About Us

Bristol Canoe Club is a club for paddlers in the Bristol area.

[ August 2021. Please see our separate page regarding membership applications during the CoronaVirus situation: Membership applications during Covid-19 ]

We are a very active club, and we do lots of things – see the Calendar page for the latest info, but also we do a lot of trips at short notice, organised via our members-only email list.

We are involved in white-water paddling, flatwater racing, polo, plus general leisure. We also have some Stand-Up paddleboards.

Images of different types of paddling

For more information, please see the General Information link, Membership, Contacts, or any of the pages available from the menus at the top of the page.

Our online membership sign-up with webcollect is here: Bristol Canoe Club webcollect page, but we’d prefer if you come down to one of our sessions and say hello before signing up.

Canoe Polo Report National Division 3, July 2022

The Bristol Pitbulls played in their final tournament of the National League on Saturday July 9th 2022. The League consisted of 3 tournaments through May, June and July, the first at the Bristol Canoe Polo Pitch and the remaining two sessions on the Aberfan Canoe Pitch.

In the final tournament the sun provided an excellent day with 2 wins and then 2 losses to the two teams who lead the Division. The Pitbulls continued their ability to avoid promotion while showing a strong position in the League.

Pitbulls in action with a 2-0 win against the Raverns.

Club History

Bristol Canoe Club was formed in the spring of 1962 to promote canoeing in the Bristol area and met at a barn with a loft in Keynsham. As this barn deteriorated, a new site was found in Saltford owed by Avery’s wine merchants. In December 1962, the first club newsletter was published giving reports about river trips, the latest calendar and asking members to design a club emblem.

Pool sessions began in the same month to practice rolling, trying out different types of kayaks and to socialise afterwards. Day and weekend trips soon became popular with attending slaloms. Social events have always been important and enjoyed. 

Since June 1978, the club has met in the spring and summer at the Baltic Wharf Leisure Centre Cumberland Road Bristol. The Centre was officially opened on 8 July 1978 by the Lord Mayor of Bristol. Club members built a storage rack for club boats inside the Dutch Barn and had a locker for club equipment. Changing rooms and showers were fitted in 1984. More storage space for boats and equipment with 24-hour access became available in another section of the barn in 1992.

Club session at Bristol South Pool

Pool sessions started at the Mayor’s Paddock Baths in Hotwells, heated by hot springs but was demolished many years ago. The Club then ran sessions at the City of Bristol Technical College Ashley Down. To meet demand for more canoeing space and to store kayaks, Bristol South Pool on Dean Lane in Bedminster has been our primary base since April 1973. A storage rack was built at the pool by members in 1986. After canoeing, members have always met in a local pub for drinks and a chat. 

During the 1970 & 80’s members-built their own kayaks using GRP moulds for general purpose, canoe polo or slalom use.  Quentin Nichols built a slalom mould which enabled many younger members to build a competitive boat cheaply. Many club members also began making hand carved wooden paddles which today have been replaced by much stronger carbon kevlar constructions.

Dining in Briançon in the French Alps

New members continue to join the club through the beginners’ courses which have been running since 1985 in the summer months. The Web Page has been operating since 1998, taking over from the club magazine as the main way the club communicates with members and to gain more interest in the club.  The club has also joined the digital age in using Facebook, WhatsApp and contactless payments.

Phil Longrigg Trophy

Phil was a proficient marathon, polo and slalom paddler who tragically died in a motorcycle cycle accident age 21 in 1988. His parents and members, Angela and Russ set up a trophy in his name.  The trophy is given to a member who has given outstanding effort to the club during the previous year.

Canoeing Disciplines

The Club encourages all forms of canoeing and below is a brief history of those disciplines and their respective competitive success.

Whitewater paddling

Starting with paddling regional rivers, day, weekend and holiday trips have taken place in the Lake District, Yorkshire, North Wales, Scotland and abroad.

Conor in Scotland

Since the early 1980’s Whitewater weekends staying in bunkhouses proved popular and a club tradition of spending a winter weekend on the River Dart continues to this day.

A visit to the world slalom championships in France in 1969 and paddling on local rivers afterwards began the tradition of foreign trips. Club members attended a very enjoyable white-water festival at Sort in the Spanish Pyrenees in 1993. A small group then paddled in the Briançon area of the French Alps beginning a favoured destination for the club’s continental trips. Other countries paddled include Austria, Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Nepal, Norway and Turkey. 

