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SUP Standards. United Kingdom / England, Scotland and Wales paddle standards.

United Kingdom

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The UK covers England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


There is an extensive network of rivers and canals in England and the UK.  Scotland has some canals and extensive lochs (inland lakes).


Paddling is conducted at coastal locations, offering a choice of conditions.


Summer, from June to September are warmest months with paddling conducted in minimal clothing.

Winter temperatures are down to 0°C with snow and ice in some places.  Paddling is still conducted with paddlers wearing suitable cold weather clothing.


Water temperatures in the UK range.  6-10 °C in the winter to 15-20 ° in the summer, depending on the location.

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Buoyancy Aids

No regulations.
Some private lakes or activity centres may require you to wear a buoyancy aid.

Night Paddling

No regulations.



Inland waters and canals may be subject to flood and water levels controls. This can result in dangerous high river flow in normally low flow areas. Always check with relevant authorities before paddling.

Weirs and Locks

Common on UK rivers. They are barriers across the river to control the river flow. They can be very dangerous as the current closer to the weir / locks can be very strong and pull the water user into the weir / loch. Stay away from weirs and locks.

Cold water shock

Can occur when you fall into cold water. (water below 15C). The sudden coldness of the water can cause an involuntary gasp for breath, breathing can be altered, panic can set in, water can be inhaled into the lungs, causing drowning. Be aware of cold water shock, don’t panic, the shock passes quickly and you can get back on your board. More info


Coastal locations and some inland rivers have very large tides. Tidal ranges are between 0.5 metres and a maximum of 15 metres depending on the location.

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Some legislation and regulations that apply to protecting our marine environments and wildlife that we encounter as stand up paddlers.

Currently Updating

Riverways Licensing

In England and Wales, SUPs are considered to be a craft, just like boats and canoes. As such, you need a license for your SUP board to paddle on waterways. Doesn’t apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Prices range from about £28 to £58 per year for each authority.
The licensable waterways are managed by 3 different waterways managers. Contact Details

1) The Canal & River Trust
96 canals and navigable rivers in England and Wales

Apply for short term license as it covers SUP and is for 12 months.

2) The Environment Agency (EA)
The River Thames, the River Medway, and rivers in East Anglia

Purchase license

3) The Broads Authority
Norfolk and Suffolk Broads

Purchase license

Purchase license from British Canoeing
Covers 5,000 miles on inland waterways for

all 3 waterways managers locations.


Weather Forecasts

MET Office
UK’s national weather service. Forecasts, temperatures, winds speed, direction, sunrise, sunset, warnings, and more.

River Levels and Flood Alerts

River Levels UK Full listing of all river level monitoring stations across England, Scotland and Wales, as well as flood alerts and flood risk forecasts from the Flood Forecasting Centre. Check river levels near you, watch out for flood warnings and make sure you stay safe on and around water!


High and low predictions, sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset times, plus moon phase details. Tide Times UK

Surf Reports / Forecasts

Wave swell, height, webcams and more. Magic Seaweed & Surfline


Environment Agency UK - Established in 1996 to protect and improve the environment in England. Is responsible for certain waterways, flood levels, environment.

Canal and River Trust - Oversee 2,000 miles of waterways in

England and Wales.
List of water ways and other rivers / canals information

Workplace Health and Safety

Adventure Activities Licencing Authority AALA

Regulation of SUP activity providers in the England, Wales and Scotland.
The Activity Centres (Young Persons Safety) Act 1995 and the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004 make it a legal requirement for providers of certain adventure activities for young people (under 18 years old) to undergo an inspection of their safety management systems and hold a licence.
Facilities for adventure activities means facilities that consist of some element of instruction or leadership, other than instruction given solely in connection with the supply of equipment e.g. for the purposes of equipment hire.

Exemptions Waterways less than 100 metres wide. A parent is with each child, at all times, when participating in the activity session.

Disclaimer This is a guide only and activity providers should contact AALA to discuss their own operations.

Health & Safety Executive HSE

Government health and safety in the UK

RIDDOR (part of HSE)

RIDDOR puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises(the Responsible Person) to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences

(near misses).

Current Investigations

Strengthening enforcement of the dangerous use of

recreational and personal watercraft

Maritime Safety Team. Department for Transport UK

Consultation closed 1 Nov 2021. Awaiting outcome.

Proposes changing legislation to place bring recreational and personal watercraft within scope of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. SUP boards are included, applying to recreational paddlers, SUP centre operators and providers of rental equipment.

By this change:
• personal watercraft and other recreational watercraft users will be subject to the same safety obligations, where appropriate, that exist for

the operators of ships
• enforcement authorities will have an additional power of prosecution to be used in cases of deliberate or negligent misuse

Multiple fatalities during a stand-up paddleboard activity

Four lives lost during a commerical stand up paddleboard tour accident at Haverfordwest Town Weir on the River Cleddau, near Haverfordwest, Wales UK. 30 October 2021.

Marine Investigation Report released 8 December 2022 - Read here

Media point of view

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