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World Rafting Federation

World Rafting Federation

A huge new development has recently split the world of raft racing. On January 26th the founding members of the World Rafting Federation (WRF) met in Belgrade, Serbia to charter a new rafting federation.

Rafting organizations from 15 countries have endorsed the formation of the WRF. This split has been a very controversial decision in the racing world drawing a strong opposition from several groups. Much of the split seems to stem from the direction that rafting should take on the path to the Olympics.

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The goal of getting rafting onto the world stage through the Olympics is certainly an admirable goal and one that few rafters would disagree with. Many rafting organizations have disagreed on what the road to that goal looks like. The WRF has sought to change the way in which rafting sends athletes to the world stage. Here is the founding speech for WRF president Danilo Barmaz

The World Rafting Federation was founded with the goal of driving the sport into the future and securing a spot for rafting in the Olympic Games. There seem to be some differing rules about sports with mixed gender teams and mixed disciplines in different sports. If paddle sports are taken as a whole by the IOC then rafting has the possibility to get its shot at the Olympics sooner. We have been told the WRF is moving to a mixed gender R4 model where teams are composed of 2 men and 2 women per boat. WRF’s proposed rules would streamline the events (or disciplines as they are known in raft racing).  

The International Rafting Federation (IRF) has spent the last 20 years working towards the goal of Olympic inclusion through age and gender divided categories. The current IRF rules divide categories as follows:

  • U19 Men & Women
  • U23 Men & Women
  • Open Men & Women
  • Masters (40+) Men & Women

The original goal of these divisions was to level the playing field for competitors. Some of our IRF Sources have indicated the goal has also been an obscure International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) rules requiring about 75 men’s teams and 55 women’s team before the IOC would consider rafting as a viable sport.

The WRF just hosted their first major event, the Euro Cup, on the Korana River in Slunj, Croatia. 12 teams from 6 nations competed in the event. You can find more info on the event here.

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At the core though one thing is certain, paddlers from all over the world are seeking to develop the sport for the love of rafting and this split signals an interesting change in the world of raft racing and raises some interesting questions for debate. How should we move into the future of competitive rafting?

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