Paracanoe events are the competitive paddling opportunities for disabled paddlers.

These events range from national to international Paracanoe events and the Paralympic Games. 

Paracanoe competitions are run in the same format as canoe sprint competitions- competitors racing in lanes through a heats, semis and finals format.  The standard race distance for Paracanoe is 200 metres.

If you are more interested in paddling for fun and fitness, rather than competition, check out PaddleAble.


National Events
Canoe Racing NZ have made the decision to be more inclusive for disabled paddlers by running the ICF categories as well as an Paracanoe Open Division, which will include all impairments.
In New Zealand any disabled person can race in the para canoe categories in either VL1-3, KL1-3 and the open division.

International High Performance Events
The International Canoe Federation and Paralympic Events are open to athletes with a physical impairment and race over 200m. There are two different craft that athletes can compete in, Kayak (K) and Va’a (V).

TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 03: Corbin Hart of Team New Zealand competes in the Men's Canoe Sprint Kayak Single 200m - KL3 or MKL3 Semi-Final 2 on day 10 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Sea Forest Waterway on September 02, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images for New Zealand Paralympic Committee)
peter cowan v'aa

Para-kayaks are wider than standard kayaks and seats/outfitting can be modified to support the individuals impairment. Kayaks are propelled by a double-bladed paddle.

Va’a (also known as Waka-ama or outrigger canoes) are longer than kayaks and have an outrigger for additional support. Va’a paddlers use a shorter paddle with only one paddle blade.

In order to compete at international events paddlers are categorized into three different groups according to the degree of physical impairment and activity limitation:

KL1 or VL1 – Very limited trunk and no leg function and paddle with shoulders and arms only.

KL2 or VL2 – Trunk and some leg function

KL3 or VL3 – Trunk and partial leg function with some use of hips

Athletes that wish to be classified must follow a classification protocol which involves medical reports and meet the minimum impairment criteria. Eligibility is determined by trained classifiers. 

For further information on classification visit Paralympics NZ, ICF Paracanoe or contact Aaron at Canoe Racing NZ

Paracanoe Performance Pathway
We are currently working to embed the paracanoe pathway into the Performance Pathway. This is under construction. However, if you are interested in the National Performance Pathway, please contact Aaron at Canoe Racing NZ.

I’m keen to start racing, what should I do?
Register your details here and we will be in touch or contact Aaron at Canoe Racing NZ for more information and support available.

Our club wants to help develop paracanoe paddlers, can you help us to do this?
We can provide support and resources for clubs and coaches and would love to help get your club, organisation or event become more disability inclusive.
Contact Aaron at Canoe Racing NZ for more information and support available.

For further information:
International Canoe Federation 
Paralympics New Zealand 
Waka Ama New Zealand 


Corbin Hart (left) with Scott Martlew (right) after Scott won a bronze medal in the KL2 200m at the 2022 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships