The original reason for dropping the U23 age group was that our member organisations and event organisers had been appealing to us to reduce the number of divisions as they felt four was too many to support financially. So in 2014, at the Extraordinary Congress, the decision was made to drop the U23 division.
During 2015 it was debated and voted on to either add U21 and have U21 and U19, or just keep the U19 or to drop U19 and just keep U21. As this decision would have a huge effect on our members it was important for all to participate. The number of members who participated in the debate was rather poor. After some time all members were asked to vote. Just over 30 of our 50 members voted and the results were extremely close, showing that our members were very divided about this!
By a very small margin (1 member changing their vote could have altered the results), the result was to only have U19. This was announced and Rules were to change for the 2016 season.
However, as reality set in, the people who were developing their U19 age groups were finding that the gap between U19 and Open is just too big and many of the paddlers they’d spent all that time and energy coaxing into the sport during their U19 years were leaving it for other sports. But setting up an U21 age group did not seem to be the right thing either as it was too close to U19. A growing number of people were starting to make these observations.
The option to include the extra division in an event was left open to event organisers to choose, as long as they announced it early enough. Interestingly, both Slovenia (organisers of 2016 ERC) and Japan (organisers of WRC 2017) had indicated they would be including U23 in their events. Wadi Adventures (organisers of WRC 2016) were open to what the IRF members wanted.
At the 2015 Congress the Czech Federation requested to reinstate the U23 category based on the reasons above. There was large support for this and the overwhelming majority voted to reinstate the U23 Division.
As changes like this have a huge impact on the planning of events and for federations, it was also voted in that the U19 and U23 Divisions would be kept intact for a minimum of four years without further age changes.