Entering your first Slalom

How to Get Started with Canoe Slalom

Canoe slalom is a thrilling and challenging sport that tests a paddler’s speed, agility, and precision. It involves navigating a canoe or kayak down a course, racing against the clock while passing through a series of gates suspended above the water.

Canoe slalom is a great paddling discipline which has events and categories suitable for all abilities. In this blog we will be talking about entering your first slalom, what it’s all about and hopefully answer your questions before you’ve had chance to ask them.

How do I get started?

The first thing to do is make sure you have the basic paddling skills required. The easiest way to do this is to speak to your club coach and check with them. Feel free to ask questions on our Facebook group: but you need to be able to paddle forwards and turn the boat accurately. You need to be confident in keeping the boat stable, but this will all depend on the first event you enter.

Generally speaking we would suggest that you are able to wear a spraydeck and are confident in your capsize drills, but if you enter a flat water slalom and use a higher volume boat then a spraydeck isn’t always essential.

Entry level events can either be on flat water or very simple white water, if you aren’t sure what is suitable for you, then please ask.

You’ve checked your skills, now what?

Our Club Coaches will advertise and suggest Slaloms that they are attending, via the Club Newsletter. If one of these appeals to you then make contact with the Coach via the details on the newsletter.

Usually all Division 4 events will allow entries on the day, but it is better to enter earlier to ensure your space. Entries can be made online : https://www.canoeslalomentries.co.uk/ and earlier entries are discounted.

You can enter more than one class and there are often other fun events on the weekends. The Club has an excellent fleet of Slalom specific boats, paddles, helmets and buoyancy aids which can be borrow free of charge by club members. At division 4 events you can compete in ‘non-slalom’ boats if you you wish.

Okay, so you’ve decided on the event, you’ve decided on what class you want to enter and what boat you are taking; but what is the weekend like?

The majority of races are what is know as ‘Doubles’, this simply means there is one race on the Saturday and another on the Sunday. You can enter both or either day. We’ll assume you want to enter both days.

Most people will camp over the weekend, arriving on the Friday night. This gives you a great opportunity to have Friday night practice on the water, get to know people and generally chill before the event.

Saturday there will be free practice early in the morning. This allows you to paddle the course, practice specific gates and moves. If you hear a message saying ‘Full Runs Only’, this means that you must only paddle the gates in order, no stopping or repeating gates.

You can check out the Start List, this will be posted somewhere prominent, for what time you will be paddling. You will see three times; Official Practice, Run 1 and Run 2. Your official practice is your chance to run the course without anyone in your way, which is something you may experience on free practice. You will then have two timed runs which your best total score counting.

After the event has finished the organisers will hold ‘Prize Giving’. Prizes are awarded for each of the divisions and categories. There is guidance for what prizes should be awarded based on number entered prior to the event, but most organisers are generous with these figures.

On Saturday, following the Prize giving, the course will be altered for Sunday’s event. Once this is done you can practice the course ready for Sunday.

Sunday’s event follows the same pattern as Saturday.

What else?

We’ve explained here the basis of a slalom weekend, but there is much more to the experience.

For kids it is a great experience where they have opportunities to play and make friends in a relatively safe environment. There is plenty of time between runs and events to cheer on friends and club members, or simply do something else with their new found friends.

For adults, well you can basically do the same as the kids, or you can enjoy
a barbecue on the evenings, catch up with friends and did I mention have a drink?


Entry level canoe slalom weekends are a great experience for anyone of any age or gender. They are a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, and have some fun on the water. So if you’re thinking about giving canoe slalom a try, I encourage you to speak to one of our coaches and find an event.

More useful Links

Everything Canoe Slalom : https://www.canoeslalom.co.uk/

Slalom Calendar : https://www.canoeslalom.co.uk/calendar/calendar_iframe.htm

UK Canoe Slalom FAQs : https://www.canoeslalom.co.uk/info/FAQs.htm