At LCRK much of the attention is on the Wednesday Night Time Trial, the Marathon Series and the Haweksbury Classic. However, some may not realise that LCRK regularly has a strong showing at sprint events like the Sprint Series and the State Championships. The usual comment from first timers is "I had no idea it would be so much fun!".

Report: 2020 NSW State Sprint Championships

(Race Report by Naomi Johnson)
Here's to getting out of our comfort zone.

In September last year I took my almost-debut plunge into sprints racing, and with an eye to getting off the start line a bit quicker in 2020 marathon races, I decided to enter the NSW State Sprint Championships on the weekend of January 18th/19th.

Saturday morning began early…very early! It turns out that if you want to arrive at SIRC, Penrith for 7:30am, leaving from Neutral Bay, going via Lane Cove to pick up two kayaks and with any chance of a coffee along the way, you need to be out the door by about 5:30am. At least the hot weather was taking a bit of a break, with the weekend forecast erring on the side of overcast and rainy. Frazer and I arrived to the hubbub of pre-race activity on time-ish, with all required boats but no coffee. Oh, and a couple of rather heavy metal bars…more on that later.

First race off the mark was the K2 500m, and I teamed up with my marathon worlds K2 partner Laura Lee. After emptying what we suspected was possum wee from the K2 and ensuring that it conformed to the 18kg minimum for sprints racing, we had a quick warm-up and were suddenly on the start line. My sprint nerves from September were back in force, supplemented by the sheer size of the shoulders on some of our fellow paddlers! Many of the open women racing have been on previous national teams, and they weren’t messing about in their ramp up to Olympic selection this year either. All shot off the line at speeds I can only dream of, giving us a fab view and even some wash waves as they hurtled down the course, with LCRK record-holder Ella Beere showing great form in the K2 that finished 4th. Laura and I rounded out the field, acknowledging that the pacing for 500m is rather tough and that we rather fell apart in the final 200m.

An hour later, and it was back in the boat for the K2 1,000m race. As the 1,000m isn’t an Olympic distance for women, there wasn’t much interest from our fellow paddlers. So little interest, in fact, that we found ourselves in top draw lane 5 with a clear view down the course and nobody else to race against. Having not done a K2 race over this distance in September, however, we were able to clock up both a PB and a State Championships gold medal, along with slightly better pacing than the 500m effort.

Above: You've got to be in it...Laura and I with our gold medal in the K2 1,000m

Sprints races are a very different vibe to marathon, with a much younger crowd and more of an emphasis on the bits around the races. While one seemed to spend an extraordinarily long time on the water (up to 40min) for a single three-minute effort, there was also a lot of time to kill in-between.

Tony H arrived to watch my K1 200m and 500m races, thankfully in the nick of time to help install one of the heavy metal bars under my seat. The minimum weight for sprint K1s is 12kgs, and with this being state championships I wasn’t going to try flying under the radar with anything lighter. 3kgs is a lot more weight to contend with, particularly when trying to get the boat off the start line! Despite this, my 200m race didn’t go too badly, with a PB of a few seconds relative to my September efforts (in a 9kg boat), and hey, I was only 11 secs faster than some of Australia’s top sprinters over a race that took less than a minute. Is it worth mentioning the recurring theme of me rounding out the field?

Quick lunch and some technique analysis over at the slalom centre café (no, not slalom technique, but Tony was hardly going to let any time be directed away from paddling, was he?) and then it was back for the K1 500m. While I had happier September memories of this race than the 200m, it turns out that race day is perhaps not the best time for in-depth technique analysis? Tony’s video of the race shows me trying desperately hard to over-think just about everything, resulting in a stroke rate of about half what the other girls were doing. We headed home as it started to drizzle, with my trying to focus on what I’d learned rather than comparing myself to anyone I’d been racing against.

