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COVID-19 Update: Latest Guidance for Paddlesport Clubs, Centres and Hire Providers

July 2020


We are pleased to provide additional and updated guidance to paddlesport clubs, centres and hire providers in England.

The advice provided is based on government guidance that has been issued to support the return of sport and recreation in England, last updated on 9 July 2020.

This guidance has been produced with the intention to enable clubs, centres and hire providers to operate safely and deliver paddlesport activities. 

British Canoeing’s priority remains to protect the health of our members and the paddlesport community to help to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Each setting will be unique and British Canoeing hopes that through completing a COVID-19 risk assessment clubs, centres and providers will be able to decide how best to deliver paddlesport activities for their members, volunteers, customers and staff.

This guidance relates only in England, as policy and guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is subject to the devolved governments and their respective national governing bodies

Managing the COVID-19 Risk

Clubs, centres and providers will need to put in place plans and COVID-19 risk assessments to reduce the risk of transmission through the use of any areas of the facility or shared equipment. Every setting will have slightly different considerations.

There are four steps you should follow to manage the risk of COVID-19 in your activities: 

1. Read the latest guidance from the government and British Canoeing and consider how this affects the activity you wish to deliver. 

2. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment, which includes identifying all the safety protocols you must put in place. This is mandatory.

3. Produce a simple, easy to read summary of your COVID-19 protocols.

4. Share this information with staff, volunteers and participants and provide any training or briefings as required. 

You should think of this process as a cycle, which restarts each time there is a change in official guidance. As soon as that guidance changes, you should review your risk assessment and start this process over again. 

The COVID-19 Guidance Process 

(supplied with thanks to Canoe Wales)

Provision in Clubs, Centres and Hire Providers

Any facilities associated with outdoor sports and physical activities are permitted to re-open. Each venue should make their own decisions about when their facilities are ready.

Working to ensure the outdoor activity can meet public health guidelines. All activity should be consistent with the government guidance regarding health, social distancing and good hygiene.

Much of the requirements to deliver paddlesport activity safely within clubs, centres and providers is fully covered in the DCMS Phased Return to Outdoor Sport and Recreation in England guidance, last updated on 9 July 2020.

British Canoeing has provided the following guidance of information for clubs, centres and hire providers.


Social distancing and gatherings

  • Social distancing guidelines should be followed wherever possible. 
  • This means a distance of 2 metres between people from different households, or 1 metre plus mitigations (such as face coverings or avoiding face-to-face contact) where 2 metres is not possible
  • Public spaces should be designed to maintain 2 metre distances between people or by opening more entrances and exits, and limiting the number of people allowed into particular areas at one time
  • Under the current guidelines it is possible to exercise alone, with members of your household, or with up to five other people from outside your household.  Up to two households are permitted to gather in groups of more than six people.
  • Facilities which are COVID-19 Secure will be able to hold more than 30 people, subject to their own capacity limits, although individual groups - two households or up to six people from different households - should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending with



  • Activities can take place, where the club, centre or provider has carried out risk assessments for both COVID-19 and for the paddling activity
  • All activity needs to fall within the club or facility’s safety plan and British Canoeing Paddlesafe guidance. Paddlers should ensure that they have a means to call for help at all times
  • Organised club, centre or provider activity will be delivered in groups of no more than six members/customers and is promoted through communication channels including website, social media, marketing collateral, club calendar or noticeboard
  • Clubs, centres and providers may have several groups of six operating as long as each group operates wholly separately from each other
  • If the activity has more than 30 people you should be operating fully within the COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Any individual groups of six people should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending with
  • Clubs, centres and providers will need to communicate clearly and regularly with members and customers - setting out what they are doing to manage risk, and what advice they are giving to individuals to do likewise
  • Facilities should keep a 21 day record of who has used club facilities, including paddlers and volunteers, to assist with the track and trace process



  • Club boats can be used subject to a booking system being in place and a rigorous cleaning and hygiene procedure being followed to clean the boat after use.
  • Clubs must be mindful that members who are not individual British Canoeing members are only covered by the insurance and waterway licence when participating in club activity.
  • Clubs make communication with members very clear including how members are able to access equipment/facilities and their responsibilities when on site and opening times and how to use booking systems
  • Centres and providers can decide whether or not they hire out equipment, including canoes and other paddle craft. Operators should follow government guidance on water sports and sharing equipment


Facility management

  • Clubs, centres and providers are advised only to open the minimum facilities required to allow access to boats and equipment in a safe manner. 
  • Indoor areas including gyms and changing rooms should remain closed until 25 July.  Full guidance on opening indoor leisure facilities is available in the government guidance.
  • Bars and restaurants, including any food or drink facilities inside a clubhouse, centre or facility can open in accordance with the latest guidance
  • Cleaning protocols should be put in place to limit transmission in public places. It is advised that touch points should be particular areas of focus for increased cleaning.
  • Maintaining hygiene, through handwashing, sanitisation facilities and toilets. If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
  • For centres and providers booking in advance, online or over the phone is preferable. Where this is not possible, and a venue has staff available to take bookings consider mandating contactless or at least card payment, to avoid handling cash
  • Full details on Guidance for providers of outdoor facilities on the phased return of sport and recreation in England is available on the government website


