Three Golden Rules of Safe Paddling:

1. Fewer than three on the water, there never should be.

2. Ensure you can swim adequately.

3. Always wear a suitable bouyancy aid.

Safe Paddling Guidelines:

1. You do not need to be able to swim vast distances but the ability to remain confident in the water is vital. All canoeists should normally be able to swim 50 metres.

2. Always wear an approved buoyancy aid (PFD – personal floatation device) when on or near water, check its floatation, make sure it is in good condition and the correct fit. Buoyancy is measured in newtons – 10 newtons equal 1kg of floatation. There are 4 European standards for buoyancy aids and lifejackets (50, 100, 150 & 275) which must all carry the CE mark. It is highly recommended that buoyancy aids are fitted with a whistle and retro reflective strips.

3. Never kayak or canoe alone. "Fewer than 3 there should never be" is a long established fundamental rule of canoeing.

4. Continually seek further training. Know the limits of your capability and stay within these limits. Seek to develop your knowledge and skills incrementally. The Level 3 Skills Awards in each of the 3 non-competitive disciplines are recommended as a minimum standard to be achieved. Training courses, run by qualified ICU instructors / coaches, are available through many canoeing clubs or direct from the Canoe Union.

5. Ensure your equipment is appropriate for the level and environment in which you are paddling and that it complies with safety regulations.

6. Wear a helmet when on or near the river. Ensure it fits correctly and protects the temples and back of head.

7. Wear and / or carry suitable footwear and sufficient warm protective clothing.

8. Carry equipment for unexpected emergencies.

9. Check the safety of your kayak / canoe. Check usability, security, and strength of grab-loops. It is highly recommended that kayaks/canoes have retro reflective strips.

The following guidelines are intended equally for the novice and as a reminder to the more experienced paddler:

10. Check that your kayak / canoe has floatation adequate to ensure it will float when full of water, possibly supplement it with airbags. Check that all screws and bolts are tight.

11. Let someone know what you are planning and when you are expected to return.

12. Be proficient in self rescue, including the skills of white-water swimming techniques and a reliable Eskimo roll when paddling Grade III water or harder.

13. Be proficient in river rescue techniques appropriate for a trip being undertaken and practice these techniques regularly. Learn to recognize river hazards. Paddlers are generally good at practicing and improving their canoeing skills, but not at practicing and improving their rescue skills. You can improve your safety on the water by attending an accredited rescue training course.

14. Be aware that conditions change and new hazards can occur between trips. Be continually aware of the hazards associated with the environment in which you are paddling.

15. Think carefully about the suitability of your kayak / canoe for the particular conditions you are paddling. Know the design strengths and limitations of your kayak / canoe.

16. Check river flows and weather forecasts and be prepared to change plans.

17. Avoid injury by stretching, warming up, staying fit and developing good paddling techniques.

18. River estuaries often look placid but may be subject to strong rip currents extending considerable distance out to sea. Local knowledge should be sought and caution exercised against hazards caused by rapid "drying out" of mud flats which may cause difficulties.

19. White water rivers are generally graded at medium levels. By their very nature, such grading systems are to some extent subjective and may change suddenly with fluctuating river levels.

20. Careful consideration should be given to the dangers associated with polluted or contaminated water and be aware of the dangers of Blue/Green Algae and the causes and early symptoms of Weil’s Disease.

Relevant Links

Safety Guidelines Booklet

Safe Coaching Guidelines

Equipment for Safe Canoeing

River Grading

Child Protection Policy of Irish Canoe Union

Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children's Sport in Ireland