The International Rafting Federation (IRF) recognises the need to make raft racing available to as wide a number of people as possible. As such, the IRF is delighted to announce that after many months of intensive work, it has fulfilled its commitment to launch a comprehensive, safe and internationally supported Para Rafting program.
A Para Rafting Committee was appointed in October 2020 to direct and approve the process of finalising the Rules, Codes and Classification Systems for Para Rafting. The committee consists of a wide range of extremely well-qualified participants who through personal experience are well acquainted with the unique challenges faced by the adaptive rafting community including former Para-Olympians, global para sports policy writers and para rafters.
The comprehensive policies and procedures are now available to guide member nations and organisations in setting up and running Para Rafting events. In addition, these documents will guide them and their athletes through the necessary classification procedures. We encourage members to start running local events, when pandemic restrictions allow, so as to get Para Rafting well and truly off to a flying start.
The aim of the IRF’s Para Rafting is in two streams. The first is aimed at general competitions, to include as wide diversity of abilities as possible (Stream 1). The second is aimed at World and Continental Championships, and to work towards one day being included in the Paralympics (Stream 2). As a new para sport all IRF Para Rafting rules, policies and procedures are open to evolution, review and change at any point in time.
Being a team sport also sets rafting apart from many other para sports. Therefore, the IRF is using a functional classification system more common in para team sports (like wheelchair rugby) where greater participation of competitors can be encouraged by providing opportunities for teams with different abilities to compete against each other in a reasonably fair way.
The IRF recognises that every impairment is different and will affect the individual to a greater or lesser extent. For example, someone who has lost three limbs will be fundamentally disadvantaged compared to someone who has a visual impairment. The mix of impairments potentially within one team could be significantly different to that of another team and to race such teams against each other could be inherently unfair.
Our classifications therefore assess the impact of a range of impairment on an individual’s functional abilities to participate in the sport of rafting. A point system focused on the competitor’s functional abilities is enforced to ensure fair competition.
The IRF had hoped to run the first Para Rafting World Rafting Championships this year, however, the uncertainty that Covid-19 is still inflicting on the world has led us to postpone this project to 2022.
Thanks must go to Jezza Williams of the Para Rafting Committee for the enormous amount of extra time he put into assisting us in realising this project. We look forward to one day seeing him compete in Para Rafting.
Find more details including rules, safety guidelines and classification system here on our website: www.internationalrafting.com/racing/para-rafting/