Kayak & Kanu history

Short history of kayak

Kayak was invented by people of Arctic Circle. Since then five different forms of kayak has been developed dependent on different cultural regions: Greenland, Boffin Island, Barings Strait, south-east Siberia and Aleutian islands. The most famous forms of kayak are Greenland and Aleutian type. The boats that were made from washed ashore wood (from which they were dependent) had to be fast, quiet and maneuverable. They used them for hunting seals and transport of heavy load. Despite the narrow hull, kayak has become one of the safest boats in the hands of experience paddlers.

Introduction of kayak canoe slalom

Kayak and canoe slalom competitions take place on natural and artificial courses, on which competitors must paddle as fast as possible through green and red gates. Through green gates they have to paddle down with the flow and through red gates against the flow.

In wild waters there exist competitions like National cup, National championships, international races, World cup, Olympic games…

International Canoe Federation (ICF) is federation, whose members are all national canoe federations. ICF responsibilities are the competition rules, competition calendar, organization of World cups and Championships, correct results, ranging… Under the cover of ICF are these disciplines:

Each country has its own federation whose members are clubs. In Slovenia we have Kayak and Canoe Federation of Slovenia (www.kajak-zveza.si), which has an office on Celovška cesta 25.

Kayak Center’s

During the last ten years a renaissance in wild water slalom has happened. Nations and federations started to build kayak and canoe centers, which enables paddlers to practice all year round. Investing in modern centers is probably incented by the fact that kayak and canoe slalom became Olympic discipline.


The Olympic Slalom Centre in Helliniko


Olympic slalom center Peking


Penrith Whitewater Stadium


Tacen white water slalom course

One of the best kayak and canoe centers is also Kayak center Tacen. It is famous for perfectly organized competitions, demanding and attractive course and mostly for their loud and happy supporters.

Until the year 1952 the start was located under the dam. In 1952 it was the first time that the competitors started above the dam. The water rushing over the dam wall had on it’s descend dug out a huge hole which represented a grave danger for any paddler. Here the boats disappeared into the watery maelstrom, only to appear a little further downstream just as pieces of fabric and timber. The embankment was of shale jutting out into the stream thus representing a great hazard to the paddler. To ensure some degree of safety some local geniuses came up with an idea of placing timber flooring over the bottom of the “hole”. A local carpenter Albin Cizman had built a wooden floor for each race meeting as the destructive powers of the water managed to take the floor apart in no time. The races were organized by a group of volunteers. These helpers did a hard work of erecting the gates which in those days were made of wooden tripods with ropes and gates affixed to them. There were no luxuries in those days of adjustable stainless steel cabling.
All volunteers received as their payment a tram ticket from the city to the last stop, and then they had to walk another 2 miles to the course. The additional reward for all helpers at that time was a lunch in a shape of a Krainsky sausage. After this first event the race meetings became more frequent and Slovene competitors started to climb their way towards the top of the world ladder in this exiting sport.

With the success of this first meeting and of course the subsequent ones, the Slovene canoeing movement had built quite a reputation. In fact it was on the basis of these successes that ICF had entrusted the Slovene Boating Association (there was no Canoe Federation of Slovenia as yet) the preparation and running of the World Canoeing Slalom Championships in 1955. This in fact was only the 2nd ever World Kayak Slalom Championships held in Yugoslavia and Slovenia. This great event held from 29th to 31st July, 1955 opened with a parade of the participants through the City streets. The championship was organized by the Boating Association of Slovenia however the actual running of the event was being carried out by the Kayak Canoe Club of Ljubljana. This Club actually staged and conducted the event. Mr. Cyril Pogacnik, a member of Kayak/Canoe Club of Ljubljana was also a member of ICF, and the fact that the event was staged in Slovenia at all is the result of his great efforts and organizing skills.
Some 15,000 spectators came to watch the white water daredevils, which for that time was an outstanding number. To enable the best viewing possible, large viewing galleries were built for the public. There were 14 countries participating, and that number remained a record as it was only in 1970′s that other world championships reached and surpassed this number. The local competitors did not fail the local supporters. Joze Ilija finished 3rd, 5th was Milan Zadel and this success was further enhanced by the 17th place of Bogdan Svet. Not to be out done, Slovenia also had a C-2 crew Nathan Bernot and Milos Pozar starting. Slovene competitors (and public as well) had at that time sighted the new plastic boats which the French Team was competing in. Tacen 1955 carried the fame of its white waters around the world. And the reputation it made for itself was one of great beauty as well as of great difficulty. With it of course went the knowledge and thrust in Slovene Canoeing movement as good and friendly organizers of the best kayaking competitions.