Quent and Mark at the end of their 2 week Grand Canyon Expedition

In 1999 Quent Nichols and Mark Gillett were the first members to paddle the Grand Canyon section of the River Colorado USA, including the biggest section called Lava Falls. Quent and Mark successfully paddled the most difficult route down the right-hand side. Mark and Kath Aplin, Conor O’Neill and Lisa Gunton, Tim Johnson and Ben Whittle made successful descents of the same section in 2001.  More recently, another legendary trip took place to the Northwest of the USA where the rivers included a six-day trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

During the Covid pandemic very little canoeing took place but a large contingent of club paddlers will be travelling to Briançon in June 2022 to recommence our many successful river trips in the Haute de Alps Region.

Canoe Polo

A visit to Bradford-on-Avon in 1969 began the club’s involvement in polo using no paddles. Having players who could roll was a big advantage.  Interest grew leading to the Club’s first tournament in 1972 in Cheltenham and then on to 1973, 1974 and 1975 when Bristol had teams in the finals of the National Championships at Crystal Palace. 

Polo at the Cumberland Basin

The Club started participating in competitive Canoe Polo from 1983 by entering a regional league in 1983 before joining the national leagues. In recent years, the Bristol Penguins progressed from National League Division 4 to 2 and represented the club in two international tournaments in Belgium winning one league. The Bristol Pitbulls Team has composed of many players over the years and were promoted several times into division 3 of the National League.  Our third development team is called the Bristol Polar Bears and played in division 4.  Bristol also had teams in the Southwest League played at Millfield School in Street. 

A polo facility was installed in Bristol Docks in 2002 at Cumberland Basin underneath the swing bridge. It is a collaboration with Avon Canoe Club and the Universities to encourage further training and local tournaments while avoiding the increasing cost of playing polo in swimming pools. 

Marathon Racing

Interest in racing on flatwater began in 1980 when the club organised its first race on the River Avon starting in Bath or Hanham to finish at Baltic Wharf. It became an official race a few years later as part of a series of regional races based at Hanham. 

First Bristol Marathon in 1980

In 1986, 7 new racing kayaks and a canoe were brought to stimulate interest in marathon racing as a new discipline open to members. Members and new members improved in regional races resulting in completing in the finals in 1989 for the best club teams. The club was part of a group of regional clubs who organised the finals in Exeter in 1992.  Members have competed in other types of marathon races, distances and abroad. 

Major Marathon results are:

1990 Bernie Jones won the ladies category in the Devizes to Westminster race in 20.42.41

1991 Ron Stinchcombe and his nephew Kevin Williamson won the veteran/junior category in the same race over 4 days in 18.21.24.

2002 Steve Bennett and canoeing partner finished the Ardèche Descent race in France in 20th place in 1.49.00.

2003 Steve and Richard finished 12th out of 300 in the Ardèche Descent race

2004 Steve Bennett and Nick Daniels Reading Canoe Club finished the same race in 1.47.00.

2005 Steve Bennett and Tristan Turner won the Division 3/4 race at the National Championships in a sprint finish gaining the club’s first medals at this prestigious event. 

2006 Steve Bennett and Tristan Turner finished second in a sprint finish in the Division 3/4 race for senior doubles event at the National Championships. 

2006 Iain Hissett and James Purchase Pangbourne Canoe Club finished 4th in the senior doubles event at the Devizes to Westminster race. 

2007 Tristan Turner and Piran Shelley Richmond Canoe Club won the seniors doubles kayak event in the same race in 17.13.27.

2016 Tristan Turner and Peter Maycock won the seniors doubles event in the same race in 17.10.25 and were supported by Bristol Canoe Club members.

Tristan and Peter winning the DW in 2016


Club members setting up the Llandysul Slalom in 1983

Early interest in slalom competition led to the club organising its first slalom in 1963 at Limpley Stoke on the River Avon upstream of Bath.  In May 1969, the club began organising slaloms at Llandysul on the River Teifi in West Wales, assisted by Bristol University Canoe Club. These slaloms in May for Division 3 paddlers and in October for Division 2 paddlers ran until 1996 when Llandysul Paddlers took over. Organising slalom expanded in October 1980 to include Holne Park on the River Dart for Division 4 and Novice paddlers. It stopped in 1993 when entries dwindled. 

