Race Chairperson shall arrange for the prerace meeting(s) to advise racers regarding safety and scheduling of the races.

2. The Chief Judge is appointed by the Open Canoe Slalom Chairman. He/she is responsible for the correct running of the race in accordance with these rules. He/she interprets these rules, and has the right to disqualify or grant a rerun. He/she is the chairman of the Jury.

3. The Competition Secretary or Recorder shall be responsible for recording the results and preparing the list of all contestants. He/she shall keep the minutes of the proceedings of any protest.

4. The Starter decides all matters concerning the start of the races, and is alone responsible for decisions as to false starts. His/her decision is final. He/She can refuse to start a competitor if the latter:

a. Fails to follow the safety rules;

b. Fails to appear at an assigned start time;

c. Appears without a correct number bib;

d. Fails to follow the Starter's orders; or

e. Appears in a canoe that has not been measured and marked.

5. The Chief Gate Judge shall be responsible for the hanging and judging of gates for slalom competition. He/she also oversees the duties of the Gate Judges including seeing that all judging stations are manned and that the Gate Judges are properly instructed in their duties.

6. The Gate Judges shall judge the negotiation of gates in accordance with these rules. Each judging station shall be manned by at least two Gate Judges. A single judging station may judge several gates provided all may be clearly seen. Gate judges should refrain from communicating with competitors in any way other than their official capacity.

7. The Finishing Line Judge shall note the order in which the competitors have passed the finishing line, and must rule on disqualification for crossing the line capsized.

8. The Race Chairperson shall appoint a Jury/Protest Committee of 3 or 5 members. The Chief Judge shall be the chairman of the Jury. The Jury controls the correct running of the slalom, receives any protests concerning the non-observance of these rules, and ultimately decides in the event of disagreement on the interpretation of these rules. The decisions of the Jury shall be guided by these rules insofar as possible, but it must also decide on all matters arising during the race which are not covered herein. The Jury can disqualify a competitor for all or part of the race. A member of the Jury must not vote in a decision involving classes in which he/she competes.

9. Timekeepers are responsible for noting the time and bib numbers. At National and Regional Championships they must employ both a primary and back-up timing system.

10. The Measurer shall supervise the measuring of canoes.

11. The Safety Officer shall have overall responsibility for safety measures. Assisted by his/her team and according to the circumstances, shall do his/her utmost for the rescue of competitors who have capsized and do not refuse assistance, and shall make a reasonable effort to recover their equipment.



1. The invitation and entry form should be distributed at least five weeks prior to the entry deadline. The invitation should include the following information.

a. Time and place of competition.

b. Description of course, including water conditions and degree of difficulty.

c. Classes to be run and eligibility requirements.

d. Sequence and approximate starting times.

e. Safety measures to be taken.

f. Address to which entries should be sent and amount of fee.

g. Last date for entries to be postmarked.

h. Whether late entries will be accepted and conditions.

i. Time and place for drawing of starting positions.

j. Limitations on entries, if any.

k. Nature of awards to be given.

l. Required work assignment for competitors, if any.

m. Regulation on training runs.

n. Whether meals, camping, or other accommodations are available including public transportation and driving directions.

o. Schedule of events, (including water releases, boat measuring, meetings, etc.).

p. Statement to be signed by competitor(s) releasing the race organizers from liability during the race and an agreement that the competitor(s) will abide by the ACA Whitewater Open Canoe Slalom Racing Rules.

q. Special information for the handicapped.

r. Any other information as deemed necessary.

2. In the event that an entry is rejected, notice of rejection (with reasons for the latter), shall be sent by mail to all affected competitors. Withdrawal of an entry for good cause prior to the registration deadline, or cancellation of the race by the Organizers, should result in at least a partial refund less an amount to be held by the Organizers to cover handling costs. At the discretion of the Race Chairman, alteration of entries may be accepted prior to the close of late registration. No entry may be altered after late registration has closed.



Each competitor shall receive instructions before the beginning of the competition concerning the following:

1. detailed information on the courses and their markings

2. starting time, interval and order

3. finishing time

4. starting time and procedures

5. competitors racing number

6. safety procedures

It is particularly important to cover any late changes in the course, hazardous spots, or gates to be omitted by some classes. Competitors may ask questions about the course or the operation of the race. Additional meetings may be held as deemed necessary by the Race Chairman. Information presented at these meetings shall be made available to competitors excused from the meeting by a race official.



1. Any competitor who attempts to win a race by other than honorable means, or who breaks the racing rules, or who disregards the honorable nature of the racing rules shall be disqualified.

