PDF Version Here | Google Docs Version Here


Introduction from the Richmond Canoe Club committee.

This set of guidelines has been put together with the endorsement of the Richmond Canoe Club committee.

As a member of the canoe club you are required to read and understand and where appropriate follow these guidelines.

Why have safety guidelines?

In order to continue our good record on paddler safety, it’s important to have a single document that every Richmond Canoe Club paddler can review.

We have made this document relatively comprehensive, so you get a full understanding of a broad number of elements when considering paddler safety.

If you have any questions or suggestions for modifications of this document, please either approach one of the committee members or email the club secretary:  secretary@richmondcanoe.club

Thank you

the committee.




  • Supervision
  • correct personal equipment
  • personal development and experience
  • disciplines to work within framework of systems  and procedures
  • vigilant as to own safety and others
  • good team member
  • capable performer
  • information and training
  • adaptable to changing circumstances

Whilst Richmond Canoe Club does its best to encourage safe participation in paddle sport, we recognise that paddler safety starts with you the individual.

Your individual responsibilities as a safe paddler:

If you feel nervous or apprehensive about your safety because of prevailing conditions, always ask the advice of a coach or take the safer option and do not going out on the water. Always assess risk dynamically i.e. continuously identify hazards to assess risk and take action to eliminate or reduce risk in changing circumstances.

Examples of dangerous conditions include:

  • at night when the river is in flood
  • any time when the river is in extreme flood
  • very cold temperatures ie below 3°

As the safe paddler then you will have years of fun, incident free paddling if you:  

  • act conscientiously,
  • keep informed on safety
  • prepare suitably
  • be aware of river conditions,

Coach and advanced paddler safety responsibilities to other paddlers

If you are either a Richmond Canoe Club coach or advanced paddler*, the committee gives you the right to forbid paddlers who you believe will likely endanger themselves and/or others from going on the Thames in dangerous conditions. If there is a disagreement between advanced paddlers/coaches on whether you should go out, assume that you do not go out. In other words ‘if it’s a maybe, it’s a no’.

If the paddler who has been advised not to go on the water in these dangerous conditions refuses to accept your instructions, you must report this incident to the committee either:

On receiving the incident report, the committee will investigate and take potential disciplinary action against the paddler in question.

*Advanced padder is defined within the  ‘Paddler Ability Grading’ section.

For parents of and paddlers aged under 18 This safety policy applies to all paddlers, however there are extra safety-related requirements for under 18’s outlined later in this document. For safeguarding queries, please refer to the Richmond canoe club website: https://richmondcanoeclub.com/welfare/

Think: Know your own limitations and the limitations of others


It is very important you understand how we grade the river conditions.

These guidelines are meant to help you judge the severity of the River conditions. We describe these as ‘guidelines’, because there are numerous variables that determine the severity of river conditions.

River condition guidelines.

When evaluating river conditions you should consider the overall weather conditions and river conditions when judging the river status.


  Environment Agency showing Teddington lock on ‘Red Boards’
  Flow rate at Kingston above 200cumecs
  Air temperature below freezing
  Wind strength above 20mph
  High tide at Teddington above 4.5m (spring tide)


  Environment Agency showing Teddington lock on ‘Red Boards’
  Flow rate at Kingston above 160cmucs
  Air temperature below 6 degrees
  High tide at Teddington above 4.5m (spring tide)


  Environment Agency showing Teddington lock on ‘Amber Boards’
  Flow rate at Kingston above 80cmucs
  Air temperature below 10 degrees


  Environments Agency showing no warnings at Teddington Lock
  Flow rate at Kingston below 80cumecs
  Air temperature above 15 degrees


NB An incoming tide may counter the effect of fast flow for a period, meaning that conditions are safer for that time than the flow rate at Kingston or the Tedding lock ‘Boards’ would suggest. If paddlers wish to take advantage of these safe periods they must be aware of how the Richmond half lock operates. Given that the timing of the half lock is not exact they should also allow a safe window to ensure return before the incoming tide ends (or go out in boats / groups suitable for the generally-prevailing conditions.

Link: http://www.gaugemap.co.uk/#!Detail/1249/1382  (search: river flow kingston)

Link: http://riverconditions.environment-agency.gov.uk/  (search: River Thames conditions)

*Cumec: cubic metres of water per second.


From understanding these paddler ability guidelines, you should be able to identify which group you fit in to.