Avis Noot – Guinness Record Holder

During the 1970’s a group of young slalomists joined the club coached by Shaun Greaves who was a competent kayak and canoe paddler. The best paddlers from this young group were Martin Slade who paddled in the Premier Division in men’s kayak class and Kay Longrigg who paddled in Division 1 in ladies kayak class. Steve Cooper competed in the Premier division for single canoes. Andy Cocking partnered with him in the Premier division for double canoes and represented England in the Europa Cup in the mid 1980’s. Martyn Green paddled in the Premier division for single kayaks in the 1990’s. Janet Adcock and Becky Smith paddled in the ladies Division 1 division the same decade.  Arguably, our most famous slalom paddler is Avis Noot who is listed in the Guinness Book of records as being the oldest competing paddler the UK.

Surf, sea and flatwater paddling

The club has always organised day and weekend surfing and sea trips and flat-water paddling throughout the year. In 1971 the tradition of paddling on Boxing Day at Saltford began followed by food and drinks in a nearby pub. 

Andy Knight won the junior surf race and surf handling event at the National Championships in 1973. Simon Beeston won the open surf handling race at the same competition. Bristol won the team trophy for gaining most points in the next year. Andy Knight was National Junior surf race champion. Ten years later Andy became national surfing champion and went to successfully start a canoeing equipment manufacturer which is today called Palm Equipment International. 

People and personalities

Tony Cox: Tony was a skilful white-water paddler who organised and led club trips and was a proficient slalomist. He ran many club slaloms and designed courses. Tony led the club into operating slaloms at Llandysul and Holne Park. He introduced marathon racing by setting up the first race in 1980. Tony obtained Sports Council and Bristol City Council grants to help buy 7 new racing kayaks and a canoe in 1986.  He ran evening classes in the early years teaching rolling. Tony was part of the first continental trip in 1969 after watching the world championships in France. He was on the original committee as slalom representative and served as chairman, secretary, treasurer and committee member until 1988. The committee gave him honourable membership on 29 October 1991. Tony passed away in 2020.

Quentin Nichols: Quent was a skilled kayaker who encouraged club white-water trips in the UK and abroad. He played an important part in building kayaks in the 1970’s. Having access to editing equipment at work, was useful for Quent to take videos of early club trips. 

Avis Noott:  Avis is one of the longest serving members who is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest lady completing in canoe slalom when she was 80. Avis is in the lady’s veteran division. 

Steve Bennett:  Steve has been the mainstay of marathon racing in the club. He organised the club’s marathon race at Hanham for many years. Steve has a long record of competing in division 3 of marathon racing and won a national title. He gained exceptional results in big descent races abroad with won two national titles.  He finished fourth twice in the Exe Descent Races with fellow member Rob Knott and Richard Lewis Bradfield-on -Avon CC and had many top 10 finishes.  In 1992 Steve and Rob completed the Sella Descent race in Spain in 86th place out of 2000.  Steve and other members obtained the recycled materials used to build the club store at the Baltic Wharf. 

Andy Knight and Bob Slee:  Andy was a masterful slalomist and surfer who in 1979 formed what is now called Palm Equipment Europe a major supplier of top-quality canoes and kayaks, clothing and equipment. His engineering background with clear thoughts about making better boats and equipment led him to make them himself. His club friend Bob Slee later joined him to head Palm.  They were competitive and tough marathon double paddlers who competed in the old Exe Descent races. Bob was a strong tackling canoe player representing the club for many years. 

Martyn Green: Martyn was our best white-water paddler in the 1990’s, mastering rapids in his slalom kayak before upgrading to a freestyle kayak. He designed slalom courses and was a skilful canoe polo player. 

Mark Gillett:  Mark joined the club in 1978 concentrating on white-water and slalom paddling for many years. Since 1999 Mark has run the canoe polo section overseeing three teams and organising training at Bristol South Pool and the Cumberland Basin pitch, as well as serving on the Committee. 

Conor O’Neill:  Conor became a member in 1990 quickly mastering white-water and slalom paddling. He has arranged club trips on home and foreign waters. Conor continues to be a long serving committee member having been chairman, secretary and treasurer. 

