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We are experiencing technical issues with our emergency phone line. In the event of an emergency, please contact 01443 508676.

We are experiencing technical issues with our emergency phone line. In the event of an emergency, please contact 01443 508676.

We are experiencing technical issues with our emergency phone line. In the event of an emergency, please contact 01443 508676.

Supported by Trinity House

For river and beyond

Take control of your paddle sports experience. Plan everything you need and learn as you go.

Back to Activities

You’ll need

  • Paddle sports equipment

Before you begin

  • These instructions have been adapted from the British Canoeing Paddle Awards, which should be referred to for any further details.
  • Getting ready. Safety is a top priority in all water activities and helping the group to understand what safety equipment they’ll need and what clothes to wear can help calm any nerves and encourage people to think more about safety.
    • Clothing. Think about the types of clothing that’ll be suitable for the weather conditions. For example, lightweight fabrics, wind and waterproofs, and items that protect the wearer from the sun. Is everyone OK with their clothes getting wet or dirty? Are there any items of clothing that’d be more suitable than others? Are shoes and clothing secure enough that they won’t come off in the water? The right clothing is important to keep everyone warm and comfortable. If people are cold and uncomfortable, they won’t have a good time.
    • Equipment. Understanding our equipment can help us to learn how to use it and make decisions for ourselves about what we need. Learning how to check equipment is a great skill too, as we can look for any damage or signs of wear and tear. Spotting these things early helps us keep our gear up to scratch. Before heading out on the water, speak with the person running this activity about what’ll be provided and what everyone will need to bring along. If people purchase their own equipment, make sure you discuss how to care for it, so that it’s protected from saltwater, the sun and incorrect storage.
    • Venue. Learning how to choose a great venue can be the difference between a great day on the water and a mediocre one. Taking an active part in researching and choosing the venue can help everyone to understand what goes into planning paddle sport sessions.
    • Getting on the water. This isn’t as simple as carrying a boat to the bank and hopping in. We need to think about keeping ourselves and the environment safe as we go.
    • Safety. Choose the best way to move the boat. Do you need one person carrying or four? Where does the boat need to go? Are there any obstacles to watch out for?
    • Access. Make sure you have permission to access the water. There are a variety of licences that may be required for your use of some bodies of water. Guidance is available in Canal and river licences.
    • Environment. It’s important not to damage or destroy the environment as we launch, to make sure it’s sustained for others for years to come. We also need to think about the weather and the flow of the water. Will the wind or current push the boats away or is there a better place to launch?
  • Remember, to achieve the Paddle Sports Stage 3, everyone needs to:
    • With help, show more than one safe method for lifting and carrying your vessel.
    • Demonstrate two different ways of safely launching your vessel.
    • Show that you can get in and out of or on and off of your vessel without help.
    • Paddle forwards and backwards in a straight line, keeping good posture.
    • Show you can steer around a figure-of-eight course.
    • Show you can stop the vessel safely when it’s moving back and forth.
    • Capsize, swim to the shore and empty the boat of water if necessary.
    • Assist someone else back into their vessel following a capsize.
  • On the water. At this level, everyone should be confident in controlling their craft safely and efficiently.
    • Focusing on the position of the craft, paddle and your body, can help to improve your skill and efficiency. What are the most effective strokes to use? What is the best body position for efficient paddling? What different strokes can I use to accelerate, turn, adjust course and stop?
    • Safety and rescue. Everyone must take an active role in keeping themselves and the rest of the group safe. Am I close enough to the bank and others taking part? Do I have all of the correct safety equipment and do I know how to use it?  You could book a visit from the RNLI to learn about water safety.
    • Other users. There can be lots of other craft, people and wildlife to keep an eye out for. Can I move safely out of the way of other craft? How do I avoid disturbing wildlife? What are the rules for steering clear of other people with water access?

Paddle sport sessions at this stage should be almost entirely directed by the paddlers. They should have an idea of what skills they need to work on and the most appropriate equipment, venues and timings to do this. While every session will be different, the instructions below might be a good place to start. Make sure you’re following the rules for running paddle sport activities like canoeing and kayaking when planning and running sessions.

  1. Plan the session as a group before you go. Choose the goals, timings, equipment and venue, so the needs of everyone taking part can be met. Discuss how best to manage the safety of the session, then make sure everyone is aware of risk assessments and the actions they need to take to stay safe. Paddle sport sessions at this level should have a purpose that guides all of the choices made in the planning stage. While discussions about safety are useful and important, having one experienced and qualified person to make the final decisions is important, to avoid confusion and keep everyone safe.
  2. Create an action plan. Paddlers should be aware of what they want to work on and how to do this. Coming up with a loose plan or schedule of what you’re doing on the water can help to keep the session focused, so that everyone can work towards their chosen goals.
  3. Gear up and head to the water. Everyone should be comfortable selecting and using their equipment and discussing the pros and cons of their choices. Everyone in the group should by now be able to select, fit and safely use their equipment. Nevertheless, this should always be checked by an experienced and qualified instructor before heading out onto the water.
  4. Build up skills on the water. Once paddlers know what skills they want to develop, they should follow their plan to do this. Encourage group members to watch and give feedback to one another. Further challenges and tips can help to keep everyone moving forward with their skills. Creating a plan for your time on the water is a great way to keep the session focused and productive. However, sticking to this too rigidly can remove any opportunities to work on things that come up naturally, and can feel counterproductive. If people are going for the Paddle Sports Staged Activity Badge, this is the chance for everyone to demonstrate their skills.
  5. Wrapping up. Once the session is over, get off of the water, making sure to watch out for safety hazards as before. Take the time to discuss and reflect on what everyone’s achieved, what they enjoyed and what they want to work on in the future. Further guidance can be found in the reflection section below. Consider using further coaching tools, such as recording paddling techniques, to help provide feedback and develop skills.


At this stage in the paddlesports journey, everyone should be taking control of their own learning and development. From choosing venues, timings and equipment, to taking part in peer feedback and self-coaching, everything should be starting to come together. As you further your paddlesports skills it’s important to always look for something new to learn. As well as thinking about your skills and choices, think about the other things that went into the session? Was the equipment you used effective? Could you have offered more feedback to the rest of the group?

At this stage, personal reflection is important to help identify what you’re doing well and what things still need work. You know yourself better than anyone.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Heavy and awkward objects

Never lift or move heavy or awkward items alone. Ask for help or, if possible, break them down into smaller parts.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Gardening and nature

Everyone must wash their hands after the activity has finished. Wear gloves if needed. Explain how to safely use equipment and set clear boundaries so everyone knows what’s allowed.


This activity has specific rules and systems to make sure it’s managed safely. Take a look at adventure activities for more guidance. 

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed. Take a look at our guidance on running active games safely.

Water games and activities

Be careful when doing activities with, in, or near water. Check surfaces and reduce the risk of slipping where possible. Make sure you have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Near water

Manage groups carefully when near water. The guidance on activities near water will help you to keep your group safe.

At this stage, paddlers should be aware of their skill level and their limitations, and should be taking an active role in planning and running the sessions. This should keep the difficulty at a level that’s appropriate for everyone.

  • Paddle sports can be made accessible in lots of different ways. Equipment can be adapted, and sessions and venues can be changed. Getting in touch early with your provider is the best way to make sure they can offer an experience that’s suitable for your group.
  • More information and resources are available from Go Paddling.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

This activity was just part of the paddle sport journey. Step it up a level with Paddle Sports Stage 4.

Consider getting in touch with a local paddle sport club or centre to get involved in more sessions and events.