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A Beginner’s Equipment Guide

Just getting started in paddlesports? Here is a list of everything that you might need before you get started.

  • Access to a craft and paddle

  • Buoyancy Aid

  • Weather Appropriate Clothing

  • Dry Bag

  • Discipline specific equipment (e.g. a helmet for whitewater)

Safety First

Every paddler should always carry the essential safety equipment; this can minimise any risks to yourself and paddlers around you. It may seem like prices are high, however, there should be no compromise when it comes to safety from a coaching perspective. The following essential equipment and tips will ensure your time on the water is both enjoyable and safe!

Whilst we would class as essential, we feel that all users should carry the following:

  • Buoyancy Aid/PFD (personal flotation device)

  • Have the ability to communicate

  • Appropriate clothing

Before going on the water you should have a basic understanding of what you're doing, this could be anything from a beginners course through to an FSRT.

You know how to use the equipment correctly and with ease, ensuring that you don't use anything you are unsure on. Only venture out in conditions you are confident in. As a beginner, only paddle in low winds and when the water surface is not considerably affected by the weather. Gain experience with a qualified coach or another more trained paddler.


There are a range of PFD's out there, all in different shapes, sizes and forms depending on what they are intend to be use for. Companies such as Decathlon and Palm Equipment are good places to start browsing. Buoyancy aids are used for paddlesports due to their construction with some being more suitable for certain bodies of water compared to others, and many have pockets to keep your much needed chocolate bar, phone and essentials in.

Difference between life jackets and buoyancy aids

Life jackets are more commonly used for very young children and other water crafts. In paddlesports, we use a buoyancy aid. Buoyancy aids keep you afloat and are made up of a full surround floating system. Lifejackets only have buoyancy located on the chest, this can become problematic when paddling especially if you capsize.

Communication Devices

Communication devices range from a whistle to VHF radios they are important ways of staying connected to land in event you need assistance. Radios allow for better communication with local water authorities, other vessels and emergency services. You must have a VHF Licence to use the handheld device. If in need of assistance, use VHF channel 16, as this is monitored by the coastguard.

As you might think, mobile phones are the most common as most people have them and you can also capture your adventures with the camera however you should ensure it is water proof or in a waterproof phone pouch so that you can use it even if your not on your craft.

When calling for assistance inland, call 999 and ask for fire and rescue and if it is on the coast call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Appropriate Clothing

Whatever the time of year, you should always wear clothing that is appropriate to the weather condition. Even if the sun is out, the water and wind may still cold, (looks can be deceiving). In summer, you could wear a t-shirt/rash vest, and a wetsuit if needed. In winter, wear extra layers, such as a wind/waterproof layers, hat and gloves. Read our paddlesports clothing blog.

Wetsuits vs Dry suits

Lots of people debate about wetsuits and drysuits and which is best. Let's look at the pros and cons of each:

  • Wetsuits are designed to trap water and then let your body heat that water up so these are best used when you plan on getting wet. They are relatively cheap and easy to put on. However, they only keep you warm when water is trapped, otherwise you may get cold. Additionally, wetsuits are not wind proof so on colder days adding extra layers will be essential. However, in the summer months, a thinner or 'shortie' wetsuit can be a great asset and you are less likely to overheat yet can stay warm and protect in the, somewhat, unpredictable British weather.

  • Dry suits should keep you completely dry so are really good if you're not planning on getting wet as they still work and if you fall in your layers will still be dry, they're wind proof and allow you to layer up underneath however they cost a lot of money so its a committed investment and they are not the easiest to get on/off .

Dry Bags

Whatever craft you're using, it is essential to carry a water tight bag that keeps your equipment dry. They come in a variety of sizes, so there is a bag for every item. We would suggest a few contents to add: a small snack, any medication/first aid supplies, water, a whistle, ducked tape, rope/safety tape, carabiner and anything else you might need. Most of this you would hope that you never need to use, but take it just in case. For example, if your jacket rips, there is nothing duck tape cannot fix, especially for many paddling disasters.

Remember, you should only venture out paddling if it is safe to do so and if you are confident too. If you want training or support or someone to paddle with Prime Paddling are always here to help. Just check out our offer here.

Stay Safe! Keep Paddling!

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