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Staying safe on the coast this summer

The accessibility of the coast, the boom in staycations and the increased ownership of canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards this summer has seen an increase in incidents requiring rescue.

The coastline offers some of the best sea kayaking and paddling opportunities, but anyone venturing out needs to understand the risks and paddle safely.

British Canoeing has been working with the RNLI to publish safety information that sets out the steps you need to take to stay safe on the sea and coastal waters. It also provides valuable information to both novice and experienced paddlers.

RNLI Safety guidance

To stay safe on the sea and coastal waters:

  • Always carry a means of calling for help, handy at all times
  • Check your equipment before you set off
  • Ensure you are wearing a buoyancy aid
  • If paddling a stand up paddleboard make sure you have a leash and it’s attached to you
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions and your trip
  • Have a plan - check the weather forecast and tide times
  • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float
  • Take care near cliffs - know your route and your limitations
  • In any coastal emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard

If you are a beginner learn some essential skills and paddle within your limits: to get started head to your local club or centre to take the Discover Award.

You should initially paddle in environments and conditions that you are familiar with. Paddling independently in coastal waters should only be considered if you are very experienced and competent in the water.

Identifying your boat or craft can also help the Coastguard and RNLI. Simply write your name and contact number with a permanent marker pen, or laminated identification stickers can be ordered, free of charge, through the Maritime and Coastguard Agency website.

Paddlers are entirely responsible for their own safety at all times and that the resources of the waterways authorities and the emergency services are limited.

For further advice and safety checklists visit the Go Paddling website:

Kayaking safety checklist

Canoeing safety checklist

Stand up paddleboard safety checklist

Tips for beginners paddling on the sea: know before you go

Go Paddling e-learning resource: Introduction to Paddlesport

RNLI website resources

Kayaking and Canoeing

Stand Up Paddleboarding

Stay safe at the beach this summer

How to kit out for a kayaking trip