White water kayaking

From the steep water fall runs of the Scottish Glens to the boulder garden rapids of North Wales and the high moorland rivers of the English Moors, Britain has a long tradition of white water kayaking.

whitewaterFrom early on in the development of kayak design, British kayakers have explored across the globe's mountainous regions in search of wild rivers and paddling adventures.

From the 1940's paddlers in canvas kayaks, opened up runs throughout Wales and Scotland, paving the way for paddlers with glass fibre boats to push onto steep rivers at home, and larger volume runs in the Alps and beyond.

The now famous first descent expedition in 1976 to the Dudh Koshi river that flows off Mount Everest, placed a team of British paddlers amongst the pioneers of white water kayaking.

Since them, boat design and materials, along with mass air travel and the expansion of personal leisure time, have opened up the white water kayaking to wide participation from all comers to all corners of the globe.

White water kayaking destinations, like the Alps, Norway, the Rockies, the Zambezi, the Andes, Southern Alps and the Himalayas now attract countless paddlers, and within whom you are likely to find someone from the UK.

White water kayaking is simply the decent of rapids in a kayak. whitewater

The experience in essence is straight forward, you arrive at the put in on your chosen run, head down river on an adventure with your friends, may be into an unknown canyon or on a regular run or perhaps the trip may take several days to undertake, either way the fun is intoxicating, the action aplenty and enjoyment addictive.

Within white water kayaking, there are many aspects of the sport, and these are often reflected in the nature of the white water and seriousness of the rapids. The international scale of white water is from Grade I to Grade VI, with Grade I being straight forward and near placid and Grade Six being at the limit of personal and technical paddling.

Most white water kayaking in the UK, is on low to medium river runs with Grade II and III rapids, such as the Tay in Scotland, Dee in Wales and Tyne in North England.

Higher into the hills, lower volume runs, steeper in nature can be found, this steep creeking is more Grade IV and V, where rapids and drops are run with more specialist kayaks.

whitewaterOn wider more volume runs, river features such as waves and stoppers attract playboaters, who surf the waves and make tricks in specialist freestyle boats.

White Water kayakers have long challenged each other to run cleaner lines or faster times on rapids and drops, the competitive elements of this is Slalom Kayaking on a set gated course or Wild Water Racing from point A to B down a section of river.

Both these past times are competitive disciplines that have developed their own highly specialist kayaks.

Within the modern white water kayaking scene there are other more informal competitive events, such as extreme racing down a section of Grade V white water and "Slopestyle" or Freeride playboating, where paddlers attempt tricks off small drops and rock features.

Either way, white water kayaking is an element of paddlesport with a wide range of activities, destinations and fun to be had by anyone wishing to have an adventure.

Open Canoeing


The Open Canoe Association, founded in 1956, is affiliated to the BCU and is an Association of canoeing clubs and individual members from across the UK. It exists to promote the open canoe as an all-round, versatile craft, which can be used on placid, moving, white and open water.

We endeavour to have a full and varied programme of events that runs around the country throughout the year.

These are co-ordinated through a network of regional representatives and a national council.

Our annual rally in the spring is a consistent favourite with many.

New members are always welcome, regardless of age, experience or ability.

Families, women, young people and paddlers with a disability are especially welcome as are lone paddlers looking for a network of like-minded people who share a similar passion for open canoeing.

Our regular quarterly journal, the Open Canoeist, carries details of forthcoming events, articles on equipment, techniques, trips and members own paddling experiences.


seaSea kayaking is historically one of the earliest forms of paddling, with archaeological evidence suggesting highly developed craft and skilled hunter-fishermen as far back as 5000 BC.

Nowadays sea kayakers are not normally in the position of fishing for the family fare, but the craft are remarkably similar in lines to their museum antecedents.

If you are interested in trying out the sport, there are opportunities to join BCU organised trips and meets with experienced sea paddlers.

Sea kayaking is environmentally friendly and appeals to everyone who enjoys open spaces, salt air and the feeling of being at one with nature.

The sea is not, however, a big lake and the ocean has a temperament and character, which need to be understood. Weather, tides and charts should be considered and journeys planned. Not all sea paddling is on calm water and for some the essence of the sport is in meeting challenging conditions, undertaking long open crossings, or playing in overfalls and tide races.

A new development in recent years has been the introduction of sea racing.

Standard expedition sea kayaks are raced over distances up to 12 miles. All the races are friendly and informal and have touring classes.

Sea kayaking for many, however, is a quiet, individual experience to be enjoyed quietly, away from the crowds.


touringCanoeing is an activity that appeals to paddlers of every age and level of fitness.

The adventurous can attempt steep mountain streams, looking for the excitement of speed and action; others travel on the slower flowing rivers, lakes and is finding enjoyment in the scenery and countryside.

Recreational canoeing can be started at an early age, enjoyed by all members of the family continued on into retirement.

Recreation includes White Water Rafting and all other non- competitive activities. Even for the easiest waters all canoeists should be to swim at least 50 metres in canoeing clothing.

It is not sound practice to set out on a canoeing expedition alone, or without practice or experience.

On fast rivers and the sea, there should be at least three boats in a group, so that they can help each other if the need arises.

Start easy rivers or canals and work up gradually to waters. Do not attempt Sea or estuary canoeing until you have had more experience, can well and have learned about winds, tides and currents and buoyage.


slalomExcitement and personal challenge - an ultimate test of skill.

Speed and precision is crucial as canoe slalomists need to squeeze through a series of gates without making contact to avoid penalty seconds being added to the time taken to paddle from start to finish.

Canoe Slalom is intended to test river-running skills in a safe and friendly environment.

Entry level to Canoe Slalom is Division 4 and these slaloms are generally held on calm water and the courses will be simple.

The object of the sport is to negotiate a course pre-defined by the course designer.

The winner of the event will have negotiated the course in the fastest time, with the fewest penalties.

slalomThere are penalties for hitting and missing gates. There is usually plenty of time to practice at canoe slaloms. Any boat may be used up to and including Division 1.

You don't need a slalom boat to come and try slalom. Entry level for those with higher level white water skills is Division 2. Competitors may enter a special open event at this level and apply for ranking status following the event, based on the result they achieve.

For more information please take a look at the UK canoe slalom website by clicking here

slalomslalom slalomslalom slalomslalom

Wild water racing

Do you want to experience the exhilaration of racing flat-out against the clock down stretches of the UK's top white water through unspoilt countryside and gain a sense of achievement by successfully negotiating a demanding time-trial course?

Then try Wild Water Racing - the canoeing equivalent of downhill skiing. Races take place on grade II to IV water - the exact difficulty depending on water levels. Pace yourself correctly over a 10 - 25 minute Classic event or test your speed and boat control over a 2 minute Sprint event.

wildwaterNew competitors should enter Div. B races where all types of kayak and canoe compete against each other for points in a single race, using a handicap system. Prizes are awarded, for all class and age group winners and some Div. B races are used to contest the U10/U12/14/U16 Championship (age as at 1st January).

There is also a specific junior event - the Wavehopper Challenge series, which is run on challenging but appropriate stretches of water across the UK. Please just come along to a race and try it out in your boat, or at some events wavehoppers are available to train on here at Hexham canoe club and may be used by members for entry into competitions.

Once you have mastered the art at Div. B you can gain promotion to Div. A, where races take place on the more difficult courses and National Championship Rankings in Classic and Sprint are gained from results throughout the year.

Inter-Region and Inter-Club Champions are decided on points earned by all paddlers at events throughout the season.

For more information please take a look at the UK wild water canoeing website by clicking here


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