Coaches, leader and guided activity

  • Led, coached, or guided activity may take place on a 1:5 basis so long as social distancing is maintained
  • Anyone leading a 1:5 activity should ensure appropriate safety frameworks are in place, that delivery is in safe and familiar environments and that the paddler is self-sufficient and no equipment is shared
  • Clubs and coaches are reminded that any coaching of under 18s and adults at risk on a 1:1 basis should be avoided
  • A coach, leader or guided activity can meet with different groups in a single day as long as it is in gatherings of no more than 5 clients and you are maintaining social distancing


Children’s holiday activities and out of school provision

If you are running Children's Holiday Activity, the Department for Education has published advice on 1st July giving guidance on what is provision for out of school settings. 

Our interpretation of this is that clubs, centres and providers can run Out of School Hours provision providing they comply with the government guidance.

Please note this guidance differentiates between term-time and holiday provision. You cannot run your normal club activity as a holiday activity.

Crew Boats

Due to the recent changes of Government guidance British Canoeing has provided the following advice on the use of crew boats (more than 1 person in a craft).

To minimise the risk of infection from COVID-19 the use of crew boats should be considered on a case by case basis and with the appropriate mitigation in place.

Social distancing remains at 2 metres unless mitigating measures allow a reduction to 1 metre plus. Being outdoors provides a basic mitigation but for a crew boat, the following mitigations could include:

  • The use of face masks
  • 1 metre separation marks on the craft
  • Technical workouts rather than physical sessions to reduce over exertion
  • Robust cleaning procedures
  • Keeping a record of individuals within a craft to aid track and trace
  • Paddlers not turning round to face another crew member to talk

Participants should be aware that if paddling within the same boat as someone at a distance of less than 2 meters then there are additional risks as compared to paddling apart, and as such people should make an individual choice as to whether or not to participate.

Within events, crew boats can be included however organisers should consider carefully whether formal competition, such as a national championships or ranking races, should be organised as this may place undue pressure on people to participate.

The organising of scratch crews should be discouraged as this increases interaction between a wider range of people during the event. 


During this period of physical distance measures we would encourage that any paddlesport activity is carefully considered to minimise the need to rescue.

However from time to time it is inevitable that a rescue may need to be carried out, and most definitely required if a person's life is at risk or without intervention the situation could escalate.

There are many rescue techniques that keep appropriate distances between the rescuer and casualty and would be regarded as lower risk.

  • Talking them into the side to safety
  • Providing advice to get back into/onto their craft
  • Use of a throwline or reaching aid
  • Towing - using a towline or a contact tow that provides adequate distance such as holding the front of the craft or nudging/shoving their craft

Other rescue techniques may be required due to the situation, and although this may increase the risk it would be deemed necessary to save a life or prevent the situation from getting worse such as physically helping someone back into/onto their craft, an unconscious casualty, a rafted tow to support an injured person.

If such rescues are carried out it is recommended that mitigations are considered:

  • If time allows without the risk of life - wearing of a face mask
  • Keeping a record of individuals involved in the rescue to aid track and trace
  • Follow the specific COVID-19 advice for first aid treatment 


Practising rescues

Many paddlers have expressed they would like to practice their rescues to ensure their safety as well as others.  We could recommend that many rescues can be practised with appropriate physical distancing measures such as recovering craft, emptying of water, towing and throwlines.

These rescues can all be practised without a paddler being in or on their craft or in the water. We advise that such rescues are carried out in a safe sheltered environment and that equipment can be easily recovered if a practised rescue is unsuccessful.

Paddlers from the same household could choose to practice rescues with each other in the water, but we would urge that water quality is considered as well as practising within safe sheltered environments and both paddlers can independently and easily get to the side if a practised rescue is unsuccessful.


Team Activities

British Canoeing has been asked to submit an action plan for the return of multi-person paddling activities (rafting, canoe polo) as part of the Return to Recreational Team Sport Framework

We will publish details once approval has been given by the government for these activities.

A definition of group size is available in the Environmental Guidance for Coaches and Leaders

Competitions and Events

For those looking to organise competitive events there is separate guidance for a return to competitions and events in England.

Further information

British Canoeing - A return to paddling in England

Guidance on the phased return of sport and recreation

Guidance for providers of outdoor facilities on the phased return of sport and recreation in England

HM Government Coronavirus COVID-19 website

UK ACTIVE Guidance on cleaning at sports facilities

Club Covid 19 Risk Assessment Template (PDF)  

Club Covid 19 Risk Assessment Template (Word)

COVID 19 Consent Form

COVID Club Posters