White Water & Sea Kayaking Club North East

Paddle Safety

Paddlesport is a risky activity

However the risks can be managed, the following information is not designed to scare it’s information you as a paddler need to be aware of. The coaches will be looking out for everyone’s safety – but everyone must take some responsibility for their own safety.

Although the list below seems long, don’t let it put you off; canoeing and kayaking are great fun and very rewarding.

It is recommended that you:
Cover minor cuts and scratches with waterproof plasters before getting in your boat.
Wear trainers or wet suit boots to avoid cutting your feet.
Always wash your hands and face before eating.
Wash or shower after canoeing.
Consider doing a first aid and an appropriate safety and rescue course.

Our club is affiliated with British Canoeing and their insurance covers all of our club activity. On the occasion that an activity is not covered by our insurance, in particular 'club peer paddles', where competent members may paddle outside of the club's safety framework such as without a leader or coach. On these paddles, members are responsible for their own safety, while the paddles may include members and be arranged through our 'Trip' application, the club can not take any responsibility. Members will be required to download and sign the Activity Waiver to confirm their understaning that they are fully responsible for their own safety and to protect the club and other paddlers from legal actiction in the case of injury.

Risks When Paddling

The risks may be uncommon or rare, but take care to protect yourself and others when paddling.


This is a real and regular risk, local cold and wet weather, being immersed in water, and windchill and increase the likelyhood of hypothermia. Wear appropriate clothing and learn the signs so it can be reconised in others.

Manual Handling

Canoes and Kayaks when full of water or packed for expeditions, are very heavy. Ask for assistance if needed, use correct lifting techniques, and be careful in windy conditions, e.g. when loading onto car roof racks or pulling from river.


A serious disease, also known as Weil’s disease. It is carried in rat’s urine, which can contaminate water and wet river bank. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms. Bacteria absorbed through mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes.


Tetanus is prevalent in many areas of the country, (in the soil). It can enter through cuts and scratches. Ensure you are up to date with your anti-tetanus booster injections and cover all cuts, scratches and skin abrasions.

Stomach bugs

Generally caused by ingesting infected water (dead sheep, flooded sewers, etc) can lead to several uncomfortable days, sickness, diarrhoea, rapid temperature change etc. Wash after canoeing in particular before eating.

Blue-green algae

There will normally be signage – avoid it if possible there is normally an alternative lake. Generally only found in stagnant or static water in Summer. It is best to avoid it until it is declared clear.

Shoulder Injuries

Over extension of the shoulder is one of the most popular ways to injure yourself in paddling. Iin most cases it’s down to poor technique in white water or when surfing when using support strokes and rolls.

Slips, Trips, & Falls

Riverbanks and general paddling enviroments can be particually slippy. Further injury can be caused by emptying boats after a capsize as these may be heavy. Please take extra care on wet and slippery ground.

Surfers Ear-

Frequent cold water immersion can lead over years to bone growth in the ear canal. This can cause the ear canal to close partially or completely, resulting in ear infections and deafness. Use earplugs.

Shoulder Injuries

Make sure that you can swim in your kit and that your buoyancy aid is worn and fitted correctly. Buoyancy Aids are not lifejackets – they will not turn you onto your back so if there is any chance of being hit on the head wear a helmet.


Too sunny and not enough fluids, or wearing winter paddling kit on a warm day, all can all lead to your core temperature getting too hot. Make sure you dress for the enviroment and stay well hydrated.


Make sure that you can swim in your kit and that your buoyancy aid is worn and fitted correctly. Make sure that a helmet is worn if there is risk of being hit on the head to prevent being knocked out.
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