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British Canoeing hosts landmark SUP safety conference

Over 80 delegates have attended the first British Canoeing Safety Conference, held in Meriden, Warwickshire, to explore the latest developments and research in stand-up-paddleboarding.

The delegates from across the paddlesport sector included providers, manufacturers, retailers and industry experts, alongside representatives from national organisations and partners such as the RNLI, HM Coastguard, Environment Agency and the Canal and River Trust.

The conference was opened by Professor John Coyne CBE, Chair of British Canoeing, and included a video message from Alex Chalk MP, who hosted an event in Parliament in 2020 to raise awareness of SUP safety, following the fatality of Simon Flynn on the Camel estuary in Cornwall.

Emily Evans, SUP Lead for Canoe Wales, provided insight into the growth and benefits of SUP, confirming that over 6.5 million people in the UK go stand up paddleboarding at least once a year.

Sam Hughes, National Water Safety Partner for the RNLI shared stories of paddlers rescued at sea, and presented the latest data on the 230 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland keeping people safe at sea. 

In the last five years the RNLI has seen a 400% increase in lifeguard incidents and rescues.

The morning session included the findings on the effects of offshore winds on paddleboards, led by Darren Sherwood and commissioned by British Canoeing.

The findings of the research shows how in 30 minutes, in a force 4 wind, a paddler could drift approximately one mile and the ‘SUP brake position’ provided the most effective position at reducing this, if a paddler is unable to return to the shore.

Darren also confirmed that current safety advice - dial 999, remain on the board and be more visible to the emergency services still applied.

Details of the research is available on the British Canoeing Awarding Body website

The afternoon session focused on research by Dr Loel Collins on the use of leashes in a white water and flow environments.

Following 130 tests only 58% of quick release belts had been successfully activated, with 42% under performing and likely to jam. 

Dr Collins confirmed more research was required, but despite a second set of tests with modifications made, leashes did not perform sufficiently well to justify their use on white water.

This research was applied earlier this year when British Canoeing Awarding Body updated guidance, recommending that SUP paddlers do not use any leash system while paddling on white water. The full research will be published later this year.

The conference finished with round tables discussions on offshore winds, leash research, weir safety, and developments for future point of sale safety messaging and next year’s Paddle Safety campaign.

Speaking at the conference, Lee Pooley, Director of Coaching and Qualifications at British Canoeing said:

“It was very clear from those that had made the journey and contributed throughout the day to the discussions that SUP safety is a priority for us all. 

“I am very confident that this conference has created the appropriate platform for collaborative working with next year seeing a step change in how we work as a strong collective.”