New Paddler Tips

Pointers to those new to the Royal Canoe Club:

Welcome to Royal Canoe Club.  We are a flat-water kayak & canoe club: there is a focus on racing and training, but also on the social side of the sport.  We hope these notes will be useful to tell you the basics of how you can enjoy and get involved with the club.

When to paddle

Experienced racing paddlers, adults:

Contact to discuss what training group would be a good fit for you and find out more.

Novice Adults:

Once you have tried a taster session & enjoyed it, the typical next steps are as follows:

  • Come to as many taster sessions as needed to feel comfortable & confident paddling, understand the rules of the river & how to look after yourself & the boats. This is £20 per session for non-members but no cost for these once you’ve joined the club;
  • Do a capsize drill in whatever type of boat you intend to paddle (it is different in sea kayaks & K1s);
  • Once you have joined the club, paddle socially with others in the club to build up experience and get to know other people.  There is a WhatsApp group for arranging paddling times etc. The ‘getstarted team’ can help you with this.  Whilst you will learn a lot paddling with others,this is a non-coached arrangement so anyone paddling like this needs to be able to look after themselves and be able to assist others.
  • Once you are a member and have basic competence you will have access to club boats & equipment whenever you want, within the bounds of the club safety policy;
  • The club social evening is Wednesdays:  This does have a competitive element, with time trials during the summer although some will paddle just socially & stay for a drink / food afterwards;
  • If you want more formal coaching, there are additional coaching groups, based on ability, for a fee, contact;
  • If you’re interested, try a race: not mandatory but encouraged!  There are some race series with handicap or divisional structures (Haslers) allowing all at any level to participate. There are several races where Royal fields a big team; see “races” for more details below.
  • There are also occasional ad-hoc arrangements such as trips to the sea or technique sessions in a swimming pool– generally notified on the closed members only Facebook group or WhatsAppgroup.


All juniors are allocated to a training group based on their ability.  There will be a schedule of training sessions during the week for each group, and the head coach is the point of contact for parents.

River conditions:

The stretch of the Thames by the club is managed by the Environment Agency (EA) and they run a system of “red board” warnings when the river stream is particularly strong. A link to the EA website showing these warnings is on the RCC homepage.  The club safety policy describes how these warnings affect club activities.

The Site

We share the site with other sports clubs:  Walbrook Rowing Club, The Skiff Club and Kingston Royals Dragon Boat Club.  Sharing the site enables us to have better facilities, but of course requires a little give-and-take at busy times.  The site is run by Teddington Watersports Centre (TWC) and all members of RCC are required to also be a member of TWC.

There are shower / changing facilities in both the island & mainland clubhouses, with the social facilities in the mainland clubhouse.  There is a weights gym and an aerobic gym (kayaking & rowing machines) in the island club house.  There is a gym rota at busy times where certain training groups will have priority, but you can use the facility so long as you are not in their way at that time. The rota is displayed outside the island gym& on the main notice board by kitchen door, although a different rota maybe used during “red boards” warning periods.

Here’s an overview of the site:

Further information on site issues, including gym access & codes for the main clubhouse doors, will be issued to members once they join TWC or by contacting


The club has a range of canoes & kayaks, broadly as follows:

  • A large fleet of introductory K1’s – suitable for first-timers, recreational & fitness paddling and racing up to approx. division 6 marathon.
  • A small number of advanced K1s for advanced racers.  Use of these requires permission from a coach.
  • A number of crew boats i.e. K2 & K4’s.  Use of these requires permission from a coach, but you will be encouraged to give it a go!
  • A large number of smaller K1s for juniors.
  • Several sea kayaks / general-purpose closed-cockpit boats.  Typically used for adult taster sessions but also for occasional touring or day trips to the sea –again seek permission from a coach if planning on taking club boats off site to use.
  • A few large open canoes – the “family picnic” boats.
  • Basic paddles & “wing” paddles.

Most regular racers buy their own boats, and these can bestored at the club, for a “racking fee” (space permitting!).  The club fleet, and racking of private boats, is managed by the

However, YOU are responsible for looking after any club equipment you use, returning it to the correct location after you’ve used it and informing the harbour master of any defects or damage.

The club boats are stored in several locations:

  • Island main boat shed (3 double doors) & crew boat shed – combination number padlock
  • Island downstream shed – combination number padlock
  • Rob Roy House – combination number padlock
  • Outdoors racking on the mainland

The combination codes for the padlocks will be given to you when you join RCC or by contacting .

If considering buying your own boat, there are various places to look but ‘Racing Canoeing – buys and sales’ Facebook page is the best place in the canoeing world and often a few come up on EBay.

What to wear / bring

Canoeing is a wet sport:  as well as splashes, there will be capsize drills (usually in the summer!) as well as the occasional real capsize – we have all done it. Wear kit that allows you to move freely & doesn’t get too stiff & heavy when wet.  Most normal sports clothing (running /cycling) is a reasonable place to start. Plus bring warm total kit change for afterwards and towel for your shower (& a plastic bag for wet kit).