Lisa Gunton: Lisa joined the club in 1991 as a beginner rapidly progressing to white-water paddling, slaloms and playing canoe polo. Lisa has paddled on foreign trips and is an active coach who has run beginner courses and has been a committee member over the years.

Bristol Canoe Club in 2022

The Club continues to have a large membership of over 100 paddlers pursuing all major canoeing disciplines.  The Club is an active environment which allows adult members to participate in all major forms of canoeing in the centre of Bristol as well as having an active social side too.  Hopefully, the history will continue well into the future.

June 2022.

Beginners Kayak Courses 2022

Beginner’s kayak courses 2022

We are pleased to announce that we will be able to offer beginner’s kayaking courses this year. These will run on Monday evenings from our base at Baltic Wharf, and run for four weeks. We are running four courses and there will be eight places available on each course. On successfully completing the course you’ll receive the British Canoeing Paddle Start award.

The courses are intended for adults who are thinking about taking up kayaking with the club and want to learn basic kayaking skills in order to get started. It’s important that you can attend all four sessions and be there at promptly at the 6.30 start time. All equipment will be provided. The cost is £80.

We are unable to offer places to those under 18.

Course Dates for 2022 (start date in bold)

Course 1 – 25 April, 2 May, 9 May, 16 May ***FULL***

Course 2 – 6 June, 13 June, 20 June, 27 June *** FULL****

Course 3 – 11 July, 18 July, 25 July, 1 Aug

Course 4 – 22 Aug, 5 Sept, 12 Sept, 19 Sept (no course on Aug Bank Holiday Monday)

For further info on how to book onto the course or to check whether this course is suitable for you, email Nick Wainwright on enquiries@bristolcanoeclub.org.uk and include ‘beginners course’ in the subject line.

Polo Sessions for 2022

Our canoe club’s polo sessions restart on Wednesday January 5 2022.

• The sessions run after our general session from 8.45 until 10-00pm. All paddlers from novice to “hot shot” players are welcome.
• The Club has a selection of plastic polo boats, paddles, spray decks, BAs and helmet for members to use.
• Due to limitation of time, we generally play six 12-minute games.
• For up to 15 players we play 3 teams and 16-20 it is 4 Teams.
• Due to the small size of the pool we can only accommodate 20 players, so again please arrive by 8-15pm.
• Cost for each pool session is currently £9 and we take contactless payments at the end.
• Usually most of us go to the pub afterwards

Club awards 2021

The recent AGM announced the following awards:

  • River God: Avis Noott
  • Fish of the Year: Tom Brockett, for swimming on the Upper Usk in an open Canadian; Barney the dog, and Ella are co-swimmers.
  • Most improved white water: Julie Watts
  • Phil Longrigg Trophy: Conor O’Neill
  • Polo: Steven Pike
  • Marathon: Alex Petsch
  • Chunder Bucket: Not awarded; no eligible entries

New committee for 2021-2022

At the AGM held on 21st Oct 2021, a new committee was voted in.

  • Chairman: Tom Brockett
  • Secretary: Fran Bamber & Tanya Cownie
  • Treasurer: Conor O’Neill
  • Other members: Joe Nelson, Mark Gillett, Lisa Gunton, Genny Sargent, Joe Green, Ellie Payne, David Brain, Nick Wainwright

Many thanks to the outgoing committee members.

Kayaks and roof racks

Every so often people ask me about roof racks, and attaching canoes/kayaks, so here is my current advice.

If you’re serious about kayaking, you need to have a good quality roof rack. Please DO NOT buy the cheapest Halford one (or similar). I’ve used Thule roof racks for many years; they are very good quality, though they are not very cheap.

Useful links:

Thule do a few styles of bars. We use ‘WingBar’ bars; these are supposed to be aerodynamic, to reduce noise and help fuel consumption, but I’m not sure that has very much effect. They have a slot along the upper side for attaching things to, this makes it very easy to change the bars from carrying kayaks to bicycles. The cheaper bars need to have the attachments bolted on instead.

You buy the bars and a fitting kit (the ‘feet’) separately. That’s because all the cars need different ways of attaching. If you have an estate car it is likely that you will have longitudinal rails along the edge of the roof above the doors, this makes it very easy and secure to attach the bars, but you’ll still need to buy basic ‘feet’ for these rails.