  • More than 5 years paddling experience
  • Marathon division 1-3
  • Can adeptly paddle any kayak of any stability
  • Has extensive knowledge of risks on the Thames from Kew Bridge to Hampton Court


  • More than 2 years paddling experience
  • Marathon division 4-6
  • Can confidently paddle boats above stability rating 6
  • Has good knowledge of risks on the Thames from Richmond Lock to Ravens Ait


  • Fewer than 2 years paddling experience
  • Unranked or marathon division less than 6
  • Has knowledge of risks on the Thames from Richmond Lock to Teddington Lock
  • Has attended ‘peer paddler’ safety training


  • Fewer than 2 years paddling experience
  • Has not yet paddled at Richmond (or similar) through a winter
  • Has not attended ‘peer paddler’ safety training
  • Has limited knowledge of risks on the Thames from Richmond Lock to Teddington Lock

Context On Paddler Grading

Whilst marathon divisions are a helpful overall guideline on experience, the most important factors which determine whether you are advanced, intermediate or beginner are:

  • knowledge of / experience of the river at Richmond and the type of conditions here (or it might be experience of similar conditions elsewhere)
  • paddler ability in the boat they are paddling

For example, a division 8 paddler who normally races a Lance and chooses to go out at the club in fast flow in a Discovery will be in a relatively stable boat and therefore able to manage challenging conditions, whilst a division 6 paddler who is trying to adapt to amore unstable boat may have difficulties in any kind of fast flow and therefore be a safety risk to themselves.

If you have paddled over winter you will have experienced cold weather, inhospitable conditions and fast flow on the river. This means have respect for the river and are safety aware, because of the higher risks involved during winter paddling.


These guidelines are meant to help every paddler understand their limits and whether it’s safe for them to go out on the water. This is where the safe paddler concept comes in i.e. be aware of the conditions, know your limits and make a judgement call on whether it’s safe for you to go out on the water.

  • If you are part of a coached group, then follow your coach’s advice.
  • If you’re paddling alone and either an experienced paddler or club coach makes a judgement call and says you should not go out, please heed their instructions.



  Advanced Buoyancy aids compulsory for all advanced paddlers

Paddling in groups of at least 3

  Intermediate No paddling advised
  Improver No paddling

  Beginner No paddling without a coach


  Advanced No additional restrictions
  Intermediate Buoyancy aids compulsory for all intermediate paddlers

Paddling in groups of at least 3

  Improver No paddling advised

  Beginner No paddling without a coach


  Advanced No additional restrictions
  Intermediate Paddling in pairs or more – paddle alone not advised
  Improver Buoyancy aids compulsory for all beginner paddlers

Paddling in groups of at least 3

  Beginner No paddling without a coach


  Advanced No additional restrictions
  Intermediate No additional restrictions
  Improver No additional restrictions

  Beginner No paddling without a coach


The above guidelines are for adults paddling in un-coached sessions. In a coached session the coach will make the final decision about whether paddling is possible. The coach’s decision is final.

In addition to the above. You MUST wear a buoyancy aid if any of the following is true:

  • You are a junior under the age of 16 and not part of the Performance Group (all year)
  • All juniors in red board conditions
  • Your session will be in the dark
  • The coach running your session tells you to wear one

See addendum: Buoyancy Aids. The addendum has information on where to buy buoyancy aids and which ones are suitable.


The following additional rules apply to all under-18 (junior) members of the club:

Juniors are not allowed to paddle

  • without supervision by an approved senior member of the club.
  • in the dark.
  • in “black” river conditions.

Paddling in “red” conditions will be allowed only for the most experienced juniors with an explicit approval of at least one qualified coach not directly in charge of the junior paddler seeking permission. The parent must  be aware of the arrangement and have given consent.

All junior paddlers must wear a buoyancy aid on the water. The only exceptions to this rule are experienced paddlers, in marathon Division 6 or higher, in “green” or “black’ river conditions, and with an explicit permission of

the coach in charge of the session. The parent must give their consent for the junior to paddle without a buoyancy aid and this will be recorded by the coach.

Juniors are not allowed to use gym equipment without adult supervision


Tides At Richmond

The Thames at Richmond Canoe Club floods twice and ebbs twice every day. The tidal river flow ranges from approximately 80 cubic metres of water per second up to 140 cubic metres per second.

River flow at Richmond

The rate at which the river flows driven by a combination of ebb and flowing tide and the overall flow of water through the Thames.  Be beware when there is a combination of ebbing (outgoing) tide and floodwater. A combination of these two events will make the Thames ‘red boards’ i.e. fast moving and relatively dangerous.

Map showing river dangers, access points and shallow water

  • The river map is displayed in the main clubroom on the folding doors closest to the club balcony.
  • The second map is displayed on the inside of the main doors leading into the main club boathouse, beside the pedestrian door.

Thames River conditions
The greatest safety risks occur in cold water conditions when the river is in flood. If you are part of a coached group, depending on your ability levels, your coach may ask you not to paddle if the river is in a dangerous state.

