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Paddle safely this summer

It’s great to see so many people making the most of the warm weather and paddling on rivers, inland waterways and coastal waters.

There are lots of experienced paddlers and novices, who are exploring blue spaces.

We know how much paddling as a recreational activity has grown over the past few years and this is likely to continue.

It’s wonderful that people over the summer will be trying out kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddleboarding for the first time.

In order to keep safe British Canoeing has provided the following advice to ensure you stay well within your limits on the water.

Guidance to paddling safely

  • Check your equipment before you set off
  • Tell others of your plans, and when you are expecting to get back off the water
  • Paddle in environments and conditions that you are familiar
  • Paddle independently only if you are very experienced and competent
  • Paddle to exercise and not adventure
  • Carry a means of calling for help handy at all times
  • Check the weather
  • Paddle in familiar locations, and favourable conditions

Further details on paddling safely can be found on our Go Paddling website including articles on...

For coastal paddling also please closely follow the RNLI safety advice.

  • Take care near cliffs - know your route and your limitations
  • 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
  • If boating, ensure your equipment is functioning and maintained
  • In any coastal emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard

Guidance in hot weather

Due to the extended warm and dry spell of weather there are extra things to consider.

Paddling safely in the summer

The Environment Agency is concerned about the River Wye, between Hereford and Hampton Bishop, as well as in Ross, as the water levels have dropped and its temperature has increased.

"Canoeing activity" is being monitored due to low water levels and if they get too low and are a risk to ecology, stretches of the river could be temporarily restricted.

For the latest updates on the Wye please see @EnvAgencyMids

Please don't paddle on waterways which are too shallow and where you may come into contact with the river or lake bed. 

This may have the potential impact of disturbing wildlife and their habitats or attract allegations of disturbance.

Please portage around a lock or share it to limit the number of times it has to open.

Low water flows means there is less water to dilute effluent run from the land and sewage treatment works. 

Lower levels of water quality can present a potential health hazard.

Be aware of toxic blue green algae which may be more common on our waterways at times of low water flow.

When performing Check, Clean, Dry, please use water sparingly.

Please report incidents, pollution and damage to the environment such as fish deaths to the relevant authorities:

Environment Agency for pollution and fish deaths 0800 80 70 60
The Canal and River Trust 01923 201120 (Out of hours 0800 47 999 47)
RSPCA for wildlife and animals in distress 0990 55 59 99 (24 hours)

Clear Access Clear Waters

There are many benefits for the public if we had better access to water for recreation.

Being in, on or alongside water, has proven to be great for mental and physical wellbeing.

Also, we can protect more of our natural environment if we have access to it.

Paddlers can test water quality as well as clean up litter from areas that are hard to reach for anyone else.

Big Paddle Cleanup saw 'amazing week of action'

Yet less than 4% of rivers across England and Wales have a clear right of access.

It means there’s more pressure on those areas which people can use, including areas of natural beauty.

Read all about the Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign and sign the petition to help secure open access to our waterways.

British Canoeing would not discourage paddlers using popular areas. But we would ask you to think ahead of your trip.

Please consider sharing vehicles and when you come to park, please do it respectfully. Don’t block narrow roads, for example.

Above all, paddlers are just one group who use our waterways. There are many others.

Please be friendly, be welcoming and respectful of those you meet along the way.

Enjoy yourself!

We would love you to share your pictures with us. Send them via e-mail, here, or tag us in on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.