Footwear. Some of the experienced paddlers will race in bare or socked feet – but this is not advisable when portaging, in a marathon event where there could be sharp stones or glass on the ground. Most trainers are too bulky for the kayaks but neoprene (wetsuit)shoes work well (basic at Sports Direct, or £15 upwards for a more sophisticated boot e.g., at Wet Suit Outlet ).

In cold windy weather a lightweight waterproof can be useful like the pac-a-macs or running waterproof tops.  Similarly, in summer remember sun cream, hat & shades.

The first winter kayak-specific item of kit you’re likely to want is a pair of “pogies” e.g.  White Water – The Canoe Centre or paddling gloves e.g. Wet Suit Outlet.  Some paddlers prefer one & some prefer the other so ask around & try a few before buying.

The club has a large supply of buoyancy aids:  these should be worn by all novices (junior & adult).  In some races they are mandatory– see the race section of this document, below.


Club kit / racing vests are for sale. A racing vest will be needed if you want to race, and other kit is available from time to time. Email or ask those in the kitchen on a Wednesday evening – club night – as to what is available.

Club Organisation

As well as training groups & popular paddling times such as Saturday mornings, club night is Wednesday.  Typically there is paddling (including optional time trials during the summer) then the bar is open and food served in the clubhouse:  a great time to catch up with all those at the club.  On Saturday mornings cake and coffee is also served upstairs in the lounge.

There are various other socials during the year (quiz night, awards night, Christmas party etc) generally notified via Facebook.

Royal Canoe club is run by volunteers. Club members and parents of juniors will be asked to help out from time to time.

The various roles in the club organisation, and the name ofthe person currently doing that role, can be found on the club website at Who’s Who


Currently Facebook is used – Royal Canoe Club private members page is the main page for everything from announcing social events to organising race teams.  Contact the club commodore for access to this Facebook group.

Also there is no substitute for talking to fellow members, parents and coaches on a Wednesday evening or Saturday morning or at training.

Most adult training groups have a WhatsApp group or similar to coordinate activities.

Primary contact for juniors will be between the junior’s parents & coach, via email.


The majority of racing at Royal is in either Sprints or Marathons. The info below is not totally comprehensive but will give an over view and a starting point.


This is for all ages and abilities and is typically between 6 – 20km.
The main series of marathon races is the “Hasler” series: organized on a regional basis – about ten races a year within your locality.

There are 10 divisions (div), with elite paddlers in div 1 – 3 paddling approx. 20km with multiple portages (portaging involves paddlers getting out of their boats, running a short distance with the boat, e.g. to get over lock gates in canals, and getting back onto the water.);

Divs 4-6 paddle approx. 14km and usually has portages;

Divs 7-9 paddle approx. 6.5 km with no portages.

Div 10 – is for U12 year old’s K1 only.

Depending on your finish time in the race, you will stay in your division, you could be ‘promoted’ up to the next level or get a ‘demotion mark’ this gives the option to be put down a division – talk to coaches.

For juniors under 12 years old, there are “Lightning” classes where they race over 2000m in the same design of boat. Juniors can also race in the divisions, but once promoted above div 9, paddlers are deemed to be competent racers and may not race in the Lightning classes. Age of a paddler is taken as your age on 1st January that race year.

Div 9 starts are notoriously busy with all ages racing. It’s fun to watch the mass start but can be bumpy for the novice paddler. This settles once the race gets going!

NOTE: All paddlers ranked division 7 or below must wear a buoyancy aid.

Final results will be posted a few days later on the race venue’s club web site and through

Then there’s the Hare and Hounds series run by Wey Kayak Club in Guildford. These are Winter Marathon races held roughly each month from October through to January on Sundays. There is an over all Improvers trophy awarded at the end of the series.

  • Hare and Hounds – time trial start. This is a 10km course with 2 portages
  • Dash Hounds which is 6km, no portages, and aimed at the younger / more novice paddlers.

10@10 Thames Winter series

New K2 event in 2018 run at Elmbridge CC,Richmond CC and Royal CC. keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates.

Sprints – Local club events aimed at Juniors, but not exclusively

Races are most commonly in lanes and over 200m, 500m, or 1000m.

Your time trail at the start of the day will determine which group you’ll be racing. The number of races will depend on the overall number of competitors on the day. Finishing times are then translated into aged related results for prizes. Which means a fast U14 could be racing a U16 but will still be overall competing in their age group.

Many local clubs (including Royal) run sprint race days, and there are also national sprints.

National sprints

Nottingham, Holme Pierrepont National WaterSports Centre. This is a weekend event.  You will need to sort out accommodation: There is a campsite at the race ground but the less hardy tend to B & B it at various places. There are a few Premier Inns and Travelodge hotels too but these tend to get booked up quite a few months beforehand.

