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Route Design

The Distance 

The distance is 5k, which will be verified by a trial paddle by the local organisers. Most paddlers, even novice paddlers can paddle about 5K in about 1.5 hours in normal conditions. The routes are designed to be simple to understand with as few turns as possible. Some routes might be a simple out and back along a river or canal. Some round the edge of a lake or round some islands and some coastal route out to a buoy and back. 

The distance is measured using different GPS systems to confirm the distance. How straight a route the paddler paddles, water flow, and wind all play a big part in the final distance an AquaPaddler actually paddles when completing the route. A few metres discrepancy can be allowed.  

A shorter distance was considered; however, it was decided this would lead to confusion as all AquaPaddlers to date have managed the 5K in under 1.5 hours. We will keep this decision under annual review and listen to the AquaPaddler community. 


The design of any AquaPaddle route must be as simple as possible. It might mean that the AquaPaddler needs to complete several laps to go the distance. The Launch, Start and Finish points are the most important. The launch points must enable all paddlers to launch safely, including the Adaptive Paddlers (paddlers who need some form of adaptation to paddle their craft, this includes some disabled paddlers). At popular locations, parking and the ability to launch from several nearby locations would be advisory.  

A simple route means it is easy to explain and be understood. Easily visible Buoys should be used at turn points or a Crew Member and guidance maps available online showing emergency access points.  

The safety of all water users should be of paramount importance, along with how Volunteer Crew are going to run the AquaPaddle. It might be better to do laps than send AquaPaddlers off along a windy river where they are out of sight for some time. The Timing team need to have an unobstructed view of AquaPaddlers as they approach the finishing line. 

The AquaPaddle Volunteer Support Team will work closely with the local Volunteers to design a successful route. We will also liaise with other water users and local clubs to make sure the proposed AquaPaddle is a success, and we leverage their resources so that it requires the least amount of dedicated equipment as possible. The Support Team will also help with the creation of a robust risk assessment. 

The Basics of a successful route are: – 

  1. Should not require any portage (carrying craft round locks, etc.) of any kind. 
  2. Car Parking needs to be managed and easy access for adaptive paddlers should be considered. The parking and its management should be part of the risk assessment. 
  3. Weirs should be avoided at all costs and a turn above a weir should be at least 400 metres away. A safety marshal should be in place at the turn point to make sure that if anyone gets into difficulty, they can be safely recovered well clear of the weir. 
  4. Volunteer access and needs should be considered as they will be out on the water for about 1.5 hours. 
  5. A wildlife and environment assessment needs to conducted as part of the design. 
  6. Other key water users need to be considered within the design and where appropriate discussed with their representative groups and clubs. 

Launch And Recovery 

There needs to be a safe place to launch and recover boards and boats. The launch point must me risk assessed to make sure the point can handle the proposed number of paddlers within a short period of time. 


Each AquaPaddle Route needs a detailed Risk Assessment and Route map. This assessment needs to be updated if any information it contains changes or new risks are identified, either locally or on a national level. Any incidents need to be noted, including any relevant historical incidents.  

If the route is on flowing water, then the flow needs to be considered and different flow rates and the risk levels need to be considered (see separate documentation on flow rates). A cut off point also needs to be decided when the flow is too great for the AquaPaddle to take place. Depending on the location. If the AquaPaddle is due to take place on a waterway that rises suddenly and the rate is liable to increase due to bad weather, then that needs to be in the risk assessment so that there is a clear decision cut-off as to whether the event will go ahead. If there is any doubt as to whether an AquaPaddle should take place, then always err on the side of caution and do not run the event. 

Other waterway users also need to be considered when assessing the risks. Are there other clubs or users who would be in the area at the time of the event. All the risks need to be noted and given a status, Low, Medium and High. Along with their potential likelihood and potential impact. 

Risk assessments will be published. 


For both health & safety and safeguarding concerns, it is important that events do not provide or manage toilets, changing rooms or shower facilities.  These facilities might be available at an AquaPaddle location but must never be part of the AquaPaddle’s team responsibilities. It must be made clear that these facilities are used at the person’s own risk. 

Volunteers must not be responsible for any facilities use or cleaning and must not provide any AquaPaddle branded signage or in any way suggest they are a AquaPaddle-provided or managed facility.  

If needed, a key may be held to unlock (and lock again) toilets in a location that is used in circumstances where the facilities staff cannot open them early enough. 

Alternative Routes 

Alternative routes are to be considered in the case of waterway part closures, especially where other water-based events are taking place, such as rowing regattas or angling competitions. It is essential that we work with the water-based communities and be a good neighbour. It is to be remembered we are the “New Kids” in the area. 

  1. Only one alternative route is allowed.  
  2. Standard route design principles should be followed (see above)  
  3. We must have waterways owner’s permission.  
  4. An alternative route should be slower than regular routes (in most cases this means they should be longer so that participants don’t achieve Personal Bests that they can never attain when they move back to the main route).  
  5. The alternate route must be risk assessed and approved by AquaPaddle Support before the route is used.  
  6. The alternate route must be submitted at least 1 week prior to being required to allow time for AquaPaddle Support to approve and publish it.  
  7. Any change to the Alternative Route should be announced well in advance via the Discord Channel for the local AquaPaddle. 
  8. Occasionally, we may allow reverse or alternate routes as a one-off and/or for a special event. These requests need to be submitted to AquaPaddle Support 3 months before the event. 
  9. If a team need to make a small change/diversion to a route due to an unexpected risk on the day, and it is safe to do the change, they can do an active risk assessment of the change on the day but must log it as an incident – what the change was and why they had to make the change. 


Weather plays an important part in any water-based sport. It is imperative that any route on a waterway that reacts to heavy rain or is exposed to high winds, needs to be carefully considered and a robust Risk Assessment made, with clear guidance as to the Do’s and Don’ts during these weather events. It is always better to cancel the AquaPaddle than put AquaPaddlers at risk. 

Only an individual or group of individuals familiar with the waterway and how it responds to weather conditions should make the decision as to whether an event shall go ahead. This decision must take into account and be based on the least experienced paddlers who are signed up to the event. 

Start Times 

Start times, need to be the same for each AquaPaddle. Local variations can be accommodated and set. As AquaPaddle is rolled out across the country, AquaPaddlers will have to register for each event, so that we know who is on the water. They will note the arrival, briefing and start times on the booking system. If there is a change to the start time or location, then this must be for a good reason and be widely published through the AquaPaddle communication channels.