Do I Need A License To Paddle Board (SUP) UK?
Are you new to paddleboarding and wondering if you need a waterways license? Or perhaps you're a seasoned paddleboarder but unsure of the regulations surrounding waterway licenses. Whatever your level of experience, understanding the rules and regulations around waterways licenses is essential for a safe and enjoyable paddle boarding experience.
In this blog, we'll explore the basics of waterways licenses, why they're important, and what you need to know before taking to the water on your paddleboard. Whether you're planning a leisurely paddle or a more challenging adventure, this guide will help you navigate the regulations and ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience on the water.
What Is A Waterway License?
A waterway license, or river license, is a license you need to explore some of the UK and Wales' waterways. When you think of a license, you think of a driving license, but no need to worry, there isn't a test you have to take to get a waterways license. Anybody can get one and is something you should buy if you're planning on exploring the inland water.
Why Do I Need A License?
The fee for a license goes to those who maintain it, such as Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency or another private body. This ensures that the rivers, canals etc that you go on are kept in top-notch condition to make sure the waterways are safe and clean for us and the future. Also, if you have a license you skip the risk of getting a fine if caught without one!
What do these people do to keep the water safe?
- Upkeep of the waters banks - Maintaining the entrances and exits of the water.
- Inspect and repair towpaths to avoid bank erosion.
- To help manage water quality and levels.
- Reduce the danger of flooding.
- Removing invasive non-native species.
Where Do I Need One?
To go on the water in England and Wales, you will likely need a waterways license. if you are unsure of which inland waterways require a license you can check on British Canoeing.
A couple of popular places where a license is required are:
• Avon Navigation Trust
• Basingstoke Canal Authority
• New Bedford River
• Old Bedford River
• Grand Union Canal, including; Brentford to Braunston, Napton to Birmingham
• Leeds and Liverpool Canal, although this excludes the Liverpool Link and Docks
• River Lea from Limehouse Basin to Hertford
• Stourport to Gloucester on the River Severn
• Llangollen Canal
• Norfolk and Suffolk Broads
• River Thames – Cricklade Bridge to Teddington. This also includes the Jubilee River and Maidenhead Waterway
• Trent & Mersey Canal
• Regent's Canal
• River Wey
• Sheffield & Yorkshire Canal and including sections of River Don Navigation
• Shropshire Union Canal
• Wey and Godalming Navigation
• Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal
• Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Check out PaddlePoints to see the map of all the places you can explore.
How Do I Get One?
If you are living in England then you can get a license from British Canoeing or Canoe Wales if you're from Wales. These are the most comprehensive waterway licenses on the market and allow you to explore a large number of waterways.
If you aren't a daily paddler there is also the option to select day licenses. However, with annual licenses, you get a bunch of benefits such as liability insurance and group discounts.
What Happens If I Don't Have One?
If you are paddling in the sea or estuaries or rivers that don't require a license then you're all good! However, if you're exploring waterways where you need one and you don't have one or proof that you have a licence, then you can receive a pretty hefty fine... it is safer to pay for the licence than risk the fine.
Where Can I Go Where I Don't Need A Licence?
Although quite a lot of waterways require a licence, there are a couple of places where you don't need one.
- Coastal Areas - Along the UK coastline, you can often paddleboard without a license. Many coastal areas have designated launch points and are suitable for paddleboarding, including beaches, bays, and estuaries.
- River Severn
- Lakes and Reservoirs - Lake Windermere, Ullswater, Coniston Water, and Derwentwater.
- Non-Tidal River Thames - upstream of Teddington Lock in Greater London,
- River Wye
- River Great Ouse
- River Medway
- Kennet and Avon Canal
- Grand Union Canal
- Llangollen Canal
- Leeds and Liverpool Canal