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The intention of the river classification is to provide four steps in proficiency, applicable from a novice to a relatively experienced paddler. Loosely put, there must be four distinct, discernable levels of “graduation” that cover, for example:
• A novice learning to paddle on a dam, lagoon, marina, or still water (F)
• A novice learning the handle typical South African rivers, with small to moderate rapids, weirs, tree-blocks, sandbanks, eddies and the like (CR rated Rivers) A good example – Upper Umgeni
• A moderately experienced paddler learning to master bigger rivers, with more challenging obstacles, such as higher volumes of water, bigger rapids with significant drops, stoppers, waves and holes, rapids that require significant manoeuvering, bigger weirs and strong currents and eddies (BR rated rivers). Good example – Dusi, Fish
• An experienced paddler ready to tackle technically difficult and potentially dangerous rivers, with demanding high-grade rapids, serious waterflow and hydraulic features, rapids with difficult lines that require substantial handling skills and rough water experience to be safely enjoyed. (AR rated rivers) Good example – Umkomaas, Lowveld Croc.

It is imperative to note that the difficulty grading of any stretch of water can be significantly affected by unusually high or low water levels, as well as factors such as cold, rain, sleet, wind, mist and fog. The presiding safety officer is entitled to revise the river grading appropriately, and apply restrictions to entry, in these circumstances. For this exercise, the rating are based on “normal” or “average conditions” during the popular racing season.


CLASS 0: Flat stationary water – no waves.
CLASS 1: Moving water with a few riffles and small waves – few or no obstructions.
CLASS 2: Easy rapids with waves up to a metre high and wide clear channels that can be seen without scouting. Some manoeuvering is required to avoid obstacles.
CLASS 3: Rapids with high, irregular waves (above 1 mt) would likely swamp an open canoe. Has narrow channels and has some drops causing turbulence which may require complex manoeuvering and even scouting from the bank.
CLASS 4: Long difficult rapids with constricted passages that require precise manoeuvering in very turbulent water. Scouting from the bank is often necessary and the conditions make rescue difficult. Paddlers in kayaks should able to successfully execute an eskimo roll. There is more than 100 metres to the next pool.
CLASS 5: Extremely difficult, long and very violent rapids with large drops having highly congested routes which nearly always require scouting. Rescue conditions are difficult and there is a significant risk to life in the event of a mishap. Gradient is steep (1 in 10 up to 1 in 20) with large stoppers. Bomb-proof roll is essential!
CLASS 6: The difficulties of class 5 carried to the extreme of navigability, nearly impossible and very dangerous. For teams of experts only, after close study and all precautions taken. Generally a very steep gradient of more than 1 in 5 with a large number of stoppers.


F – Flatwater, no discernible flow eg Marina da Gama, Midmar Dam or Victoria Lake.
CR – Flowing gently, some small rapids (class 1 and 2), and possibly reed channels and/or tree blocks eg Albert Falls weir to Bluegums (Umgeni) or Klip from Henley to Confluence.
BR – Steady flowing water, with some technical spots that require significant manoeuvering, but seldom exceed class 3 rapids. eg Campbells farm to Dusi Brige (Umsindusi), Breede, Barrage to Parys (Vaal).
AR – Technical, continuous wild water, with up to class 4 or 5 rapids, usually inaccessible, may containing technically difficult obstacles such as weirs eg Tugela, Umko, Lowveld Croc.
X – Extreme, for very competent plastic kayak paddlers only eg Thrombosis Gorge, Deepdale to Hella Hella or Ndedema Gorge.