2. Should a competitor have completed a race run in a canoe which is shown upon inspection to not comply with these rules, the Race Chairperson shall take appropriate action which may include disqualification.

3. The same boat and competitors must be used for the entirety of the race. If one team member drops out or if the canoe becomes unusable, the team and canoe are disqualified.

4. No supplies, provisions, or equipment of any kind may be picked up or intentionally discarded along the course.

5. No assistance of any kind along the race course shall be permitted. Paddlers receiving assistance will be disqualified.

6. Any competitor who shall fail to remain on the marked course as outlined in advance by the race organizer, or who makes a portage or portages not marked as mandatory or optional shall be disqualified, regardless of advantage gained.

7. Failure to perform a work assignment or safety assignment, unless excused, will entail disqualification for the entire race.

8. Deliberate misrepresentations on an entry form or in statements to Officials will result in disqualification from the category involved or from the entire race, depending on their nature.

Except as required above, the Race Chairperson and Chief Judge may disqualify a competitor from a single heat, from both heats in a class, or from an entire race, depending on the nature and severity of an infraction.



1. Open canoes shall be propelled solely by means of single bladed paddles.

2. The paddles may not be supported on the boats in any way.

3. If a competitor loses or breaks a paddle, only a spare carried on the boat from the start of the heat may be used in its place.



Canoes must be started singly as determined by the Race Committee.



1. In the downriver segment of Combined competition, it is the duty of the overtaking craft to keep clear at all times of the boat being overtaken. However, the craft being overtaken is not allowed to alter its course to create difficulties for the overtaking craft.

2. In Slalom and the slalom segment of Combined, the normal procedure is for Gate Judges to whistle over the overtaken boat and permit the overtaking boat free passage. The Judge must ensure that the interrupted run is not resumed so soon as to cause immediate problems for the overtaking boat. On rare occasions, the overtaking boat may be whistled over and held, allowing the overtaken boat unobstructed passage. Generally, this only occurs when the overtaking boat is running essentially out of control and missing a large number of gates.



The finishing line is reached when any part of the upright canoe with paddlers in it crosses the finish line. All finish times should be rounded to the nearest tenth of a second. Except when a class was started en mass and a winner can be ascertained by visible means, finish times which are the same after rounding result in a tie. A competitors time is complete when he crosses the finish line. the competitor may not cross the finish line more than once.



1. All competitors must wear:

a. U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (life jackets) or the equivalent over-the-shoulder type.

b. hard-shelled head protection.

2. It is the responsibility of each contestant to stop racing and assist other competitors in serious personal danger. Failure to do so shall result in lifelong disbarment from Whitewater Open Canoe racing.

3. Any boat withdrawing from the race must notify the officials as soon as possible.

4. The organizers shall make every effort to provide other safety measures according to the difficulty of the course and the experience of the paddlers. Safety boats and/or other safety measures shall be provided along the course.

5. Every reasonable measure must be taken to remove any disabled boats or equipment obstructing the course.

6. Safety personnel should not assist contestants if the latter specifically refuses help. However, once assistance has been accepted, the competitor(s) is automatically disqualified and should be listed as a DNF even if the competitor(s) continues on to the finish line.

7. Competitors must at all times be in a position to free themselves immediately from their boats.



1. Bib Numbers.  Numbered bibs shall be provided by the organizers. They shall be fixed to the body of the competitor in such a manner that they can be seen clearly. In tandem canoes, the bow paddler must wear the number. Each competitor is responsible for his/her bib number. The number should be unique for each boat and must not be reused by another competitor, or by the same competitor in another class at the same race. The numerals must be at least 6 inches high and have a line width of at least 1/2 inch.

2. The Course.

a. The course for National Championships should be designed to encourage participation by a broad range of competitors, and as such should be only moderately challenging to the top competitors in order to give those mid-range competitors a reasonable opportunity to negotiate most of the gates. The difficulty of the course should take into account the fact that there are many categories for women, juniors and masters as well as both tandem and solo canoes.  (see Article VII).

b. The course shall have maximum length of approximately 450 yards measured from the start to the finish line. As far as possible it should contain natural and artificial hazards, such as current, eddies, rapids, rocks, bridge piers, etc. It should contain at least 20 (non-championship courses may reduce this number) and not more than 25 gates, of which at least five are upstream gates. No gate shall be closer than 10 yards to the finish line. The finish line must be clearly marked on both sides and must be downstream of the final gate.

c. The Organizers are advised to design the course in such a manner that smooth and continuous runs may be expected from the better paddlers in all categories at the level of skill for which the competition is intended. Excessive crisscrossing should be avoided, and the gates must not be so close together as to impair negotiation or judging. Reasonable balance between left- and right-handed moves and gate widths must be provided. The course must be navigable throughout, without excessive hazard to life, limb, or equipment. The logical approach and negotiation of a gate must not be unduly hindered, such as by an isolated submerged rock or other obstruction. The ideal course should include reverse maneuvers. The final course layout must be approved by the Chief Judge prior to the start of official training.

