Most of you are aware that the newly created World Rafting Federation (WRF) signed a cooperative agreement with the International Canoe Federation (ICF) shortly after we (the IRF) filed our membership application with the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF).  (GAISF was formally known as SportAccord.) Although the details have been kept secret, the IRF is happy to comment on the agreement should those responsible release it publicly.

The ultimate goal of Olympic inclusion for rafting remains a top objective of the IRF. The first step to Olympic inclusion is membership in GAISF. Our submission for membership is acknowledged and progressing through the application process.

GAISF and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) require that only one international sport body may be recognised to represent a sport.  By creating a second international body, the leaders of the WRF have unfortunately delayed IOC recognition of rafting and therefore delayed rafting’s introduction into the Olympic Programme.

In planning our application for membership with GAISF, we have factored in an expectation of objection or query as to the authority of the IRF to represent the sport of rafting. We are not threatened by objections, and we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate how we (you included) have built our sport over the decades.

Many paddle sports have been challenged or hindered on their route to GAISF and IOC recognition by ICF attempts to claim ownership of all paddle sports. These are tactical attempts to prevent independent recognition of these sports and their eventual acceptance into the Olympics.  Rafting is no different.

Some recent examples of challenges have been:

  • Photo: www.dragonboatnet.com

    Dragon boating was initially rejected when presented to the ICF as a new discipline. Consequently, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) was created.  Eight years later, the IDBF applied to GAISF for membership which was contested. However, IDBF persevered and was granted GAISF membership, and is now recognised by the IOC as the international federation (IF) governing dragon boating.

  • Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) has been developed and nurtured by the International Surf Association (ISA) for more than 10 years.  Under ISA leadership, SUP was slated to be introduced at the 2018 Youth Olympics and was in process for inclusion in the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Programme. But the ICF has challenged the ISA’s authority over SUP which caused the IOC to remove SUP from the Olympic and other calendars until this conflict is resolved. The challenge is ongoing but is looking likely to be with the original host organisation, the ISA.
  • Raft racing has built its global presence through the hard work of the IRF, and through the participation and support of (you) our members.  Unfortunately, because of the WRF’s attempt to undermine the global authority of the IRF, we are in a position where we now have to prove the IRF has the experience, ownership and history of the sport of rafting which will further delay rafting’s progression to Olympic recognition.

We vehemently reject the proposals stated in the recent ICF press release for its members to sign up to the WRF.  By supporting a fracture in the international governance of rafting sport, this initiative will be clearly detrimental to the dreams and objectives of rafting athletes everywhere.  We are stronger together.  With over 20 years of experience and heartfelt passion behind us, the IRF will continue to promote, advance, and defend our undisputed governance over the sport of rafting.

The IRF remains open to discussion and/or agreements with the ICF and WRF.  To date we have received no response to any of our communications.  We first approached ICF leaders in early June last year (long before the formation of the WRF) to discuss a cooperative agreement and received no reply.

Inclusion in the Olympic Programme is a long one. As we have seen with the removal of C2 as an Olympic discipline, water sports in general are having the number of medals on offer reduced as new sports are introduced to keep the Olympic Programme more aligned to current sport trends.

Our next steps are to ensure rafters all around the world and those who vote for their national rafting federation’s leaders, understand the complexity and difficulty of getting a sport added to the Olympic Programme; and that they are not misled by incorrect information or false promises.

This is where we need your help. We need you to engage with your members, supporters, sponsors and friends to get the message out that the IRF (your federation) is aggressively defending our position as the global leader of rafting, and that we will continue to actively pursue our goal, and surmount any obstacles necessary, to take rafting to the Olympics.

Shortly we will be issuing press releases.   We ask you to spread and share them far and wide, and to translate them for your own websites, newspapers, and national sport media outlets!

As we lead up to running our 17th World Rafting Championship (and our 9th Youth World Rafting Championship), we will continue to be your international representative and voice for rafting.  We pledge to continue to push forward on our attempt to secure GAISF membership and IOC recognition, and to increase the materials you can use to promote rafting the world over.

Thank you,

IRF Executive Committee

#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #StrongerTogether #WeAreOne #WeAreIR