Kayaking and canoeing

Kayaking or canoeing is one of the most popular watersports in the UK and Ireland, with more and more people paddling each year. Whether you’re a start-up novice or a seasoned pro, our safety tips will help you to paddle safe.
Kayaker paddling at sea

Photo: Shutterstock / Dudarev Mikhail

Kayaker paddling at sea

Understand the risks and paddle safe

The number of rescue incidents involving kayakers and canoeists has increased over the last few years.

In many cases, kayakers were not able to call for help themselves.

One man, lucky to be alive, was rescued by Port Erin lifeboat crew and a Fisheries Protection Vessel off the Isle of Man in March 2014. He capsized and was unable to get back in his boat – he spent about an hour clinging to his upturned kayak, trying to attract attention before being spotted. Read about the rescue on bbc.co.uk.

How to stay safe

  • Always carry a means of calling for help and keep it within reach: If it can't be reached in an emergency, it's no help.
  • Wear a personal flotation device
  • Check the weather and tides.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you'll be back.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions and your trip.
  • Get some training: Contact your local canoe club and look for coaching sessions run by a British Canoeing or Canoeing Ireland coach.

Keeping you safe

Here are ways we’re working to help you get the most out of kayaking and canoeing and keep you as safe as possible while enjoying your sport.

Safety campaign: Always carry a means of calling for help and keep it within reach

Working with local retailers and our volunteers, we’re raising awareness amongst kayakers and canoeists about the importance of carrying a means of calling for help and keeping it within reach.

If you can’t reach to call for help, help can’t reach you.

Watch our safety campaign videos here:

Kayaking safety: Useful links and resources

Figures taken from:

  • The National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID UK) 2011-2015.
  • RNLI lifeboat return of service data UK and Ireland 2015.
  • RNLI commissioned causal analysis of fatalities in water around the UK and Ireland, 2010-2013.

Don’t be a statistic

18 uk kayaking and canoeing fatalities between 2011 and 2015

334 lifeboat launches to kayakers and canoeists in 2015