3. Marking and Hanging Gates

a. The gates consist of two suspended poles painted with five green and five white rings for downstream gates, and five red and five white rings for upstream gates, with the bottom rings always being white. Gates flush to the current may be either red or green, whichever seems more appropriate in each instance. The width of the gates is 47 inches (1.2m) minimum, and 11'6" (3.5m) maximum, measured between the poles. The poles must be round, at least 6 ft long, 1 1/2 in. to 2 in. in diameter, and of sufficient weight that motion caused by the wind is not excessive. The lower ends of the poles should be a minimum of 6 in above the water, and the poles must not be put in motion by the water. Gates must be numbered in the order of negotiation. The gate number panels must measure 12 in. x 12 in. The numbers must be painted on both sides of the panels, black on a yellow or white background, and must be at least 8 in. high and have a line width of 1/2 in. On the side of the panel opposite the direction of correct negotiation, a diagonal red line is painted, bottom left to top right.

b. The gate supports should not be placed so high as to permit excessive motions due to the wind. If such placement is unavoidable, a second crossbar and/or additional strings should be used to stabilize the gate.

c. The course must be the same for both heats as nearly as practicable. Gates and gate poles should not be changed after competition has begun unless to restore the course to its original condition. Such changes may only be made under the direction of the Chief Gate Judge.

4. Negotiation of Gates

a. For the purpose of these rules the following definitions apply:

The Gate Line is an imaginary line drawn between the tips of two poles at any instant, whether they are hanging straight down or have been brought into motion by wind or contact. An imaginary extension of a pole may be needed to define the gate line in some cases involving large motions.

The Body of a competitor means his torso and head. Hands and arms are not considered to be part of the body in this context.

The Start Line is considered to be equivalent to a gate.

A Live Gate is any gate that is still subject to penalties.

A Dead Gate is one for which negotiation is completed (Section 4). No additional penalties can be charged on a dead gate.


b.  All gates must be negotiated in numerical order, each in accordance with the direction established by the correct side of the number panels. Any boat presentation (forward, reverse, or broadside) is correct.

c.  Negotiation of a gate begins when any part of the body (head and torso) crosses the gate line.

d.  Negotiation of a gate is completed when the negotiation of any subsequent gate begins or the finish line is crossed.

e.   A gate is determined to have been left out when negotiation of any subsequent gate begins or the finish line is crossed.

f.  Negotiation of a gate is correct when the head of the competitor (in tandem canoes, both competitors) in an upright boat has crossed the gate line in the correct direction, and the boat has continued through, either onward, or sideward, and left the gate line.

g. Negotiation of a gate is faultless when, in addition to being correct, neither pole has been touched by a body part of the competitor, (in tandem canoes, both competitors), the boat, or paddle and negotiation of the gate is completed.

5. Judging (penalties)

a. Penalties are not cumulative at a single gate. Penalties may be incurred at any time until negotiation is completed. If more than one infraction occurs, only the one highest penalty is assessed. All gates are scored 0, 10, or 50 as follows:

No penalty - Faultless negotiation.

10 second penalty - Correct negotiation, but touching one or both poles, any number of times.

50 second penalty - Gate left out or touched but not negotiated.

50 second penalty - Intentionally pushing aside pole in an attempt to lessen a penalty. This penalty is assessed only if the intentional pushing materially affects the negotiation of the gate. It is not judged an intentional push when the body and boat of the competitor was already in a position in which it would have clearly negotiated the gate.

50 second penalty- Negotiation of a gate in the direction opposite to that indicated by the number panel. This penalty is assessed if the body of the competitor (in a tandem canoe either competitor) crosses the gate line from the wrong side.

50 second penalty- Movement of the competitor's body in the wrong direction while it is between the poles. This means that once a competitor has broken the gate line from the correct side, he/she must continue through until clear of the gate, without dropping back. In the case of an upstream gate in current, if dropping back is so minor as to have occurred between normal paddling strokes, it is not penalized. In a tandem canoe, the two bodies are considered as a unit, and both must continue through after one has crossed the gate line.

b. Interpretations

Passing of the boat underneath a pole without touching (undercutting or sneaking) is not penalized.

