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 and include ‘beginners course’ in the subject line.

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:
Slightly cheaper from here:
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:
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:


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.
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 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:

If you are interested in white water paddling, then check out the Cardiff International White Water Centre’s courses here 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 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!


Club Update – COVID-19 Lockdown Guidance

[ Message issued by Tom (Chairman) on 7th Jan 2021 ]

Hi all,

Hope everyone had a good Christmas and made the most of the time outdoors before we were all stuck inside again!
Unfortunately we are all back in another lockdown…. And with that comes changes to how we operate as a club again.

The latest guidance from British Canoeing and the Government is that all clubs should postpone any activities during the lockdown. This means all trips are off and we aren’t able to meet in groups larger than 2.
The rules are as follows:

  • No using the Bristol canoe club equipment. You may use your own kit if you bring it with you or if it is stored in the cage, but the club kit can’t be used for the time being because the club is effectively closed. See the email below for more info if you are collecting your personal kit from the cage.
  • We are allowed to paddle on the harbour but you must stick to the government rules relating to exercise. You can only exercise with your household, social bubble, or one other person. Check the gov link here for more info around the latest lockdown
  • No trips organised through the club. As the club is shut down for the time being, please don’t use the club email to organise trips, unless it’s so far in advance we’ll all be free from Covid!
  • If using the harbour, stick to social distancing rules and advice from the government

I know this isn’t the best info for anyone who uses the club regularly but we need to follow what advice and incinerate told so I hope you all understand. We’ll all make it through this and be ready for a cracking summer of paddling, drinking and BBQing together(let’s hope in groups of more than 6)!

Stay safe and we’ll all be back to normal before you know it! 


Latest rules and info

Hi all,

Sorry for taking so long sending out this email and not keeping everyone up to date with the rules. As I’m sure everyone is aware, as we are based in a tier 3 area, the rules haven’t changed that much compared to when we were in lockdown.

The good news is the harbour is still open to us as the club has the licences to go out on the water. However the showers and toilets are still closed.

We still have no news on the pool so no update on when we will be back there or what the rules will be when we can go back in.

The indoor training sessions that are normally on a Thursday night are still cancelled until we are unable to train indoors in groups.

Trips can be organised by using the club email list however, as we are in tier 3, we cannot go to Wales nor should we be going paddling too far away. So if you are planning on organising any trips through the club you need to be aware of sticking to groups of 6 and keep the paddling to somewhere within our tier. Also, no car sharing for the time being.

I’m sure everyone knows the rules that are currently linked to the tier system so please stay safe and hopefully see you all soon! There is more guidance on the British canoeing website if you would like more info:


Membership applications during Covid-19

[Updated August 2021] As you’re obviously aware, the CoronaVirus / Covid-19 situation has completely disrupted things for everybody this year, including our canoe club.

Unfortunately, for most of the summer 2020 and into 2021, we were not able to accept any new membership applications at all. As of August 2021, the good news is that we are more-or-less back to normal. Please see our normal Membership page.

Apologies for any issues during 2020/2021 (we were as frustrated as everyone else) – on behalf of Bristol Canoe Club committee.

Polo is back Outdoor

The Polo contingent has started at the Outdoor Pitch on Wednesday evenings from 6-30pm, throughout the summer at the Cumberland Basin.

Come along and improve your boating technique, while having a laugh!

Club Polo Kit is available free of charge for members and loads of easy parking too.