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SI Editorial: Paddle-boarding, like Kiting, wants to be an Olympic sport; canoe canoe?

SAN FRANCISCO (#1008) – Rowing, like Sailing, has been in the Olympics since the modern Games began in 1896, notwithstanding that both the Rowing and Sailing events at the first Olympic Games were cancelled due to bad weather (strong wind). Rowing has about the same number of member countries as Sailing, 153 v. 144 (source: Wikipedia). Both involve relatively expensive, difficult to transport vessels. Rowing has 14 medal events in the Summer Games. Sailing has only ten.

According to the sailing page on the IOC website: Sailing is the art of moving a boat by harnessing the power of wind. Mastery over ever-changing conditions requires both great skill and experience.

According to the rowing page on the IOC website: Rowing is the propelling of a boat using a fixed oar as a lever. in modern sports, rowers race against each other either as individuals or in crews of two, four or eight.

At meetings this weekend and early next week in London, World Sailing is considering adding Kiteboarding as an Olympic Sailing event, at the expense of one or even two of the current ten events. Hopefully, World Sailing leadership will come to its senses and decide to maintain the current ten events for another four years, giving time for a proper evaluation while taking the views of clubs, classes and Olympic sailors (past, present and future) more fully into account.

At this writing it would appear the traditional, and popular 470 and Finn classes are most at risk of being eliminated in favor of Kiting, which would likely feature seven-minute downwind slalom races with mid-course obstacles to jump over. At least that's the course being used for Kiting in the Junior Olympics this October.

As many of our Dear Readers and Viewers of our regular Tuesday webcast will know, your Ed. is of the firm view that Kiteboarding, or Kitesurfing, or Kiting (whether on land, sea or snow) would make an excellent Olympic sport. But, please, World Sailing, do not put Kiting under Olympic Sailing unless Sailing gets additional medals for this new sport.

So along comes paddle-boarding, a new sport that, like Kiting, has strong Olympic aspirations and backing. Turns out that FISA, the french abbreviation for the intentional rowing federation, wants no part of paddle-boards. They are happy to live within, indeed jealousy guard, the strict definition of their sport, above, and their 14 rowing medals – complete with women's events and, recently, weight classes.

In the meantime two other international federations (IFs) are fighting over paddle-boarding - Canoe/Kayak and Surfing. Both claim to be the natural home for paddle-boarding, and are sanctioning competing championships. The dispute is now being mediated by the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS).

Canoe/Kayak entered the Olympics in 1936. Today there are two separate Olympic sports for canoe/kayak – Canoe Slalom and Canoe Sprint. Yes, separate sports. Surfing will enter the Summer Games as a sport for the first time in 2020 (Tokyo).

And check this out. The Canoe Federation also recognizes Canoe Sailing as a discipline. OMG, there's a form of "sailing" being governed by a federation other than World Sailing?

Bottom line, if paddle-boarding goes into the Olympics it's going in as either a Surfing event (and, to be fair, paddle-boarding did begin as surfboards be propelled be paddling, whether standing or kneeling), or under the Canoe/Kayak federation (ICF).

Regardless, not under Rowing! Say what you want about the Winklevoss Twins, but the rowers I know are all smart guys and gals; so, too, apparently is their federation.

So there you have it, not one but three existing Olympic sports that all look pretty much the same – waterborne craft propelled by paddles or oars – but that are considered to be so different as to be separate Olympic sports. Even the Olympic pictograms are very similar.

Total number of rowing/canoe medals? 28: four for Canoe Slalom, ten for Canoe Sprint and fourteen for rowing. Total for Sailing? 10. Even fewer if Kiting is allowed to become a Sailing event.

LOL, all this reminds me of the early 80s adverts for the men's cologne "Canoe" and their memorable question, "Canoe canoe?" Notwithstanding that the clever commercial featured a handsome yachtsman on a sailboat and beautiful woman in a RIB – not a canoe in sight, other than the cologne.


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