If you’re experienced paddler and the river is in a dangerous state, it is very important you only go out when you are sure you will not enter into difficulties. We have several following sections in this document covering river conditions and risk assessments. Main rule: if you’re not sure, don’t go out.

Port Of London Authority Paddler Code

  • Stay on the right side of the river (starboard) whenever possible
  • If paddling at night have a white light facing forwards and another white light facing behind you. You can fix these lights to your lifejacket or boat. The main aim: you are visible both front and behind. Your coach will give you more instructions on this.

The following sections in this document have much more detail on exactly what you should do to follow the Port of London authority paddler code.

Safety For Winter Night-time Paddling

Night-time paddling can be dangerous. If you end up in difficulty, you can’t be seen and that can lead to serious implications.

  • If in a coached group you must follow the safety guidelines given by your coach. A full copy of our safety briefing can be read later in this document.
  • If you are not in a coached group, you should always paddle with at least one other person.
  • Main rule for paddling at night time: if you’re not sure about your safety, don’t go out.

Accident And Near Miss Reporting

All accidents and ‘near miss’ incidents must be recorded in the club accident books which are online here: https://richmondcanoeclub.com/club-life/reporting/


Tides At Richmond

The Thames at Richmond Canoe Club floods twice and ebbs twice every day. The tidal river flow ranges from approximately 80 cubic metres of water per second up to 140 cubic metres per second.

Tidal flow information. You can download an app from port of london authority giving real time tidal flow information.  Link: http://www.pla.co.uk/Media-Centre/PLA-Tidal-Thames-app   (Search Thames PLA App)

Tide times.

River flow information:

Richmond half lock and weir

This is a lock and weir that keeps the water levels above the lock at a consistent height. When the tide comes in, the weirs are raised so water can flood in and when the tide goes out, the sluice gates close and only lets river flow through. As a result of the sluice gates closing, the river maintains a constant depth of 1.72 metres behind the lock and weir when the normal tidal level has dropped below this. Tips:

  • You will only see a tidal effect either roughly 2 hours before and after high tide when above Richmond lock (four hours total)
  • If the high tide at Richmond lock is more than 5 metres high, the tide will go above the river footpath at the canoe club
  • The higher the tide, the stronger the flow. Above 5 metres tide height : strong flow.

Annual ‘Drawoff’

Once a year usually during November the lock sluice gates are subject to maintenance and permanently taken out of the water, during this time the river level will fall below the usual ‘maintained’ 1.72 metre depth at periods of low water.

These photo essays show Thames conditions in ‘drawoff’

Dangers for paddlers include:

  • Likelihood of hitting rocks on the riverbed
  • Submerged cables, ropes and other underwater dangers
  • When entering and leaving the river, being injured by glass and other sharp objects on the riverbed

Map Showing River Dangers, Access Points And Shallow Water

This is a detailed map of all the main dangers, access points and shallow water in low tide from Isleworth up to Royal canoe club near Kingston upon Thames. If you are a beginner at Richmond Canoe Club and you are unfamiliar with the river, you should take some time and read through this map.

Important! The map shows danger areas and how you should avoid them. The main danger for paddlers is where you get too close to boats or trees when there is flow on the river. The map shows you the key long-term danger zones you should avoid. Please be aware that additional dangers can arise at any time (fallen trees, sunken boats etc). Paddlers should always being carrying out their own dynamic risk assessment when paddling.

  • The maps are 1 m wide by 2 m tall. The map will be displayed in the main clubroom on the folding doors closest to the club balcony.
  • The second map is displayed on the inside of the main doors leading into the main club boathouse, beside the pedestrian door.


Full size map is 100 cm x 200cm

500mb Original PDF here https://we.tl/t-F9pt4nnJds | 20 MB PDF http://goo.gl/6tY8tH 

Thames River Conditions

The Environment Agency have a river safety warning system. For example if the river is in severe flood it would be designated as ‘red boards’. The terms doesn’t necessarily flood along its whole length so you can have flooding in Oxford and none at Kingston. However using the ‘red board’ information can give you an idea of the likely flow at Richmond and whether there is a flood coming or not.

The environment agency conditions system does not necessarily apply to the semi tidal section of the Thames on which Richmond Canoe club paddlers mostly use. We have our own river grading system outlined earlier in this document.

Link: http://riverconditions.environment-agency.gov.uk/ (search: River Thames conditions)

River Flow Rate At Kingston

Link: http://www.gaugemap.co.uk/#!Detail/1249/1382 (search: river flow kingston)

Since the Thames ‘floods’ four times each day (tide in/out), the river flow rate needs to be taken from the nearest non tidal measuring point i.e. Kingston.