There is usually parking at the venue for a fee.

The club try to book a pub meal in the evening for all to catch up – a message will be put up on Facebook.

  • At Nottingham, there are Lightning races for U10 and U12 the rest are categorised according to speed – like Divisions – but are called Girls (or women’s) or Boys (men’s) D to A. (Note: There are no U10/12 races in the April regatta.)
  • D is entry level. The national championship (July)is divided into age groups with U14, U16, U18 events.
  • 9 racing lanes at Nottingham and can be as many as 8 heats for up to 3 finals.
  • All paddlers MUST be pre-entered 2 weeks before the event at the latest. Please ask your coach for advice if you have any queries. FB and emails will come out with information.
  • Cost is typically £7-8 a seat which you can transfer to the RCC sprint account.
  • You will need to bring the K1 and K2 boats you want to use. K4’s are provided by the venue.

Entering races (both marathon & sprint)

This is usually sorted on facebook or you can talk to the team leader.

To enter most races you will need either:

  • If 18+ or in div 6 or higher, you need to be a member of British Canoeing ( ).  A day-member card can sometimes be bought for occasional racers.
  • If under 18 and in a division lower than 6, you will need a ROY junior card, giving your ROY junior membership number which will be something like ROY/225. Sue Bovington issues these ROY cards to juniors once you are a fully paid up member.
  • NOTE: For the Marathon Hasler series, names of paddlers who want to race are listed by the Hasler Team Leaders, on Facebook, and entered by the club, as a team. However individually, you will need to pay your entry fee – price dictated by the host club – to the Royal Sprint account some days before the event to guarantee your place. No refunds can be given.

Race day tips:

  • Collect boat early on the day or the night before – but only if you’re confident that the boat will be secure overnight.
  • Coaches or Team Leaders at these events are your first point of contact. It’s important to turn up if you’ve committed to racing, even verbally, but if there are unforeseen circumstances, please let the team leader or coach know or post on Facebook ASAP.
  • Check in – confirm attendance. You should have paid fee’s online before but some events request individuals pay on the day. This checking-in means, especially in a marathon event, they know you’re racing so for safety will count you out and back!
  • Sprint – check in with Team leader. Remember to bring your ROY card or BCU card. If you have not pre-entered online or via the club, you will usually have to pay for day ticket – only one allowed a year and only in lower divisions (!)
  • Number Boards. Marathon Haslers presently the clubs provide the numbered boards – these are returned to race organizers at end of race with individuals charged typically £5 for any lost. Hare and Hounds you will need a white number board with your race number clearly written on and attached securely to the back of your boat. Sprint – You’ll need your own number boards for these races too however at Nottingham Royal provides number boards. (confused yet?).
  • Race briefing about half an hour before your start. Coaches/Team Leaders will be able to advise when to get on the water. Don’t rush, take your time. The starters are all very human!
  • Once race is done, collect all gear, get showered and warmed up. Stay if you can as other races later in the day can be fun to watch and good to give the paddlers a bit of support.
  • At the end of the day, return boat and rest of equipment back to the club, close boat house doors and turn off lights etc.

What to take to races:

Loads of kit – check the weather and expect the worse. Take racing kit, a separate set (except race vest) per race as well as the usual paddling kit and towel / change for afterwards.  Note that quite often there can be a wait on the start line.

Boat – these can be transported on your car with a V bar on the roof rack. Local company, Weybridge, has a selection. You can use luggage straps for your boat or ‘bungees’ i.e. tough elastic straps which wrap over the v-bars, secured where there are designated hooks. On the motorway however, you may want to double up your bungees and/or use a strap from boat to roof rack.  Also a paddle (!)

You’ll need a buoyancy aid in certain races: For all marathon paddlers in divs 7-9 (all ages), a buoyancy aid is compulsory.  For Div 6 and Girls/Boys C upwards, it’s not compulsory. Girls /Boys D (at Nottingham National races) tend not to need them but sometimes if weather’s bad, you will be advised to wear them. For U10/12,it’s compulsory. 

Food – Marathon events and local Sprints will have Paddlers food. This is often easily assembled treats like biscuits, juice, crisps and if you’re lucky, a sandwich. A flask of a hot drink is always a good idea especially if you’re warming up after capsizing! There are also kitchens at most of these events for teas, coffee, cake, bacon sandwiches etc.

Useful websites

Flatwater racing calendar: Nottingham Sprint Regatta dates but please ask to see which races are relevant.

Local clubs– relevant for race info & results:





Kit – there are many but here’s a few to be getting on with:

Suzy Sweat Shop

Icon Sports


Wet Suit Outlet

Other equipment outlets etc – once again plenty about & these are just a few:

White Water – The Canoe Centre (very local in Shepperton)

Ultimate Kayaks

And finally a funny note to a new paddler from Facebook