During the period of almost two decades whilst the course was only maintained, but no real improvement were carried out, resulted in the fact that the course became rather “worn out” and dated. So in 1982 the decision was made to do something positive about it. The then president of the Canoe Club of Ljubljana Mr. Igor Slapnik was the driving force behind this reconstruction and improvement move. One of the most important actions carried out at that time was the deepening of the course itself. At the bottom of the spillway just beyond the hole which was now concreted, there was a piece of huge rock named the “cube”. This was the nemesis of many a paddler who when the control of the boat was lost, went head first into this obstacle. This extremely dangerous point was being removed rendering the course much safer due the greatly increased depth of the water under the boat. The number of injuries to the paddlers was therefore greatly reduced. The river bed and configuration was also altered in the area below the control tower.

The course we see today is the result of the work which was carried out in anticipation of the 1990 World Canoeing Championships. The course management team under the leadership of Mr. Rade Kovachevich did a great job of totally reconstructing the course – starting at the dam and following the best possible line to the finish. The dam was sealed for a time so that the riverbed could be concreted. The control tower was moved slightly away from the river’s edge towards the power station canal. This canal is also used for a warm up of the paddlers.
As the results of the constant destruction of the right banks and the viewing galleries and the gate pillars the City Council of Ljubljana provided the financial resources to do the number of things to the course: installed was a system of fixed pillars located above and behind the viewing galleries which simplified the positioning of the gates – now the course setters could with a great precision position the gates where they thought could provide for the best and most attractive runs. There were other improvements of note as well – the course was deepened in some areas as well as the embankments were raised thus eliminating frequent destruction of the area caused by the seasonal flooding. The surroundings were landscaped as well as the power station canal was modified to enable to be used as a warm up area and as the genera training area. All of this made Tacen Canoeing Centre a modern and up to date kayak centre which at least once a year hosts a major international competition. And in June 2005 Tacen Canoe Centre in Ljubljana, the Capital of Slovenia will host the European Canoe Slalom Championships.


(Source: Kayak and Canoe Federation of Slovenia)



In wild water kayak we know six levels of difficulty, which has added mark plus or minus for more accurate evaluation.

1. The river flows easy and in the water are no obstacles. It is an easy river.
2. A bit faster current with some rocks in the riverbed, around which you can still paddle easily. It also belongs to easier sections.
3. Water mass is here concentrated in rapids, where river flows among obstacles on more steep terrain. These are middle demanding sections.
4. Series of wild rapids are thicker. The river flow here is a bit faster, so reaction time is reduced. Difficulty increases with lacking clearness, which is not critical. Despite high difficulty, number four is the most popular by many recreational paddlers.
5. Extreme and demanding rapids follow in chaotic rhythm. Drops are big, rocks in riverbed can create dangerous siphons. These parts of the river are reserved for very good paddlers with years of experience. We are facing serious danger.
6. Difficulty and danger rises to extreme. These parts of river can be paddled just in right water level and mood. In any case this is paddling on the edge and every little mistake can be fatal.


How does shape of the boat influence its characteristics

Generally we can say that longer and narrower boats are faster, wider with flat bottom are more difficult to flip over, but slower. If we deepen it more, we find out that two forces act on a boat: longitudinal and transversal. Longitudinal force acts from front to the back of the boat and with proper burden stabilizes the boat. Transversal force acts from left to right side and contributes to flip over the boat. Because of this, the moment of longitudinal force must be always bigger than the moment of transversal force. The shape of the boat also contributes to stability of the boat. Flatter and wider bottom means more stability, but slows down the boat and is more difficult to maneuver. Stability is also affected by low bearing of a paddler and the positioning of the seat right in the middle. The speed is also important, even if we do not compete, because it brings safety. Longer and narrower the boat is, easier it is to paddle. The shape of the bottom and front of the boat also effects maneuvering. The higher they are, the more maneuverable the boats are.

Stars of the sport

Like every sport also kayak&canoe has its stars.

Andraž Vehovar (Slovenia)


Mihal Martikan (Slovakia)


Pavel in Peter Hochorner (Slovakia)