Competitive rafting is one of the main realms of the IRF, it is a truly exhilarating sport. It requires teamwork, cohesion, physical endurance and strategy. And it takes place in some incredible locations all around the world. There are four main disciplines involved in competitive rafting: the fast sprint, the tactical head-to-head, the technical slalom and the dramatic downriver.
Teams compete across all four areas and earn points in each, with the team with the highest total points coming out on top. The H2H event is the one that tends to be the most popular among fans. It’s exciting, it all happens right in front of the spectators, and it’s easy to understand and see who wins. There is no question this sport has massive potential, but it is also clear to see that it is not yet mainstream. The IRF has been the official world governing body for rafting sport for over twenty years now, and here we look at three changes in the world of sport that could postively impact competitive rafting.
- It becomes an Olympic sport
When the International Olympic Committee decides to ratify sports to include them in the Olympic Games it can often lead to a huge boost in their popularity. Breakdancing is likely to be included in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, having been formally endorsed by the IOC’s executive committee in February 2019. Surfing, skateboarding, sports climbing, karate and baseball/softball will also join the rota at the next Olympics. The IOC are constantly reviewing sports that should or should not be included in the biggest sporting event in the world.
Competitive rafting could qualify for the Olympics in future if the IRF becomes a member of GAISF and then files a petition to the IOC, stating our case by establishing that the sport fits the strict criteria of eligibility. There is a large water sports element to the Games already; with canoeing (for individuals and pairs) already extremely popular. Rowing and several kayak disciplines are already Olympic sports so it’s a full arena already.
- It becomes a major televised sport
Because competitive rafting is held on specific rivers in often difficult-to-access places, it is not an obvious spectator sport. But it could be a candidate for increased television coverage, especially if it is approved as an Olympic sport in the years to come. The advent of drones to aid television coverage of major sports and cameras that operate on zip lines are ideal for a sport like rafting, to give viewers a new perspective on the action.
Major TV coverage would bring increased commercial revenue and often paves the way for popularised betting on the sport. Good content and TV clips could then help a push across social media that could give new fans an idea of why the sport is so exciting to watch and fun to take part.
- A major rafting star emerges
One thing that could have a major impact on the sport of competitive rafting is the emergence of a major, cross-platform star of the sport – a face of rafting. Athletes whose fame lifts sports up single-handedly have become increasingly prevalent in the social media age. If competitive rafting were to unearth a star performer who was also able to influence a massive audience on social media, then the sport would benefit significantly.
Cross-over sports stars are becoming a growing phenomenon, whereby their popularity on social media and with young people outstrips their fame or achievements within the sport at that time. But that huge influence with social media audiences can help attract sponsors, and also take fans of the person across the line to become fans of the sport they operate in. If rafting were to discover someone with this kind of influence, it could help them to attract a whole new group of fans.
If you want to be more involved in the International Rafting Federation by ways of social media or TV broadcasting, email or DM message Sean at any of the IRF’s social media channels:
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