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Safe Canoeing

Canoeing can be a fun way to experience nature, helping you to stay fit and healthy and is always a great way to spend time with friends and family. It can also be a dangerous activity if appropriate safety guidelines are overlooked.

A good way to ensure your safety and get the most out of your paddling is to learn to canoe with a club or centre. British Canoeing promotes a series of skill courses called Star Awards which can be accessed at a canoe club or centre.

Stay safe: To help make sure you remain safe at all times, be sure to read our canoeing safety advice guidelines.

  • ALWAYS be certain to let others know where you’re going and when you’re expected to return
  • BE CERTAIN that the journey you plan is within your capabilities
  • MAKE SURE you never paddle alone

Wear appropriate clothing: Always wear shoes. Rocks, rough terrain and river beds present serious hazards to boaters without the proper attire. Nearly 90% of all boating injuries are attributed to lack of proper footwear.

Other canoe safety clothing includes: hats, gloves, additional dry clothing and layered items which can easily be removed. Take or wear a windproof top and course always wear a buoyancy aid - for children make sure the crotch straps are used.

Be sure to:

  • Know the weather forecast and check the water conditions before you set out canoeing. There is an Environment Agency website where information concerning river levels can be found. We recommend checking this before heading out as the river levels can rise and fall quite quickly in wet or dry conditions.
  • Observe navigation rules and check to see if you are required a licence for the waterway you are planning to paddle.
  • Check to see if there are any events on the waterways when you wish to travel.
  • Check that your equipment is well maintained and ready for the water.
  • Check that your boat has the required buoyancy to keep it afloat in the event of a capsize.

Checklist: Always use this canoeing safety checklist to make sure you have everything you need:

  • Boat
  • Paddle
  • Buoyancy Aid
  • Bailer/sponge
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • Phone (in a waterproof bag)
  • Drinking water and snacks
  • Suitable clothing for the weather

Now you know how to stay safe, why not check out our places to paddle and activities and events and see what's going on near you? But before you do please check our environmental guidance to keep our wonderful environment as you found it.