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Unlocking the Paddlers Code

31 May 2023
Unlocking the Paddlers Code

Calling all paddlers! With paddlesports booming and countless folks hitting the water, British Canoeing have created the Paddlers’ Code - a handy guide to help us enjoy our beautiful waterways while keeping things responsible. 

This guide for canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders is based on three principles: 'Respect, Protect, Enjoy’, sharing guidance on how to enjoy our beautiful waterways responsibly.


Respect on the road

Respecting the environment extends beyond the water. If you're driving to your paddling destination, consider teaming up with other paddlers to reduce pollution and congestion on the roads. Carpooling not only minimises our carbon footprint but also strengthens the sense of camaraderie among paddling enthusiasts.

Park respectfully

When you arrive at your paddling spot, be mindful of where you park. Avoid obstructing narrow roads, gateways, slipways, driveways, or damaging grass verges. Leave ample space for emergency vehicles and show respect to the local community. Being considerate when parking ensures a positive impression and helps maintain good relationships with those who live in the area.

Keep group sizes small

While paddling with friends is undeniably fun, it's essential to keep group sizes small and discreet whenever possible. By doing so, we minimise our impact on the environment and reduce the potential for disturbing other water users. Plus, a smaller group allows for more intimate and meaningful experiences on the water.

Unpack and change discreetly

Before setting out on your adventure, take a moment to unpack your equipment and change discreetly. Respect the surroundings by avoiding unnecessary noise and disturbance. Being considerate in these small actions contributes to the overall tranquillity of the paddling experience for everyone involved.

Respect access points

When accessing the water, utilise gates, stiles, or gaps in field boundaries whenever available. Take care not to damage fences or walls, especially when lifting your kayak over them. Leaving access points as you found them ensures that others can enjoy the same opportunities and minimise our impact on the surrounding landscape.

Give others space

While encountering other water users, remember to give them plenty of space. Avoid lingering in areas that may cause disturbance and always pass other crafts by moving to the right-hand side. By practising proper navigation and maintaining distance, we promote safety and respect for fellow paddlers.

Be friendly and welcoming

Last but not least, be friendly! Spread the good vibes, say hi, and share the water with a big ol’ friendly grin. Whether you're high-fiving fellow paddlers or giving a nod to the locals, a warm greeting creates an awesome sense of community


Be kind to nature

Show nature some love, especially during their important family time! Birds, fish, otters, and seals deserve some peace and quiet during breeding and nesting seasons. Keep the noise down and give them their personal space.

Avoid gravel beds

Steer clear of gravel beds in rivers if you can. Those sneaky fish and other creatures use them as precious spawning grounds. Disturbing these areas might make you feel like a fish out of water, and even worse, it could be considered a criminal act. Yikes!

Stick to established paths

When exploring rapids or rock pools, go for the tried and true paths or stick to the bare rock. Banks can be picky about erosion, and they might have some adorable and vulnerable species calling them home.

Avoid dragging or sliding

No dragging or sliding your craft on the bankside, folks! Let's keep it classy and float our way in and out. It's like a fancy entrance and exit for your paddle board, boat or kayak.

Don't forget the post-paddle routine!

After each adventure, make sure to check, clean, and dry your gear. Look out for any hitchhiking plant fragments or critters. Washing and drying your equipment is the ultimate secret weapon against invasive, non-native species. Let's keep the waterways safe and sound for everyone!


Be prepared

Before you embark on your paddling escapade, give your craft and equipment a quick once-over. And if you're rocking a stand-up paddleboard, make sure you've got the perfect leash for the environment. Safety is stylish, after all!

Time to plan your epic adventure! 

Mother Nature likes to keep us on our toes with her weather tricks—rain, wind, and tides can change the game in a heartbeat. Keep an eye on river levels and steer clear of those sneaky offshore winds. We're here to ride the waves, not be caught off guard!

Know your limits

Make sure your trip is well within your capabilities and those of your paddle squad. Confidence is key, and we want to make sure you're equipped for a splashing good time!

Watch out for nature's surprises! 

Weirs, overhanging trees, and those sneaky tidal waters can throw us a curveball. Keep an eye out for warning signs and be aware of potential hazards. Stay safe and keep those paddles paddling!

Water health

Now, let's talk about water health. Bacteria, viruses, and toxic algae can sometimes crash the party. Trust your instincts—if the water looks or smells sketchy, best to stay out. And hey, if you spot any pollution incidents, report them to the Environment Agency pronto!

Leave no trace

Leave no trace but plenty of ripples! Capture memories with your camera, not with stuff you take from nature. Let's keep our waterways pristine and leave behind only our adventurous spirit.

Paddlers Code Licensing 

And remember, having the right waterways licence helps protect our precious rivers and canals. It's like being part of an exclusive club, where we all play a role in preserving these watery wonders.

Now it's time to paddle!

It's like a secret handshake that fosters respect, good vibes, and an all-around awesome experience. By adhering to the Paddlers Code and embracing the principles of ‘Respect, Protect, Enjoy’ we can collectively create a positive and enjoyable paddling experience for everyone.

If you’re looking to dabble in some paddle boarding or kayaking make sure to take a look at our full range.

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