General guidelines on flow:

Cubic metres per second = m3/s

  • 0 – 30 m3/s = minimal flow   (Green boards)
  • 0 – 31 – 60 m3/s = moderate flow, waves and swirls   (Green boards)
  • 0 – 61 – 100 m3/s = fairly powerful flow, standing waves, swirls   (Yellow boards)
  • 0 – 101 – 140 m3/s = powerful flow, aggressive swirls/eddies  (Red boards)
  • 0 – 141 – 200 m3/s = very powerful flow, dangerous swirls/eddies (Red boards)
  • 0 – 201+ m3/s = extremely powerful flow, very dangerous swirls/eddies (Red boards)

Port of London Authority Tideway Paddler Guidelines

This is an important set of guidelines you should read if you are planning on canoeing on the Tideway. The Tideway begins below Richmond half lock and weir (about 600 metres beyond Richmond Bridge going towards London)

Link: https://www.boatingonthethames.co.uk/assets/Tideway%20Code_Digital%20(web).pdf (search: Paddling Boating on the Thames)


All paddlers must abide Port of London authority paddling code.  

Please read and understand the Port of London authority paddler code. This is especially relevant to all paddlers who go below the Richmond Half Lock.

Ref: https://www.boatingonthethames.co.uk/assets/Paddling%20Code_Online_pages_.pdf (search: Paddling Boating on the Thames)

Above the half lock there are still Port of London codes by which we abide. The most important are here:

In this part of the river (above Richmond Half Lock) Col Regs (Rule 9a) apply to all vessels

All vessels should navigate to the starboard (RCC Note: right side of the river if paddling) side of the river at all times, regardless of what the tide is doing.

Paddlers should aim to be as close to the starboard bank as is safe and practicable – travelling in either direction.

Paddlers may also use the water out of the main channel, behind the aits and islands, particularly when travelling inbound (upriver). This is obviously dependant on the tide and whether there is sufficient water to do so.

  1. Richmond Lock – see opposite page for directions
  2. Beware that in the vicinity of Richmond the river is quite narrow and can get very busy, particularly in the summer, with hired rowing boats and pleasure cruisers.
  3. The area around Richmond is most commonly used by racing kayaks and canoes from Richmond Canoe Club. During a club race or when performing a ‘Race Start’, paddlers should ensure the river is clear of transiting vessels. Be aware of pleasure boats and consider having ‘spotters’ above and below to identify approaching craft.



Lighting your boat requirements

  • By law, you must correctly light your boat in darkness and reduced visibility.
  • Paddlers need to be as visible as possible, so lights must be displayed at all times of restricted visibility such as mist, fog, rain or snow and at night or in the early morning.
  • If you are going out for an evening paddle, even if you intend to return in daylight, you should take lights with you as daylight can fade very quickly.
  • If in doubt, use lights.
  • Lighting must be a constant white light which should be firmly fixed to the bows and to the stern of the boat.
  • Each light should be visible for approximately 800m and through 180° The boat should effectively have white lighting visible through 360°.
  • Lights should be waterproof and also diffused, so as not to impair the vision of anyone in your group or other river users.
  • On SUPs or kayaks and canoes low to the water, it is recommended that lights be fixed to the chest and back of the paddler.
  • When paddling as a group, all boats in the group must carry lights. It is not sufficient to have a single set of lights to cover the whole group.
  • Unidirectional lights are not permitted as they are not safe. Spare lights should also be carried.
  • Additional lights such as head torches can be used to warn approaching vessels of your presence, but can also ‘dazzle’ other river users if used inconsiderately.
  • LED sticks, attached to the paddler, are recommended as is high visibility clothing and reflective tape on clothing and paddles (see photo on previous page).
  • Red or other coloured lights should never be used.

NOTE: In the Rowing Code Areas a flashing white light is required on the bows of rowing boats to help determine their direction of travel. It is not required by, and should not be used by, paddled boats.

Diagram From PLA (Port Of London Authority) Paddler Code.

The Law: Col Reg Rule 25

Sailing vessels underway and vessels under oars

  • d (ii) – A vessel under oars may exhibit the lights prescribed in this Rule for sailing vessels, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.
  • Col Reg Rule 20  Application (Lights and Shapes)  The lights prescribed by these rules shall, if carried, also be exhibited from sunrise to sunset in restricted visibility and may be exhibited in all other circumstances when it is deemed necessary. For the purposes of this rule paddled boats are also considered to be ‘under oars