In all doubtful or borderline cases, the competitor is given the benefit of the doubt and the lower penalty. In particular, if a Judge is in doubt as to whether movement of a pole was caused by contact or by a water splash, no penalty for a gate touch may be given.

Repeated attempts at a gate are not penalized provided the body of the competitor (in a tandem canoe, either body) has not broken the gate line.

Repeated touching of the pole(s) of a single gate is only penalized once.

6. Capsize

If a competitor leaves his boat he/she is disqualified for that heat. In order to avoid confusing Gate Judges, he/she must immediately remove his bib number and leave the course in the most expeditious manner.


7. Heats

A slalom is run in two heats, the better of which counts as the final result. Where a competition is held on uncontrolled water, both heats in a category should be on the same day.






8. Interference

a. If a competitor has been interfered with by another boat, he/she may be granted a rerun by the Chief Judge. To merit a rerun, interference must be substantial and unavoidable, presenting a material impediment to the course.

b. Contact usually, but not always, is interference.

c. Lack of contact usually, but not always, is not interference.

d. Intentionally altering course to initiate contact where it could have been avoided, or other unsportsmanlike conduct in attempting to create interference to obtain a rerun will not be tolerated, and could result in disqualification.

e.  Normally a rerun will be granted only to the overtaking boat. Only under highly extenuating circumstances would a rerun be granted to the overtaken boat (for example, see Article XV.2) or to both boats. Extra care must be taken to ensure that no overtaking occurs during a rerun.

f.  If the competitor starts a rerun, the score for the original run is canceled and may not be considered for placement or listed in the results.

9. Dead Heat

In the event of two or more competitors obtaining the same result, their order shall be decided by the better of the two non-counting runs. If this again produces a dead heat, both competitors or teams shall be given the same placing.



1. Slalom Races

In Slalom races, the score is a combination of elapsed time and penalties for gates missed or poles touched upon the course. For calculation of results, the following formula applies:

Time (expressed in seconds) + Penalties = Score

Example of an individual result:

Time elapsed 2 min, 20.8 sec = 140.8 seconds

Penalties 10 + 10 + 50 + 10 = 80.0 seconds

Total Score = 220.8 seconds

2. Combined Races

Scoring for the combined classes will be performed in the following manner:

a. Express all scores in seconds.

b. Calculate the mean and standard deviation of all scores that are less than:

Slalom - 200% of the best score

Downriver - 120% of the best score

c. Define a range as follows:

0 - Best

100 - Mean plus 2 standard deviations

d. Relate the difference between a competitor's time and the best time to the range to obtain the competitor's Competition Score:

Competition Score =(Competitor's Score - Best Score)/Range

e. Multiply by 100 to simplify handling

f. Add the Downriver and Slalom Competition Scores

g. Low score wins.



A Jury/Protest Committee must be appointed by the Race Chairperson with the approval of the sanctioning body.

1. A protest during a competition must be addressed to the Race Chairperson not later than one hour after completion of the race. If protests involve a violation of the rules, the Chairperson may decide; if the protest involves interpretation of the rules, said protest must be referred to the Protest Committee.

2. A late protest shall be referred to the Race Chairperson of said race, in writing not later than 10 days following the completion of the race, and accompanied by a fee of $10.00. If the protest is upheld, the fee is returned to the protester.

3. Competitors have a right to appeal to the National Whitewater Open Canoe Committee a decision of the Protest Committee within 30 days from the announcement of said decision.

4. A protest concerning the right of a competitor to participate must be handed to the Race Chairperson, not later than one hour before the start of the competition. A protest against the right of a competitor to participate may be lodged with the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee within 30 days after the competition if it is based on facts which became known later than one hour before the start of the competition.



1. These rules are to be in effect beginning January 1 of the year adopted. These rules and regulations may be amended only by a majority vote of the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee. The complete proposed amendment(s) must be submitted to the Chairman of each Division for discussion at least three weeks prior to the date on which the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee will take final vote thereon.

2. The National Open Canoe Slalom Committee may issue interpretations and supplementary rulings on questions as they arise. Such rulings shall take effect immediately upon publication, and shall be noted within the body of the rules.

3. Any changes in the gate hanging, negotiation or judging rules by the NSWC will not automatically be incorporated into these rules. Any such changes must be reviewed by the National Open Canoe Slalom Committee or its designees and upon receipt of recommendations, the Open Canoe Slalom National Committee may incorporate, modify or reject those changes.




NSWC - 5 seconds per gate touched

WWOC - 10 seconds per gate touched


NSWC - All uncompleted prior gates are Left Out (50)

WWOC - Prior gates may be negotiated, but penalties do not go away

(This is only important where two or more gates are set very close together.)