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A beginner's guide to paddleboarding

Have a go at stand up paddleboarding (or SUP, which is short for Stand Up Paddling), a fun sport that combines adventure and exercise in the great outdoors.

Two people wearing Canal & River Trust branded clothing stand up paddle board along the canal

Stand up paddleboarding is a fun activity you can enjoy on our canals and rivers, as well as on lakes and oceans. It's a fantastic full-body workout and an excellent way to experience the beauty of the outdoors.

Paddleboarding is perfect for people of all ages, body types and skill levels and it can be as exciting or calming as you'd like to make it. You can go out for a solo paddle and get closer to nature or enjoy it as a group activity with friends or family.

Bill Bailey on paddleboarding

Did you know that Bill Bailey is an avid paddleboarder? We asked him a few questions about his experience of paddling on our waterways:

How can I try paddleboarding?

The easiest and cheapest way to try stand up paddleboarding is to find a taster session at your local club.

Typically, a taster session will take between one to two hours and most people will be able to stand up by the end of their first session.

Sessions usually include instruction on water safety, how to stand up, basic paddling and self-rescue techniques.

What do I need to take with me?

Remember to take the following:

  • Spare pair of dry clothes
  • Sun cream for sunny days
  • Drinking water
  • Towel
  • Waterproofs for rainy days
  • Thermals and wetsuit/dry suit for cold weather

If you go to a local club, they will provide you with a buoyancy aid.

Do I have to be fit to try paddleboarding?

The beauty of stand-up paddleboarding is that anyone of any age or fitness can give it a go. The hardest part is learning how to stand up, but once you have mastered this technique, you can very much take it at your own pace.

What are the benefits of paddleboarding?

Stand up paddleboarding is good for your body and soul. It's a low-impact activity that exercises your whole body and develops your overall fitness. It can especially help to strengthen your core and improve your overall balance.

Paddleboarding also allows you to practise mindfulness by enjoying your surroundings in the calm environment of the water, which research has shown can help to clear your mind and reduce stress.

Do I need a licence?

Yes, you do need a licence to use a paddleboard on a canal. If you try stand-up paddleboarding with a club, they will arrange the licence for you.

If you want to go on your own, have a look at our short term licences. Our 30-day licence can be used on 30 different days throughout the year.

Where am I allowed to paddleboard?

You can use a stand-up paddleboard anywhere on our canal and river network, except for certain tunnels and aqueducts.

For safety reasons, we don't allow paddleboards to go through locks, so you will have to walk around these and rejoin the water further along.

Read through the safety guidelines and rules of the waterway for paddlers on page 55 of our Boater's Handbook.

Check your route before you travel.

Last Edited: 17 June 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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