Approved Centres

A BCU approved centre is your assurance of high standards of safety and qualified instruction. Equipment and facilities are approved annually and Approved Centre status is only awarded when the approval officers are satisfied that all aspects of the canoeing activity at the centre are up to standard. Here is a list of approved centres.

Local Clubs

You can find a local club by visiting the relevant pages of your national canoe organisation, and searching by postcode:

Youth Programmes

Canoeing has benefited from quite a lot of government, lottery and community funding in recent years. As a result, there are now excellent youth programmes and facilities for young people in many parts of the British Isles. For more information on specific regional programmes, you should contact your national association (see above) or your local club. The PaddlePower scheme is a UK-wide initiative which aims to:

  • Encourage more young people to come into and stay in the sport.
  • Provide progression and reward achievement in a wide range of topics.
  • Show them all aspects of the sport – both competitive and adventurous.
  • Provide signposts into Clubs where their skills and development can be nurtured.
  • Provide a flexible structure for delivery, adapting to both the venue and/or the situation.

There are five awards, beginning with PaddlePower Start, an entry level award suitable for beginners. The four subsequent awards – PaddlePower Passport, PaddlePower Discover, PaddlePower Explore, PaddlePower Excel – cover all elements of paddlesport, including skills, safety, training, events/competitions in a variety of disciplines, rules and even environmental and access issues.

Leisure canoeing

Once you have mastered the basics, you may feel confident enough to undertake a canoeing trip. Canoe England provides a series of introductory canoeing trails which you can download from their website. Canoeing hire centres can also offer advice about where to go canoeing, and the UK Rivers Guidebook suggests further areas ideal for beginners.


Access to inland waterways and coastal waters is a big issue in paddlesports. While restrictions on access are fairly minimal on the continent, British waterways are more restricted. You should check before launching your canoe on a local river or lake. There is no universal right of access to rivers and canals, but membership of the BCU does allow you to legally paddle on the River Thames and the majority of the British Waterways network. Alternatively, you can buy a licence from a British Waterways local office. Contact details can be found here. Purpose built centres such as the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham may be a better bet if you are unsure.