In order to standardise and simplify the management of kayaking jackets and helmets the following criteria have been adopted by CSA. The criteria are based on international standards. At the December Congress it was agreed that CSA could not prescribe specific brand names suitable for canoeing purposes, hence the formulation of the following criteria


That the term “Kayaking jacket” be adopted in place of flotation device, life jacket or buoyancy aid.
A waist tie using a quick release buckle or drawcord must be a standard feature.
The amount of flotation must give 6kg lead uplift in water.
Shape and design of the jacket must allow freedom to twist and lean the torso.
Head movement and visibility must not be impaired or obstructed by the jacket.
Closed cell foam flotation must be evenly distributed front and back. Flotation may also occur on the sides.
Loose fitting, unsecured jackets will not be acceptable.
Nothing that may fill with water, or snag onto trees or branches should hang from the jacket.
The stitching, buckles and flotation must be in good working condition. Jackets appearing worn or aged may be rejected on suspicion of not being in good working order.


Must protect the front of the head and the temples.
Must fit the head perfectly.
Must protect the ears.
The inside of the helmet must be lined with foam, or close-fitting cradle.
The harness must be strong.
Be made of polypropelene or polyethelene.
Holes moulded into the helmet for ventilation, not drainage, as water should not get into a perfectly fitting helmet.


1. The Safety Standards set by CSA, published in the CSA Safety Booklet and amended from time to time shall be binding upon all paddlers taking part in events run under the auspices of CSA.

2. The wearing of kayaking jackets is compulsory at all CSA sanctioned flat-water events and on all classes of river.

3. Exceptions to this rule will be provided for where it is considered that kayaking jackets are either not appropriate. e.g. at sprint events and SA and Provincial Marathon Championships etc when safety boats are provided or not necessary e.g. at K4 events and on certain dices and marathon events. Unions that have events that they wish to be exempt are to apply to the CSA Safety Chairman for exemption.

4. Paddlers of small cockpit boats, e.g. white water boats and plastic boats, must wear kayaking jackets and helmets at all times.

5. The Provincial Safety Officer may exempt all paddlers, in open cockpit boats, from wearing kayaking jackets when water is very low. A report on all incidents when this exemption has been made must be submitted to the CSA Safety Officer on a monthly basis.
Proficiency and Race Qualification

6. New paddlers are required to complete the Flatwater Proficiency Test before being permitted to enter any race. They are then required to complete a minimum of three Flatwater races or club time trials before completing the River Proficiency Test.

7. The three Flatwater races or dices may be replaced by trips co-ordinated by the paddlers club Safety Officer. This is to be done at the discretion of and under the strict control of the signing Safety Officer

8. Once the paddler has passed the River Proficiency test they will become CBR rated and permitted to enter both C and B Class River races.

9. The paddler will then be required to complete six C or B Class river races within 175%, or a lower percentage to be decided upon by the Union Safety Officer, of winners time before attaining an AR rating and being permitted to enter A Class River races.

10. All testing is to be done by the Club or Union Safety Officers or their designated assistants. The tests as set out in the CSA Safety Booklet are to be strictly adhered to and conducted in a formal and responsible manner.

11. The signing Safety Officers are to monitor the new paddlers progress through the 6 races prior to the attaining of an AR rating and to advise on a balance of events graded from easy to difficult. If the Safety Officer is not satisfied with the paddler’s progress they may intervene via their Union to delay the attaining of the AR status until the required skills have been acquired by the paddler.

12. AR rated paddlers must have completed a minimum of three A Class races before being permitted to enter A+ Class races.

13. A paddler will never loose their AR rating. After an absence of three years a BR rated paddler will loose their race credits an have to complete all six C or B class races again before attaining an AR rating.

14. In these rules the front and back paddlers in a K2 are treated equally. Only whole races count not each leg separately.


Notwithstanding these river section ratings the following races have an A Class rating:-
Berg Marathon, Fish Marathon, Vaal Marathon, 50 Miler, Dusi Marathon, Drak Challenge. Orange River Marathon.And, the following races have an A+ Class rating:- Lowveld Croc Marathon, Umkomaas Marathon, Tugela Marathon, Ithala Challenge, Bushmans to Weenan Road, Hella-Hella to Josephines Bridge, Josephines Bridge to Riverside.