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FAQ's - COVID-19

Issued 14 May 2020, Updated 28 July 2020


British Canoeing has issued new paddling guidance, following the lifting of some of the restrictions on paddlesport in England from 13 May 2020. Our new guidance is aligned with the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy and guidance on the phased return of sport and recreation - updated on 30 June 2020.

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

To support the return the paddling the following frequently asked questions document has been produced.


Are all the waterways open? The Environment Agency, Port of London Authority, Broads Authority and Canal & River Trust have lifted restrictions and are now allowing paddling activity to recommence, but be advised that there may be some localised restrictions still in place. 

Paddlers must be aware that the services and staffing of Navigation Authorities may remain limited. British Canoeing is continuing to update its website as we receive more information. Please report any local restrictions on our PaddlePoints website.

Does this mean I can paddle with my friends? Since 1 June you can  exercise alone, with members of your household, or with up to 5 other people from outside your household. From 4 July, up to two households are permitted to gather in groups of more than 6 people, provided members of different households can follow social distancing guidelines

Can I share a car? Only with members of your own household. While you can meet up and paddle with one other person, they must remain at a safe social distance at all times.

Am I okay to do a trip that involves a shuttle? Clearly some paddling trips require a shuttle of cars to recover equipment. Shuttles should only be done with members of the same household.

Can I use public transport? No, avoid any non essential use of public transport.

Do I still need a licence to paddle? Yes, you still require a licence to paddle on any water where there is a Statutory Right of Navigation. It is important that you check that your British Canoeing membership is up to date so that your licence and insurance are valid. To check whether you require a licence on your local waterway, use our PaddlePoints feature on Go Paddling.

What type of boats am I allowed to paddle? So long as you are within your capabilities and the single craft is suitable for the conditions and type of water then there is no specific guidance on what craft should be paddled. It is essential that equipment is properly checked and serviceable before setting out. Crewed or Tandem activities would not be permitted with the 2 metre social distancing rule.

Do I need to clean my kit before or after use? Yes. It is good practice to check, clean, dry after every trip to help stop the spread of invasive non-native species. It is even more important now to maintain good hygiene routines. Cleaning of equipment should be done away from public places, ideally with warm water and then dried. 

Can I paddle in coastal waters? At present there are no RNLI lifeguards on beaches and although volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, should they be needed. It is important that only experienced paddlers who are familiar with a location should paddle on coastal waters. Anyone visiting the coast understands the risk and takes the necessary steps to keep themselves safe. We would urge anyone planning a visit to the coast to follow RNLI safety advice

What is your definition of "Local" given in miles/distance?  Travel to exercise is not prohibited by the government. As such we will not be putting a limit or mileage distance on how far, or where people, can go paddling. However we are encouraging members to paddle locally, in the interest of respecting the views of our countryside partners, popular tourism destinations and protecting popular rural locations.

Can I hire a boat and go paddling? British Canoeing has provided guidance to commercial hire operators to be able to facilitate hire activity to resume, as long as it is within Government and Navigation Authority  guidelines. Always check ahead to see if providers are open and operating before travelling. 

I’m a beginner, how can I get involved in paddlesport? There is a wealth of information and advice on the Go Paddling website, covering everything from equipment to places to learn and try paddlesport. Here you will find all the inspiration you need on how to get involved so that you are ready to go when it is safe to do so!


I am a member of a club but not an individual member of British Canoeing, can I paddle? Members of clubs who are not full members of British Canoeing are classed as ‘Club Associate members’. Club Associates are only covered by the British Canoeing insurance and club boat licences when participating in club activity

Club Associates can paddle outside of the club, BUT they do so at their own risk and must arrange their own licence (OR become British Canoeing on the water members).

If i borrow a boat from my club, does it cover my waterways licence? Borrowing a club boat does not cover a Club Associate Member for their licence when paddling outside of ‘club activity’. Only British Canoeing ‘on the water’ members are covered for insurance and boat licencing.

I am not a member of a club or British Canoeing, can I paddle? Yes, so long as you are within the Government guidelines, it is within your capability and the requirements for the relevant waterways authority, where there is one, are met. Information on  which waterways require a licence can be found on the British Canoeing website and via  PaddlePoints. You still require a licence to paddle on any water where there is a statutory Right of Navigation, and British Canoeing membership includes a licence and insurance. 

I have joined, when will my licence be sent out? At the moment membership cards are not currently being processed or physically mailed out due to Covid-19, but all members will receive a PDF digital copy as proof of membership within an email sent directly after your membership payment.

Will members receive a refund or discount for their membership as it was not used during lockdown? Our members are at the heart of everything we do, and we are acutely aware of the impact not being able to paddle has had.  We are currently not able to offer a discount on, or extension to, individual membership fees, but we continue to review this position. 