Rinse and repeat on Sunday, although leaving the boats at SIRC made for a slightly later start. I definitely hadn’t made it through to any finals, so was up for just the K1 1,000m and K2 200m races. With a reduced 1,000m field of five paddlers, I was set on this being my best singles race of the weekend. All shot off the line a bit faster than I did, including Laura with her trademark quick start. I settled in to a rhythm of big strokes and tried to think more about strong leg drive than how far away the finish line still looked. Had the race been 1,100m I might have caught Laura, there was only two seconds in it by the end!

The grand finale was the K2 200m, which one of the hot-shot paddlers on the start line described as her “favourite race”. I wasn’t so sure, but at least this time I was prepared for Laura’s high cadence and the mad rush of adrenaline that comes with it. All I could do was to keep in time and keep driving my legs, hoping that the result meant I was also putting in power along the way. It’s amazing just how utterly wrecked one can feel after 47 seconds!

I don’t think I’ll ever be a fab sprinter, but it’s fun to get out and try something new. It was great to team up with Laura again, and to learn from watching paddlers right at the top of their game over these distances. Here’s to a 2020 where we all take up a paddle challenge just a little outside our comfort zone.

A Window into Sprint

(Race Report from the Sprint Masters held at Penrith Regatta Centre 15 Sep 2019 - by Naomi Johnson)
Doing new things can be scary, but it can also be great fun!

With this thought in mind, I turned up at SIRC in Penrith at a chilly 7:30am on Sunday morning to attend the Paddle NSW State ‘Masters’ Sprint Championships. I hadn’t done a sprints race since I was 18, and my not-so-fond memory or that day involves spending more time swimming around the start line than sitting in the K1. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I had said yes to Laura Lee’s suggestion that we enter the regatta in preparation for our World Marathon Champs campaign in China. In a rather bizarre show of preference for thing I’ve managed before, I was finding the thought of a quick jaunt up and down 47kms of the Myall less intimidating than a handful of short, sharp sprints!

A quick note on the ‘Masters’ nature of this race…still being on the favourable side of 30 I hadn’t yet contemplated the thought of being a ‘Master’ at anything, kayaking in particular. However, it turned out that the new initiative of the State ‘Masters’ Sprint Championships even had a 25-29 age category, seemingly in an attempt to entice paddlers who thought themselves a notch outside the heat of open age competition. On the day itself, it meant that we were given our own heats for K1 before being mixed in with the rest of the paddlers for finals, as well as the opportunity to paddle K2 in the 200m and 500m distances.

Above: Masters of the Sprint Universe (well, Penrith)
My first race was the K1 1,000m, and my gradually rising panic about doing a sprint had me sitting on the start line feeling a strong preference for the 100-odd km Hawkesbury Classic! Having held my (slightly under sprint weight) boat on the start line for what felt like an immeasurably long time, the starter finally called “ready-set-go” (yes, they say “set” in sprint) and I hurled myself off down the course. Out the corner of my eye I could see Laura over in lane 9 inching out in front, but the other paddlers were out of my peripheral vision. Did that mean I was doing ok?! With 200m down I had to settle into a more manageable pace, and really focused on putting in powerful strokes with lots of leg drive (in coach Tony’s voice: “slow it down Nomes, big rotation”). 500m down..gosh this goes on forever…200m to go…100m to go…finally I was across the finish line heaving and panting like nobody’s business. It turned out that the time was 4:50:47 (that’s minutes, not hours), and that I had held on to finish 2nd only 8 secs behind Laura.

Then it was time for the 500m and 200m events. Our 500m heat saw me finish another 8 secs behind Laura despite a small coughing fit 100m from the finish (I’ve had a cold). In the K2 500m event, we proved that two is much better in the boat than one, clocking a time of 1:51:45 which, with some further research, seems to be quite acceptable by open age sprint standards.

But let’s face it, the 200m is not my event. Quite contrary to marathon paddling where the start isn’t everything and you then have a whole lot of time to overtake people, the 200m sprint is a start and nothing else, the craziest minute of high-octane paddling that you can possibly pull out of yourself. So clearly more work is needed on high-octane! In the K2 200m I had a bit of an insight into the octane levels possible, sitting behind Laura who is a very competent and explosive 200m paddler, and who was also pretty keen to beat the Avoca boat a few lanes across (they won, but only be a second).

