Paddle Sports

With canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), rowing, and rafting, there are plenty of options for veteran voyagers and nautical novices alike. You can sit down, stand up, cruise on flat water and stay dry, or run rapids and get wet. Basically, there’s something for everyone.

Paddle sports are a fantastic way to get active and explore rivers. Like all activities in and around rivers, paddle sports are best enjoyed safely and responsibly. Even for experienced paddlers, buoyancy aids and life jackets are a must. Helmets are also often needed, as there could be hidden hazards underneath the surface of the water. There is also a risk in paddling near weirs, so they’re best avoided. There is no general right of way on English rivers, so if you are not in a club with experienced paddlers, it’s worth checking on who owns the stretch of river you want to paddle on and whether they allow use.

Tips on responsible paddling

Whilst we want to see as many people as enjoying the benefits of paddle sports, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re not inadvertently damaging the environment as you take to the river:

  • Read up the site’s sensitive spots, protected areas, species and breeding seasons
  • Don’t leave any litter behind
  • Where possible, stick to designated paths and launching points
  • Steer clear of nesting or spawning wildlife, especially in spring and early summer
  • After you leave the water, be sure to check, clean, and dry your equipment to avoid the spread of invasive species
  • If you see something in the water that doesn’t look right, you should report it to the appropriate agency.

If you think paddle sports could be your new favourite hobby, why not see where your nearest local club is? There are lots of opportunities for beginners. If you’re already a seasoned paddler looking for a new challenge, consider paddling to save rivers by fundraising for The Rivers Trust!

British Canoeing

British Canoeing is the UK’s governing body for all paddle sports. They have an excellent guide to water safety with information about whether you need a license for your stretch of river.

Canoeing Ireland

Canoe Ireland covers everything you need to know about paddle sports in Ireland.

Report an Environmental Incident

While you’re out, if you spot a pollution incident, any illegal activity or anything else, please report it immediately to the environment authorities. These hotlines are open 24 hours a day:

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland: 0800 80 70 60

Wales: Natural Resources Wales hotline: 0300 065 3000

Ireland: EPA Headquarters: 053 916 0600 / Lo Call Number: 1890 33 55 99*

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