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Getting started with your canoe, kayak or paddleboard

If you're thinking of taking up a new sport and want to try your hand at canoeing, kayaking or paddleboarding, then our canals and rivers are the perfect places to start.

A group of people canoing through the centre of Birmingham

Where should I start?

While you can visit a retailer, kit yourself out and take to the water by yourself, it's always far more fun (and safer) if you know what you're doing. To get the basics mastered, your local water sports club or centre will be the best place to start.

A club can provide you with all the equipment you need and will be able to arrange lessons to help you gain the necessary skills. Whether you're looking to meet new people, improve your fitness or learn something new, your local club will be able to help.

Take a look at the Paddle UK and Canoe Wales websites to find your local club.

Join a starter session

Go Paddling starter sessions offer an excellent way to find out more about your local club. They're open to everybody and are a great way to get started or refresh your paddling skills.

Who can paddle?

The great thing about canoeing is that almost everyone can join in regardless of age, gender or level of fitness.

Howard Blackman, head of participation at Paddle UK explains: “The beauty of the canoeing is that it has low impact on your joints and you can paddle with any fitness level and whatever your fitness level currently is, it will improve. The sport can be as gentle or demanding as you like.”

What is the difference between a canoe and a kayak?

The main difference between a canoe and a kayak is that a canoe is usually an open deck boat that requires a seated or kneeling rowing position and the use of a single bladed paddle.

A kayak, on the other hand, is usually a closed deck boat, requiring a seated position with your legs stretched out and a double-bladed paddle.

Do I need a licence?

Yes! The best way to get a licence is to become a member of Paddle UK or Canoe Wales. Not only will you get access to our network of inland waterways, you'll get a host of other benefits too.

Alternatively you can buy a short term visitor licence from our boat licensing pages. Please note that a licence allows you to paddle on our canals and rivers, but not our reservoirs. Some reservoirs have sailing clubs which you may be able to join to paddle on them.

Last Edited: 20 June 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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