National Water Safety Forum


Water sports generic safety principles

Due to the diversity of water sports available and the wide range of environments in which they can be practised, the Forum advises you to seek advice from your sport's governing body, specific to the activity that you are carrying out and the conditions and location in which you will be doing it. For example, British Canoeing will offer different advice to people using open canoes on placid waters than to those engaged in competitive white water descents.

Also, not all inland waters are available for water sports and there may be zoning at some coastal sites. Sometimes activities need to be licensed, for example canoeing on the canal. Therefore, it is important to check with the owner of the water site to find out if there are any prohibitions or restrictions on the activity you plan to carry out. Again you may be able to get further advice from the governing body.

However, there is some generic safety advice that applies to all water sports activities. Before planning an activity, consider the following:-

  • Get appropriate training to include survival and safety training. Use the correct safety equipment; this may include a life-jacket. Consider joining a club for support and advice.
  • Check the equipment that you are using to ensure that it is sound.
  • Plan your activity. Always ensure that someone knows of your plans, particularly the time that you expect to return.
  • Check weather forecast and conditions before setting out and be prepared to change your plans if these are adverse.
  • Take a means of communication with you like a mobile phone, if appropriate, flares or a whistle.

It is a fact that people who get into difficulties whilst pursuing sporting activities have usually failed to take adequate safety precautions in light of the conditions and their ability.