Beginners Guide

This is general information for those new to canoeing.

All new members are required to take the our beginners course unless they are already BCU 2 star standard.
See the membership section for information about how to join the club.

All our courses are held on flat water on the Avon in Bath, although once you have passed your 2* test you will probably want to start coming on our whitewater beginners trips.
See the Calendar for details of the 1* & 2 * courses & assessments and any upcoming trips - contact the organiser of the trip to find out if it is suitable for Beginners.

 Canoe England Coaches  At 3* level, students are sufficiently competent to themselves attend an instructor training weekend and they can then teach others. All Bath Canoe Club coaches are qualified to BCU standards and we follow its highly structured coaching scheme. Students are encouraged to join the BCU and keep a log book in which to record progress and trips (essential for later Coach Assessment).

 Canoe England Star Tests  When ready, students are tested for the BCU (British Canoe Union) 1* and 2* certificates. Further training is available to get students up to the 3* level. At 2* level students are probably ready to try some of the rougher water, such as the Exe or Wye, or one of the canoe surf trips to North Devon or South Wales. Most people are ready for a surfing trip by the end of the 2* course.

 Beginner's Trips  For those with families who are happy to potter around on flat water, during the summer there are regular weekend trips, including camping, to the Cotswold Water Park where we have a season ticket. This can be great fun, with barbecues and games on and off the water. We also do 5 - 6 mile trips down the lower, flat water reaches of the Wye.

 Children  The minimum age for an independent member of Bath Canoe Club is 6. All coaches who work with youth groups follow the BCU Child Protection guidelines.

 Club Membership  We currently have about 250 members, with fees based on a yearly subscription from the day you join.

 Committee Meetings  The club has a monthly committee meeting, usually held on the second wednesday each month, at the club house. 

 Equipment Costs  Loan equipment - boats, paddle, helmet, buoyancy aid and spray deck are all available free of charge to members.
See the training page for what to wear on the water. Students on courses should bring a wind/water proof top - a cheap cagoule worn over preferably a non-cotton (i.e. warm when wet) top. This is fine for the Avon in the summer. In colder conditions when you start doing river trips a thermal top (£25) plus a canoeing wind-top (£35-£70) and "long john"wet suit (£40), are advisable. For winter paddling on bigger rivers, a proper dry top is needed - £50 to £100. If you really get into it you can start spending a fortune buying your own boat, spraydeck, buoyancy aid, (new boats are around £700, but fortunately there is a large second-hand market), but this expenditure not necessary for beginners as the club has over 60 boats to try out.
 Marathon, Racing and Slalom  These disciplines are also available in the club.
 Open Club Sessions
 In the summer these are Wednesdays at 6.30, and Sundays at 2.00, at the Clubhouse, in Cleveland Cottages, behind the Curfew Pub in Walcot, for paddling up or down the Avon. Ad hoc paddles by keyholders. See map to the clubhouse.

Open Club sessions are free to members; the Day Membership fee is payable for all non-members.

Non-members should be accompanied by an existing member; unaccompanied non-members will only be able to paddle at an Open Club session at the discretion of the keyholder responsible for the session.

 Paddler's Progression  Start pool sessions in the winter, get your rescues, support strokes and rolls well under way by spring, follow that up with the Introduction to Paddlesport course and regular Wednesday evening paddles, and by Autumn you could be ready for the thrill of surf at St Davids or even the Bitches on a low tide!

 Park & Play - Playboating  Playboating is a relatively new sport - rather than traditional 'river-running' paddlers take the boat to a particular water-feature (such as Hurley Weir on the Thames) and then see what 'moves' (cartwheels, blunts etc) they can impress the crowd with.

The club also makes frequent trips to the Whitewater centre in Cardiff, St Davids in West Wales, famous for the incredible Bitches tide race in Ramsey Sound, with currents up to 20 knots and 4 ft "hay stacks" - has to be seen to be believed. Playboating involves performing tricks and manoeuvres on rapidly moving water or standing waves, such as pop outs, where the boat can be made to flip upside down and leave the water, or cartwheel on its side.

Saltford Weir provides a great local spot for an introduction to playing on waves, it is relatively safe (but always go with at least two competent paddlers) and the club usually has a trip on Thursday nights throughout the summer.

 Pool Sessions  Please see the information on the pool sessions page.
 River Avon Training Sessions  From April onwards, new members go through the beginners courses, which generally take 4 sessions each. After these courses the member will have acquired various rescue and safety techniques, and be able to safely get into a canoe, paddle in a straight line, stop, reverse, manoeuvre and come ashore.
 River Trips  River trips range from the beginners rapids at Symonds Yat in the Forest of Dean, (Grade 1/2) to the artificial Cardiff International White Water centre, (Grade 3), or the Dee at Llangollen - (grade 3/4). Also the Exe and the Dart, (Devon) and the Liffey in Ireland.

Remember, you don't have to be able to roll to start simple white water trips - having a 'swim' is all part of the learning process but certainly stimulates you to perfect your roll!
 Safety  The club places high emphasis on safety - first aid, resuscitation, hypothermia, safe paddling, the importance of the correct kit, understanding river and sea conditions are all emphasised as an integral part of these beginners courses. Specialist first aid and resuscitation courses are also held each year.
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