For the K1 finals we were mixed in with the “young-uns” (ok, some of them were basically my age), but it didn’t matter because the ten of us “masters” were quite happy to have a laugh about the whole thing. In the D final of the 500m I managed to finish 2nd behind someone that looked about 14, while the 16-year-olds in the 200m B final proved a bit too fast and I finished last. Laura and I each received five gold medals across the day for our efforts, each being the only paddler in our age category to compete. I think it’s the sprint committee’s ploy to get us back next year! I also earned a sunburned back for failing to pay heed to the spring weather.

More importantly though, I learned a lot about my paddling, starts, how to start in the back of a K2, and how long my brain is capable of pushing my body to its absolute max. I made a few new friends along the way, and would highly recommend the next iteration of the State ‘Masters’ Sprint Championships to more Lane Cove paddlers. Those on the experienced side of 25 were definitely having the most fun!

What is Canoe Sprint?

Previously called Flatwater, Canoe Sprint has been a competition sport in the Summer Olympic Games since the 1936 Games in Berlin. Since then Australian sprint paddlers have won 18 Olympic medals. Some might say sprint is the purest form of paddling. Tippy, lightweight boats designed with little consideration for anything but straight line speed. Races are on a straight course, in lanes and usually over 200m, 500m and 1000m. Top paddlers hit speeds over 20km/h.

Whilst the HCC is indeed challenging, no paddler is complete until they have enjoyed the pain of the 1000m sprint! Not only that, sprinting is a great way to improve some of the technical aspects of your paddling applicable to marathon races, namely race starts, short burst acceleration and power work, essential skills for getting and maintaining that all important wash-ride.

The Boats

The ICF sets several criteria for "K" boats but length and weight are the key ones. In 2000, after the Olympic Games in Sydney, the ICF withdrew width restrictions on all boats, spurring a flurry of innovations in boat designs. Narrow and wide boats can qualify.

  • K1 - Must be less than 520cm long and must weight more than 12kg
  • K2 - Must be less than 650cm and must weight more than18kg
  • K4 - Must be less than 1100cm and must weight more than 30kg

Full details in the ICF rules.

Note: You don't need one of these boats to have a go. The PaddleNSW Sprint Series allows you to use whatever boat you want - See below to learn more.

How can I get into sprint?

First thing to do is come and watch or volunteer at an event such as the PaddleNSW Sprint Series or NSW State Championships. It's also important to have a go in a K1. Stability will be an issue for some and it may take some time to feel comfortable in a full blown ICF racing boat. It's been said that it takes a tenth of your age to get it! Fortuantely more stable beginner and intermediate boats are available.

What events are there?

PaddleNSW helps out for people wanting to have a go at sprinting.
Follow PaddleNSW sprint on Facebook

  • The best place to start is the PaddleNSW Sprint Series.
  • Once you're comfortable there is the PaddleNSW State Championships.
  • For more experienced paddlers there is the Australian Canoeing Grand Prix series and the National Championships.

PaddleNSW Sprint Results

How does the PaddleNSW Sprint Series differ from other National and International Sprint Regattas?

The PNSW Sprint Series groups competitors into races with others of similar ability. You don't have to paddle a tippy K1/K2 sprint boat to be able to compete. All you need to do is estimate your time to paddle 1000m and nominate this on your entry. If you know your times over shorter distances, all the better, but it is not crucial.

Based on the times provided, competitors are placed into similarly timed heats, so you will be racing people of your own speed and ability, no matter what boat you paddle. K1s, ocean skis, racing sea kayaks like the Sonic or Flash are all perfectly acceptable even a K4. The point here is it gives you a chance to race your current boat over an Olympic course and develop all the skills sprinting entails.

Sprint Calendar



  • SIRC - The Sydney International Regatta Centre is Sydney's paddling and rowing Olympic Venue. A truly world class facility and a wonderful experience to paddle there. Map


Looking down the SIRC Competition Lake from the finish line. Control tower and starter's huts on the left.