  • Anyone under 18 must be supervised by an adult whilst training in the gym
  • Make sure you are physically able if appropriate discuss your fitness plans with your doctor, especially if you have a preexisting condition or are on medication. Most often your doctor will applaud your decision to get more active. But you may be given some restrictions or cautions if you have certain health problems or risks.
  • Warm-up and Cool-Down to avoid injury, it’s very important to warm up before training. This is especially important for heavyweight training. Your coach will give you guidance on the best warmup routine.
  • Make gradual increases in your training Your body will experience a great training effect if you gradually increase your time, intensity, or reps of an exercise. Doing too much too soon will increase your risk of injury. For strength training, start with lighter weights and increase the reps and sets before you increase the weights.
  • Use good technique How you do the exercise is critically important both for getting good results and preventing injury. If you are lifting weights in a way that strains your lower back, eventually you will feel the pain. If you use bad posture and overstride on the treadmill, you will get aches, pains, and overuse injuries. Working on core stability, positioning, and posture will help prevent injuries and sore muscles. If you’re unsure about correct posture, ask the advice from one of the coaches who are experienced with weight training.
  • Use an appropriately experienced coach for gym advice While there are apps and written instructions you can use to try to get the right technique, nothing beats having an expert eye on your form. Work with an appropriately experienced coach to ensure you are doing the weight training exercises correctly.
  • Keep the gym clean and neat One of the biggest risks of a gym accident is tripping over something left lying around. Clear the area of objects you may stumble over during your exercises. Clean the equipment after you use it to prevent sharing colds and flu. Most gyms have disinfectant available for wiping down equipment.
  • Gym equipment and machine safety paddling machines and weight machines all have moving parts with the risk of pinching and crushing your fingers and toes if you aren’t paying attention. This is why most gyms do not allow children (no matter how well-supervised) in the workout area. Make sure pins and collars are used properly on weight machines and barbells. Be aware of who is working out around you and what motions they are using so you can stay out of their way.
  • Spotters for lifting weights If you are lifting heavy weights, you should train with a partner who can spot your lifts to avoid accidents and injury.
  • Workout partners in the gym It is not a good idea to workout alone in a gym. You should always have a friend or coach available in case of an injury or health emergency. Working out with a partner can give you two sets of eyes on any problems that may develop. Encourage each other to drink, breathe fully and correctly, and clear the workout area of obstacles. Be each other’s safety buddy as well as a workout buddy.


To enable constantly improving paddler safety it is imperative that all accidents and near misses (where a serious accident was avoided) irrespective of the resulting injury or damage, be reported according to the laid down procedures. In order to avoid misunderstanding, Richmond Canoe Club you deem an accident and near-miss to be defined thus:-

  • Accident:- “any unplanned event that results in personal injury or damage to property, boats or equipment”.
  • Near-miss:- “an unplanned event which does not cause injury or damage, but could have done so.” Examples include: Capsizes in dangerous conditions, accidents with weight training equipment, near collisions with rowers or other river vessels.

Accident Books

All accidents must be recorded in the club accident books which are online here: https://richmondcanoeclub.com/club-life/reporting/

These accident books will be reviewed prior to each Richmond Canoe Club committee meeting to ascertain the nature of incidents which have occurred.  This review will be in addition to an individual investigation of the circumstances surrounding each incident if deemed necessary.

All near-misses must be reported to your coach as soon as possible so that action can be taken to investigate the causes and to prevent recurrence. Either you or your coach must record the near miss on the Richmond Canoe Club online reporting form.

Reporting Procedure: Club Members

1. All accidents must be entered in the appropriate Accident Book either by the injured person or, if this is not practical, someone else present at the time i.e. your coach
2.  The coach must then:-

  • Note that the accident has occurred.
  • Ensure that the Accident Book has been correctly and fully completed by reviewing the report retrospectively.
  • Immediately pass the Accident Report form to the Richmond Canoe Club committee

3. The Richmond Canoe Club committee will then:-

  • Ensure that, where applicable, the requirements of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 are met.
  • Record the findings of the subsequent investigation.
  • Discuss the accident and the contributory factors
  • If necessary report findings to the authorities and if necessary instigate any disciplinary proceedings.

4 .The Richmond Canoe Club committee will then ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that proper action is taken to help prevent the accident being repeated.


Buying your own buoyancy aid:

Buoyancy Aid conformity.

Paddlers must wear an Integral Foam Buoyancy aid or lifejacket conforming to one of the following European standards: EN 393 or EN 395 or ISO12402-5 or ISO12402-6. The standard must be clearly displayed via a label attached by the manufacturer.

Buoyancy aids or lifejackets are not acceptable under any circumstance if:-

  • They only display certification to BA83.
  • Require partial or total inflation by mouth, or by the use of a compressed air/gas cylinder.
  • Appear to be more than five years old, or have been subjected to heavy use, thus degrading their flotation value.
  • Have been tampered with or modified in any way.

