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A beginner’s guide to canoeing equipment

You only need a few basics when you’re starting out so we’ve put together a handy guide to the essentials.

A group of paddlers getting ready to get in their canoes

If you start out with a canoe club then you'll probably be able to borrow all of the equipment that you need to get started. However, when you're ready to buy your own equipment you'll want to start with the basics listed here.

A boat

When it comes to boats you're spoilt for choice. The first thing to think about is whether you want to opt for a canoe or a kayak.

There are many different types of canoes and kayaks available, some made from natural materials and others from polyethylene.

Canoes can be referred to as open boats or even a Canadian Canoes. Canoes are normally open top, but they can be covered and are capable of carrying one or more paddlers at a time. Canoes are paddled using a single bladed paddle.

Kayaks come in a variety of types and sizes and are paddled by a double-bladed paddle by a seated paddler. Kayaks tend to be enclosed and have cockpits for the paddler to sit in.

In addition to the more traditional shaped kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks have become very popular.

For more information about choosing and buying a boat take a look at the Go Canoeing website.

Father and daughter canoeing along the canal

A paddle

Paddles are very personal items and whether you opt for a canoe or a kayak you'll be spoilt for choice.

A canoe paddle is made up of a single blade attached to a shorter shaft that has a grip at the end. They are usually made of aluminium or fibreglass and have a T-grip at the end. If you want something a bit more special there's a huge variety of wooden paddles available, many of them extremely lightweight.

You can buy a canoe paddle in a variety of different lengths and with different paddle shapes. Have a chat with your local club as they will be able to give you advice about what will suit your type of canoeing.

A kayak paddle consists of a long shaft with an angled blade on either end. Lengths and weights vary depending on what you want to do in your kayak. However, when you're starting out, a £30 paddle made from aluminium and plastic should do nicely.

A woman paddles a canoe in the sun on the canal

Buoyancy aid

If you're venturing out on the water you'll need a buoyancy aid. Buoyancy aids are different to life jackets. They are designed for you to swim while you're wearing them. They will also offer a degree of insulation.

While they come in numerous designs and shapes, the most important factor is the fit. Ask around at your local canoe club to find a reputable shop who will help you get the right size.

Ladies canoeing on a canal

Last Edited: 21 June 2022

photo of a location on the canals
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