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Latest guidance for paddling in England

10 September 2020, Updated 24 September 2020

Following the recent announcements by the government on social gatherings in England, British Canoeing is pleased to confirm that most paddling activity will not be affected by the new restrictions.

In England, from Monday 14 September, new government guidelines state that when meeting friends and family you do not live with you must not meet in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors.

Sport England and the government has confirmed there will be exceptions, including:

  • elite sporting competition and training
  • Education and training
  • organised sport, exercises classes or licensed outdoor physical activity*

Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do

All activities either need to be organised by a national governing body, club, registered instructor/coach, business or charity; and/or involve someone who has received an official licence to use equipment relevant to the activity. 

In all cases, the organiser must conduct a risk assessment and ensure compliance with COVID-19 Secure guidance.

People can also continue to use leisure facilities, including gyms and pools. People should not go to these venues socially in groups of more than six.


*Indoor Team Sports

From 24 September you can continue to take part in organised sporting or licensed physical activity in groups of more than six, with one exception.

From 24 September, people aged 18 and over playing indoor team sports must adhere to the 'rule of six', which means playing in a group of no more than six people.

Groups of adults within club gyms or other indoor training facilities should also be limited to groups of no larger than six.

Team sports – such as canoe polo - which had guidance approved by the government for the safe playing of their sport - can continue to use that guidance, provided they now limit the number of people aged 18 and over playing indoors to six.

More details are available in our guidance note for canoe polo


The exemptions are in place as organised sports and activities already have stringent plans in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19, and because venues are classed as Covid-secure due to the measures they have introduced. 

The exceptions do not include informal sport or fitness activity which must be limited to a group of six.

For paddling in England much of the current advice issued by British Canoeing remains in place, including:

From Monday 14 September, informal recreational paddles are limited to a group of six.  Up to two households in groups of more than 6 people will no longer be permitted.

Formal club, centre or provider activity are part of the exceptions and can continue to be delivered if organised by a qualified coach or instructor, club, company or charity.

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.

Club 'activity' is defined as any activity that has been assessed as part of the club’s safety framework and promoted on the club calendar, website or noticeboard. 

Club activities also include inter-club activities where the responsibility for risk assessment and management is carried out and then shared between all participating clubs.

Following recent confirmation with CIMPSA, DCMS and Sport England, British Canoeing is pleased to confirm that the running of qualifications and awards is allowed under the exemption of education and training.

The disciplines of canoe polo and raft racing have recently issued guidance confirmed by the government for a return to play for team sport, which will continue - provided there is a limit to the number of people aged 18 and over playing indoors to six.

Paddlers must practice social distancing at all times and maintain a distance apart of at least 2 metres.

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.

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.

Key requirements for a Covid Secure environment

  • A Covid-19 Officer is in place
  • A venue/club/environment must develop a Covid action plan and risk assessment
  • All activity must comply with Government guidance around social distancing before, during or activity.
  • Clubs, coaches and event organisers must capture contact information for all persons attending the activity which can be shared upon request with the government’s Test and Trace initiative.
  • Clubs, coaches and event organisers must ensure everyone maintains good hygiene and that provisions are in place to allow for this.

What happens if there are local lockdowns?

To find out where local restrictions are in place, and what these restrictions are, refer to the local restrictions page on the government's website which is being kept constantly updated.

You should consult the local guidance for further clarification on the number of people allowed to gather, and types of activities that can and can’t take place.

If specific restrictions to sporting and physical activity are introduced they will be noted on the local restrictions page of the government's website.

The Canal and River Trust also provides updates on any restrictions to paddling and access to waterways due to a local lockdown.

Further information

Full details on the new social distancing rules can be found on the government website Coronavirus (COVID-19): Meeting with others safely (social distancing) and Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do

The DCMS have also updated their guidance for the public on the phased return of outdoor sport and recreation in England.


British Canoeing guidance notes

A return to paddling in England

A return to team sports: rafting racing

A return to team sports: canoe polo

Guidance for Paddlesport Clubs, Centres and Hire Providers

A return to competitions and events in England

Guidance for Paddlesport coaches and leaders

Guidance on British Canoeing Qualifications and Awards

Latest Guidance on British Canoeing Qualifications and Awards in England – September 2020