Buoyancy aids made outside the EU (and not carrying the relevant EN or ISO standard mark) will not be accepted unless they are:
(a) Individually certified by the manufacturer as meeting EU requirements, or:
(b) Presented by a paddler who can prove that he/she is not resident in the EU. By definition this will exclude anyone competing for a canoe club or organisation from within the EU.


Information on assessing risk as a paddler, safety briefing guidelines for night-time paddling and novice paddler safety guidelines

General Paddler Risk Assessment

The table below has headers for each column:

  • Identified hazard: the safety hazard you might encounter
  • Affected groups: who is affected by the identified risk.
  • Control measures: actions you can take.
  • Severity: how serious the consequences are
  • Likelihood: how likely something might occur
  • Final risk: overall what’s the likelihood of an accident or near miss?

How to interpret the risk assessment document.

For example, the identified hazard might be a strong stream/flow on the river, which affect all paddlers. You should assess the risk as you go and know when the tides are coming in or out. The severity of capsizing in a flowing river is high, because you might be caught under a moored boat for example. The likelihood of risk in a strong stream is medium and the final overall risk is medium.

Identified Hazard Affected Groups Control Measures ( Physical Controls) Severity Likely Final Risk
Strong stream All Use dynamic risk assessment. Be aware of tide times. High Medium Medium
Swamped craft All Air bags / sufficient buoyancy fitted to boats to aid recovery when full of water High Medium Low
Drowning Participant Coaches Buoyancy aids must be worn by novices; all buoyancy aids to be secured and checked by coaches. Activity to be supervised by appropriately qualified coaches and to stay within the NGB ratios. All participants must complete a consent form prior to the activity. High Medium Low
Slips trips & falls Participant Coaches No running policy, Participants to wear secure and covered footwear. Participants made aware of potential hazards. High Medium Low
Collisions (with other river users) Participant Coach to ensure group safety and direct group to one side when other river Users approach. High Low Low
Collision with other participants. Participant Coaches Group management by coach. Participants warned about using paddles in close proximity High Low Low
Entrapment in Participant Coaches Racing kayaks are difficult to be entrapped in because of large cockpits. Participants warned about using paddles in close proximity High Low Low
Hypothermia Participant Coaches Wind / waterproof clothing made available and participants advised to wear. Ensure appropriate clothing is worn by participants Carry spare clothing if going on a trip. Clothing list sent out with booking form. High Low Low
Hyperthermia / sun burn Participant Coaches Appropriate clothing including sun hat & sun block advised to be worn. Ensure sufficient drinks are available. High Low Low
High winds Participant Coaches Use dynamic risk assessment. High Low Low
Carrying equipment Participant Coaches Appropriately qualified Coach to supervise carrying of boats & lifting to & from racks / trailers. High Low Low
Day trips and winter sessions Participant Coaches Coaches to take a mobile phone & appropriate equipment for the duration of the trip. Medium Medium Medium

Safety Briefing For Winter Night-time Paddling

If you are paddling at night time, you should read and follow these safety guidelines.


Always dynamically assess risk. Dynamic risk assessments can be described as: “The continuous process of identifying hazards, assessing risk, taking action to eliminate or reduce risk, monitoring and reviewing, in the rapidly changing circumstances of an operational incident.”

When doing a night-time paddle, undertake a dynamic risk assessment of the river conditions, factoring in the following variables:


  • Disorientation – can I see where dangers are?
  • Lack of usual visual keys – are there enough identifiable landmarks/River features for me to see?


  • Fog – is there fog and can I see dangers through the fog?
  • Cold – how cold is it and would I be okay if I fell in the river?
  • Ice – is there ice? Is it below freezing? Could I slip when walking to and from the river?
  • Wind – how windy is it? Is it too windy to be safe?

River state

  • Tides (& draw off) – is the river exceptionally low? Are there new dangers I don’t know about?
  • Red boards – is the river in flood? Is the flow to great for me to be safe?
  • Other markers eg buoys – has somebody laid out buoys to alert me of a safety issue?

Kit & equipment:

  • Boats – is my boat safe and will it float in the event of capsize?
  • Availability of stable boats  – are there stable boats I can use?


  • Windproof top & hat – do I have suitable clothing to keep you warm and dry customer?
  • Layers – do I have a thermal layer to keep me warm and dry?
  • Spare kit – do I have spare clothing to wear if my paddling gear gets wet?
  • Buoyancy aid – do I have a suitable buoyancy aid?


  • Glowstick – if dark, do I have a glow stick or some lighting device I can wear so I can be seen?
  • Moveable torch – do I have a waterproof torch?
  • Boat lights – does my boat have a light at the front and back so other can see me?
  • Tape – do I have ‘gaffer tape’/’ carpet tape’ at hand to fix lights onto my boat?