The various websites (Thule, Halfords, and other specialist roof rack shops) all have a page allowing you to specify your car make & model, and it will tell you which feet and bars you should use.
We recommend getting bars slightly wider than they recommend, but not too much wider. This means you should be able to get four boats stacked up on the roof. Don’t get the bars too wide, because you will then hit your head on the bars when you get in or out of the car!

Attaching the boats. I recommend using an upright attached to the roof bar, so that you can carry the kayaks on their edges. Some people don’t bother with this, and instead carry the boats flat, and can carry two pairs nestled cockpit to cockpit. I think that this is slightly more hassle when loading and unloading.

Thule sell a folding, U-shaped upright: https://www.thule.com/en-gb/winter-and-water-sports-carriers/kayak-roof-racks/thule-kayak-support-_-520100
Slightly cheaper from here: https://www.roofbox.co.uk/scripts/rbvehsel4_tab.php/car-specific-accessories/thule_kayak_carrier_for_2_kayaks_no_tu520_1/Qx%40w%2C6M42VAwp3%40Rb%7B~cC4ure5HvA
We normally have ours located three-quarters along the bar, so we can load one boat on one side, and three boats on the other. We can even fit an open canoe on the wider side.
You can get cheaper bolt-on uprights too.

Note though, that if you have an expensive (carbon/kevlar) racing kayak, or a nice sea kayak, then you will want to use proper V-bars or similar to support the boat on the roof.

It is worth putting some padding on the roof bars; this makes the boats much more secure once they’re tightened onto the bars. Thule have a rubber strip which fits along their slotted bars; alternatively, but less elegantly, you can simply tie pipe lagging to the bars. If you’re flashy you can by branded Palm padding…

We have multiple sets of straps, of different lengths. A ‘short’ pair of 3.5m straps works to hold the single boat on one side, and a ‘long’ pair of 5.5m straps for the three boats on the other side. It really helps to make sure that the straps are different colours, so that you don’t get them mixed up every time you pick them up. Palm sell coloured straps, but some other makes only come in black.
The shop in Thornbury sell them: https://www.canoeandkayakstore.co.uk/products/palm-cam-straps#foo&gid=1&pid=4
These straps have simple ‘ratchet cams’, which are entirely sufficient. We throw the blue rubber end protectors away; they are intended to help prevent scratching your car, but they get in the way a bit when using the ratchets.
Some people use straps with lorry style ratchets; I think these are a bit more hassle.

Locks. In practice, we are lucky that very few thieves seem to bother stealing kayaks. However, we do have the roof rack with locks, so that the rack is locked to the car. Thule allow you to buy a matched set of locks so that you have a single key for all of them (and for the bicycle racks too, see a bit further down). We also have a long cable-lock so that we can lock the boats to the car, but we only use that when we feel that we’re parked in a particularly vulnerable location: https://www.canoeandkayakstore.co.uk/products/rackguard-lockwire


Thule also sell various bicycle racks which attach to the roof bars. We use these ‘ProRide’ carriers. Again, these are not cheap, but they make it very easy to load bikes onto the roof. https://www.thule.com/en-gb/bike-rack/roof-bike-racks/thule-proride-_-598001
We don’t even need to take the kayak U-upright off when we use these; we just fold it down. And you can get the locks for these bicycle racks to use the same keys as the rest of the bars.
But bicycles are most definitely targetted by thieves; if we ever have to leave any bikes on the car roof, we always add extra big locks (D-locks and big fat chains); we don’t rely just on the basic Thule locks.

Mixing kayaks and bicycles

We sometimes leave one bike carrier on the roof on the ‘single kayak’ side of the upright; this means we can carry one, two, or three kayaks on the other side, plus a bike.
With some effort you can carry two kayaks in the middle of the car, and then add the second bike carrier on the outside to add a second bike too.
And, if you have friends who have the same racks, you can fit four bike carriers onto one roof rack to carry four bikes (but no kayaks at the same time, though).

Beg, borrow, etc

Finally, please feel free to chat with us about this. We can show you how easy it is to install the bars. And if you ask nicely, and have the same slotted roof bars, we can lend you some of our stuff…


I’m new to kayaking, how do I get started?