Whilst we know not being able to paddle affects your membership, there are so many other aspects that make up the benefits of membership including supporting the maintenance and upkeep of waterways, and income generated through membership is reinvested back into paddlesport, supporting the development of resources and projects that benefit our members and the paddling community.


Can club activities take place? From 1 June club activities can take place, where any paddling activity within the club has had due diligence and a risk assessment carried out by the relevant and accountable club representative(s), is organised and delivered in groups of no more than 6 club members, or groups from two households.

Can I access my club site to collect my own personal boat? Yes you can but by making club facilities available your club will need to make sure that an up-to-date risk assessment (including additional steps to deal with Government guidelines) has been carried out and implemented. It will be up to individual clubs to decide whether they are ready and able to allow members to safely access the site.

Do you have a risk assessment template available that we can use?  Yes - a template and guidance can be found here

Can I access my club site to borrow a club boat? It will be up to individual clubs to decide whether they are ready and able to provide access to shared equipment.  If a club decides to do this a risk assessment must be carried out and any required actions are implemented. 

Can I use the club site/water access to get on the water as an independent paddler? This will vary from club to club, depending on which ones are ready to allow access to the club site. Individuals must ensure that they have permission to use their intended launch point and that the process of launching follows social distancing guidelines.

Can I use the clubhouse and facilities at my club? Government guidelines currently allow for a very limited opening of club facilities. Communal areas such as changing rooms and gyms should remain shut. Bars and restaurants, including any food or drink facilities inside a clubhouse can open from 4 July, in accordance with the latest guidance. Clubs can provide access to toilets and hand washing facilities, but must ensure they have hygiene protocols in place.

Do clubs have to pay their affiliation fees?  Clubs have been given a three month deferral for payment of their British Canoeing club affiliation fees for the period 1st March to 31st May 2020.  So, for example, if your affiliation fees were due on the 6th April 2020, payment will now be due on the 6th July 2020.

Are there any changes to the terms of club or individual member insurance provided by British Canoeing? No, there are no changes to the terms and conditions of any of our insurance policies.


I am a hire provider, can I provide equipment to families or individuals? British Canoeing has produced guidance to support and provide a framework for Paddlesport Centres and Hire Providers. It is recognised the Centres and Hire Providers must use their experience, decision making and professional judgement to consider this guidance and take the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of paddlers, staff and members of the public. 

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. Facilities can decide whether or not they hire out equipment, including canoes and other paddle craft. 

Are there any restrictions still limiting hire operators? It is crucial that hire operators check with the relevant Navigation Authority (where there is one) and also with Local Authorities, to check that there are no local restrictions in place. 

Updated guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs COVID-19 (coronavirus): using a boat inland and on the coast was published on 11 June 2020.


Can I do any British Canoeing awards at this time?  Many of the British Canoeing Qualifications and Awards require rescues and maintaining social distancing is impossible.  However individuals may want to access personal development/training with a coach. This can be achieved as long as it is no more than 5 people in a group, outdoors, and you are staying a minimum of 2 metres apart.

Contingencies should be put in place for each paddler to be entirely self-sufficient and participants should not be using shared equipment.  We have produced further guidance for coaches and leaders.

Can I coach under 18s on a 1:1 basis? Any coaching of under 18s and adults at risk on a 1:1 basis should be avoided. The relaxation of the government guidance on social gatherings now means that group coaching (up to 1:5) or individual coaching with parent/carer supervision can now take place. Coaches are reminded of the principles of British Canoeing’s safeguarding policy. 


Can I resume flat water training sessions? So long as activity can be done within Government guidelines, well within your capabilities and appropriate safety considerations have been taken into account in case of an incident, then there is no reason why flat water training should not resume. 

Can coached training sessions resume? Yes, as long as it no more than six people in a group and a minimum of 2 metres can be maintained at all times. Contingencies should be put in place for each paddler to be entirely self-sufficient and participants should not be using shared equipment.

Can I resume Slalom training? So long as activity can be done within Government guidelines, well within your capabilities and appropriate safety considerations have been taken into account in case of an incident, then there is no reason why slalom training should not resume. It is important where there is the potential for contact with shared surfaces, measures are put in place to prevent  transmission of coronavirus through equipment such as slalom poles.

Can I resume Polo training? New guidance on the return to canoe polo was issued by British Canoeing on 28 July 2020.

Can I use the gym facilities at my club? Gym facilities will be permitted to open from 25 July.


When will organised events and competitions be held? British Canoeing has announced the cancellation of all competitions, events and gatherings until at least 31 July 2020. New guidance on supporting a return to competitions and events in England from August 2020 has been published.