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Stand Up Paddleboarding

FS120670 (Published March 2022, replacing January 2022)

Transition timeframes updated Sept 2023

What is Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP)?

SUP is a way of travelling over water through the use of a SUP, a board designed to be paddled from a kneeling or standing position using a single ended paddle.

Until 31 March 2024 canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing permit holders may also lead stand-up paddleboarding activities, after this date they must be run by someone holding a stand-up paddleboard permit for the appropriate environment and class of water. 

What is a Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) permit?

The adventurous activity permit scheme is designed to ensure that only people with the relevant skills and experience lead adventurous activities for the young people. Therefore all activities classed as adventurous can only be led by someone holding the appropriate permit. Additionally young people (under 18) can take part in adventurous activities for themselves with personal activity permits.

A SUP permit is required for all SUP taking place except in class C water. Definitions of water classifications can be found in POR.

Levels of permit

SUP permits can be issued for any class of water and type of SUP. Each class of permit can be further restricted (such as through tidal, non-tidal, group size, geographical location etc) to end up with an individual permit to the level of the competence and requirements of an Applicant.

Types of permit

There are three types of permit available for SUP. These are:

Personal – Allows a young person (under 18) to take part in SUP with others with a personal SUP permit.

Leadership – Allows the permit holder to lead SUP for a single group.

Supervisory – Allows the permit holder to remotely supervise more than one SUP group.

Permit limitations

Personal – If you hold a personal SUP permit you can go boarding with others who hold a personal SUP permit. It does not allow you to go SUP with anyone not holding a SUP permit.

Leadership – If you have permit to lead SUP then you can look after a maximum of eight boards or 12 people (whichever is less) at a time, subject to any restrictions on your permit, and need to remain on the water with these boards at all times.

If permits are held for a number of different types including canoes and / or kayaks, it is acceptable to take charge of group consisting of a mixture of these craft. The permit holder must be in a craft which is suitable for undertaking rescues of all the various boats within the group.

Supervisory – If you hold a permit to supervise SUP then you can supervise up to three groups. All supervised groups should have means to communicate with the permit holder who will need to be in or have immediate access to a rescue craft (this may be another SUP) and be in a position to provide prompt assistance if required. You remain responsible for all the groups you are supervising but can designate someone with the appropriate skills to be the leader of each group.


When supervising groups from a distance the holder of a SUP supervisor permit needs to designate a leader for each group. This designation lasts only for the current activity while the permit holder is supervising.

People designated as group leaders should have the necessary skills and be responsible enough to lead a group safely in the craft and on the class of water being paddled. There is no problem with making young people group leaders if they are up to the role, and it can be used as a useful development tool.

Further Definitions

The types of water are defined below:

SUP Open Inland – SUP on inland no- tidal waters including rivers of less than British Canoeing grade 1.

SUP River – SUP on inland non-tidal moving waters of British Canoeing grade 1.

SUP Sea – SUP on tidal waters (including tidal inland waters).

Rules relating to SUP

Rule 9.7 Adventurous Activities Permit Scheme

Rule 9.8 Adult Groups Undertaking Activities

Rule 9.13.1 All Water Activities

Rule 9.13.2 Life Jackets and Buoyancy Aids

Rule 9.13.3 Classification of Waters

Rule 9.13.4 Activities on Class C Waters

Rule 9.13.5 Boats

Rule 9.13.6 Charter Vessels

General activity rules

Rule 9.1 All Activities

Rule 9.6 Use of External Centres and Instructors