Over the summer we ran four beginners courses each for six people, these have now finished and we won’t be running anymore courses until next spring. Dates will go on the website in the spring as soon as we have them, just keep checking back to see if we’ve posted them.

Meantime, if you’re keen to join us paddling and are a complete beginner then it’s best to do a course first to give you the skills to paddle entry-level rivers with us, this is especially important as we head in the autumn/winter season when the rivers are higher and the weather more challenging. Look for providers of the “Start”, “Discover” and “Explore” awards. Check out the gopaddling website to find which is the most appropriate course for you https://gopaddling.info/category/paddling-awards/ There are many providers who run courses over weekends that will give you the skills you need to enjoy paddling with us

If you are over 50 then you might like to look at All Aboard Watersports which is also at the Baltic Wharf, next to where our canoe store is. They run sessions for over 50s (don’t worry, many of us in the club are over 50!) that are very reasonably priced at £10 a session. Look here: https://www.allaboardwatersports.co.uk/book-with-us/courses/course/50-kayaking-come-on-board/

If you are interested in white water paddling, then check out the Cardiff International White Water Centre’s courses here https://www.ciww.com/courses/adult-zero-to-hero/ This is a fantastic resource and a good intro to white water training, and very accessible from Bristol.

We do run pool sessions during from Sept to March at Bristol South pool where we do some informal coaching and provide an opportunity to practice skills learned on courses and on rivers. It’s better to learn the skills to paddle first then get some practice in at the pool to hone those skills. Everyone of course wants to learn to roll a kayak, but as one of our longest standing members says, “better to learn how not to need to roll a kayak so you don’t have to!”


Beginners kayak courses 2021

Beginner’s kayak courses 2021

We are pleased to announce that we will be able to offer some beginner’s kayaking courses this year. These will run on Monday evenings from our base at Baltic Wharf, and run for four weeks. Each course will involve a limited number of participants, and will be Covid secure. On successfully completing the course you’ll receive the British Canoeing Paddle Start award.

*** All our courses are now full ***

Course dates

** Full ** May: Monday 10th May, 17th May, 24th May, and 7th June

** Full ** May/June: Wednesday 26th May, 2nd June, 9th June and 16th June

** Full ** June/July: Monday 21st June, 28th June, 5th July, 12th July

** Full ** August: Monday 9th August, 16th August, 23rd August, 6th September.

The courses are intended for adults who are thinking about taking up kayaking with the club and want to learn basic kayaking skills in order to get started. It’s important that you can attend all four sessions and be there at promptly at the 6.30 start time. All equipment will be provided. The cost is £80.

We are unable to offer places to those under 18. 

For further info, email Nick Wainwright on enquiries@bristolcanoeclub.org.uk and include ‘beginners course’ in the subject line.

Canoe club update: Harbour sessions

[ Message issued by Tom (Chairman) on 23rd Mar 2021 ]

Hi Everyone!

I hope everyone is doing okay with the latest lockdown and I’m sure you’re all raring to get back out and enjoy the sun as soon as possible!

With the changes coming in on Monday 29th March, we will be able to meet in group of up to 6 which means we can start bringing the club back up and running again. Firstly, this means that al club kit can now be used again so if you are looking to go out on the harbour, you can use any of the kit in the cage. Also, we will start up the harbour sessions again from Thursday 1st April(Not an April fools promise!). We will meet at the harbour at 1800 on the Thursday and try to make the most of the longer days by getting out on the water as quick as we can. But in order for this to happen we will have to follow some rules:

  1. Stick to groups of 6. Once 6 people have turned up and got ready they need to head out and start paddling so another group can head out afterwards. This is so we follow the government guidelines so please make sure that we stick to this until the rules are eased further. Make sure to leave enough space for each group
  2. Only 2 people in the cage at one time. This limits the contact with each other in the confined space of the cage
  3. Any equipment borrowed needs to be cleaned as much as possible using wipes/sanitiser provided
  4. Stick to social distancing rules

We will also be able to start running some trips again but don’t get too excited…These trips will have to be single day trips and they will have to be possible without having to share a car as this is still not allowed. For example, a trip to the Jolly Sailor at Saltford would be acceptable but a trip down to the Dart will have to wait until a little later in the year. If you do go on a trip, make sure it is well within your ability as we want to limit the risk of having to rescue people.

Hope to see some of you on Thursday next week!