Hazards & Behaviour To Avoid:

Bankside HAZARDS

  • cyclists / pedestrians, occasionally cars
  • theft (locking club doors)
  • slipping, especially on pontoon & during draw-off (when the river is very low)

Be aware of cyclists & pedestrians, occasionally even cars

Locking club doors is the responsibility of all, before and after.

Safety briefing before get on water

No getting onto the water without being instructed to do so by the Coach.

A Coach will be on the water first or ready to jump into boat.

Hazards & Behaviour to avoid: (cont.)

On the water HAZARDS:

  • other traffic
  • flow & static objects (trees & moored boats or pontoons)
  • fishermen
  • each other

Stick to the right-hand side of the river

  • Everyone responsible for looking out for other traffic, especially when stopping (look behind)
  • when crossing / turning. Avoid getting too close to moored boats, especially in heavy flow. You will find yourself drawn in.
  • Give wide berth when turning upstream of fixed objects & when approaching fixed objects with the flow.
  • Keep an eye out for fishermen, if tangle with line the hazard is the hook at the end. Try to keep the line away from your face, hands etc.
  • Each other: no wash hanging or getting too close unless the other boat is comfortable with your actions, it doesn’t matter if you’re happy


SHOUT!!!! Coaches need to be aware there has been a capsize.

  • Stay with your boat
  • Flip boat
  • Paddles in boat
  • Go to the end of the boat
  • Look out for your paddling partner & communicate with them
  • Do not swim close to fixed objects if there is flow
  • Do not swim directly to the side if there is flow
  • Listen to the Coach for instructions & follow them

Build your awareness of good ‘get-out’ points, especially at high water

Effects of very cold water

  • immediate ‘locked lung’ (exhale, SHOUT!!!)
  • hyperventilation
  • short period of time when you can usefully do things (5 mins)
  • buoyancy aid will protect you against hypothermia for up to 30 mins

Signs of hypothermia

  • hard to see visual signs in the dark, but look for behavioural – silence, lack of focus/concentration, physical malco-ordination

If someone else in the group capsizes

  • make sure coach is aware (you may be close to the capsize, they may not)
  • make sure you are safe
  • help to make sure the rest of the group is safe – usually the best thing   is to group up together by the bank ie out of the way of traffic, in earshot of the coach but not getting in their way. Keep an eye out for other river traffic or anyone else getting into difficulties
  • listen out for coach instructions & follow them
  • do not try to assist with the rescue unless the coach asks

Dry drowning/Secondary drowning

  • Trouble breathing 1-24hrs after getting out of the water
  • Dry – small amount of water causes the airways to spasm, closing them up
  • Secondary – water gets into lungs causing irritation & stopping oxygen absorption
  • Look out for coughing, increased work to breathe, sleepiness (lack of oxygen), vomiting


ULTIMATELY the Coaches decision is FINAL

  • Coaches decide whether you can paddle and what boat you paddle.
  • Coaches will assess conditions and if the Coach says the Group cannot paddle, or an individual cannot paddle, on a given occasion, there is no argument.
  • Coaches can cancel a session at any time.
  • If you do not listen to the Coaches and follow their instructions you may be barred from night paddling.
  • (We are currently working to book the paddle machines / gym at the club if you cannot go on the water & we suggest you always pack kit that you can use indoors just in case).

Senior Novice Safety Guidelines

SESSIONS 1, 2 & 3 (Sat afternoons) Safety procedures

Senior Novice Course and Novice 2 & 3 sessions:


  • All groups must be led by a qualified or experienced coach from the list below. Final decisions about safety will be made by this Lead Coach.
  • Novice 1 & 2 sessions must have a minimum of two coaches
  • Novice 3 sessions should ideally be run by two coaches, but can be run by a single coach if there are 6 or fewer paddlers and the coach is aware of (and happy with) their level of paddling competence for the conditions
  • There should be a ratio of no lower than 1 coach to 6 paddlers in ‘normal’ conditions
  • Additional coaches or ‘helpers’ should be used when conditions are considered more challenging (ie at high water, in fast flow, strong wind, extreme cold). These helpers must be experienced, stable paddlers, with knowledge of the river at Richmond, and must be briefed by the Lead Coach on safety before the session
  • The Lead Coach can, at any time (before or during the session) make the decision that it is unsafe for individual paddlers, or for the group as a whole, to paddle. They can take advice from fellow coaches & senior members of the club, but should not feel under pressure to take a group out if they do not feel it is safe.

Before getting on the water

  • All Novice 1, 2 or 3 participants must confirm that they can swim 50m fully clothed before their first session on the water (course participants will be asked to sign a statement to this effect, newcomers to Novice 2 or 3 should be asked by the Lead Coach)
  • All Course participants will be asked, in their booking form, whether they have any medical or health-related issues that the coach should know about (ie that may affect them on the water). Newcomers to Novice 2 or 3 should be asked this by the Lead Coach.
  • All Course participants are asked to provide an emergency contact name and telephone number. These numbers are provided to the Lead Coach for the course before the first week (they are also held by Jemima.) Newcomers to Novice 2 or 3 must be asked to provide an emergency contact name and tel. number before they go out on the water.

Safety briefing

  • All Novice 1/ Course participants will be given a safety briefing at their first session before getting on the water (see ‘Safety Briefing’ document). Any paddler missing the first session can be turned away from the course, but if allowed on they must be given the safety briefing before they get on the water for the first time.
  • Anyone joining Novice 2 or Novice 3 without attending the course must also be given a safety briefing before being allowed to attend a session. It is the responsibility of the Lead Coach to check that they have been briefed.

Getting on and off the water

  • All paddlers (and coaches/helpers) should be briefed before getting on the water on the plan for getting on the water (ie where to gather, when to get on).
  • There should always be one coach or rescue-competent helper on the water before any novice paddlers launch from the pontoon.
  • All paddlers (and coaches/helpers) should be gathered together before returning to the pontoon and briefed on the approach to be used (paddlers can be asked what approach they would pick – as part of the learning/coaching process, but the lead coach will make the final decision)
  • No paddler should be allowed to return to the pontoon unaccompanied (ie out of sight of a coach or helper)

Rescue practice

  • All Novice 1/Course participants will be required to capsize and rescue their boat as part of the course. No paddler will be allowed to join the club without having successfully self-rescued.
  • Anyone joining Novice 2 or Novice 3 without attending the course must be required to do a capsize and rescue within their first session, unless they provide convincing proof to the Lead Coach that they have experience at self-rescuing from racing boats.
  • Novice 2 sessions should include an opportunity to practice capsizing and rescuing a K2.


  • All Novice 1, 2 and 3 paddlers must wear a buoyancy aid. Coaches and helpers must also wear a buoyancy aid (to set an example)
  • All Novice 1 and 2 paddlers must wear footwear that will stay on their feet and protect them in the event of a capsize (ie not flip flops). Novice 3 paddlers are strongly advised to wear footwear that will stay on their feet. It is in the coach’s discretion to insist that a Novice 3 paddler wears shoes (if they are prone to capsizing or if the conditions/format for the session merits)
  • Novice paddlers will be given advice on suitable clothing. Any paddler who turns up with unsuitable clothing for the conditions (eg no windproof layer on a cold and wet day) can be refused permission to go on the water (if no spare kit can be lent or found at the club.)

Paddler behaviour

  • All Novice 1, 2 and 3 paddlers must listen to and obey instructions from their coaches. Anyone failing to follow instructions may be taken off the water.
  • Any paddler in Novice 1, 2 or 3 who endangers themselves or others through their behaviour can be taken off the water by their coach.
  • Anyone repeatedly failing to follow instructions, and warned of the consequences of this behaviour, can have their membership terminated

Paddling on Red Boards (Thames in flood)

For any session it is the Lead Coaches ultimate decision as to:

  • Whether it is safe to run a water-based session
  • Whether any given novice paddler will be allowed on the water in the particular conditions
  • What type of boat any given novice can paddle for that session
  • Where the launch point and return point will be

To guide lead coaches it is advised that when the river is on red boards, unless sufficient mitigating factors exist (see below):

For Novices 2s:

  • Launch should be from River Lane, not from the club pontoon
  • Paddling should be limited to the section of the river from Glovers Island to the bottom of Eel Pie island (usually remaining on the Surrey bank of the river)
  • Return should be to River Lane or at low tide to either of the two sets of steps on Surrey bank by Petersham meadows (not the steps just upriver of the pontoon)

For Novice 3s:

  • The coach should strongly consider launching from River Lane
  • The coach should consider returning to River Lane

Additionally serious thought should be given to the size of the group in fast-flow conditions. The group should be kept to a maximum of 6 novices and paddlers should be reminded to keep a minimum of a boat-length apart when doing any down-flow exercises – more than that if turning is involved, to prevent one person’s mis-steering affecting a whole group.

Mitigating factors:

These include, though are not limited to:

  • an incoming tide which counters the flow
  • novices paddling in a k2 with an experienced paddler
  • a very high ratio of coaches/experienced helpers to novices and a very small group)


Emptying A Kayak

Remember: If you’re not sure about your safety on the water, don’t go paddling.