COVID-19 Paddling Tips: Practicing Social Distance on the Water

It was only a few weeks ago that you would probably had to use an internet search to find out what ‘social distancing’ is. Now though, we all know. For some time to come this is how we need to be living our day to day lives to ensure that our communities are as safe as possible. However it does not mean that we have to give up everything of what we love. Now more than ever getting outside, enjoying the outdoors and being active will ensure that we come out the other side of this COVID-19 outbreak, both fit and sane!

One of the best things about Stand Up Paddleboarding is just how sociable it is, but for now a paddle with a slightly anti social bent is the way forwards. We might not be able to gather in the car park or hang about the launching point for a natter or indeed meet in the pub after for a drink, but we can still paddle. The water in the UK is (at the time of writing at least) very much open for business, so make the most of it.

SUP with family and friends..

Whether paddling with family members or friends, if you observe some basic advice you can take to the water and reconnect while sharing in what we all enjoy.

A small group is enough

Unless you are part of a SUP Club, then you would most likely paddle with a couple of friends. Given the crazy times we now find ourselves in – make sure you keep your group sizes down.

Maintain two metres distance at all times!

You need to be observing this on and off the water. It is weird, I get it but so does everyone else and we all understand why.

Keep to and only handle your own equipment!

Helping someone to and from the water is now a no no. It feels really impolite but everyone understands why. The risk of contamination is just too great. Once on the water, remember, trying out your friend’s latest shiny super light-weight paddle is also off the menu, no matter how good it looks!

Remember to keep your distance while afloat – two metres is the minimum!

This is an easy one to follow and again a no-brainer. Seeing as the most popular paddleboard length in the UK is 10ft 6, just remember it is the equivalent of two thirds of your boards length. If you are still in doubt… just stay a whole board length away; whether alongside or in front or behind.

Stay safe, no one needs you taking up a hospital bed because you went for a paddle.

While putting the world to rights, remember not to lose focus of your surroundings. Make sure you have checked the weather forecast, are aware of the tides or flow on the river and are wearing the correct clothing for your session.

Let someone else know what you are up to!

It is always worth letting someone know where you are paddling from, the route you are taking as well as your start and return time. This is just good old common sense and should be practiced even in ‘normal times’ (if you can still remember those).

Paddling on your own

If you are Stand Up Paddling on your own, then congratulations you have social distancing down to a fine art. Remember though, paddling on your own brings with it a set of responsibilities and simple measures.

Other water users

Give them a wide berth; other like minded paddlers or water users should give you space and in turn so should you. Use the rules of the road to make sure no one embarrasses themselves here; with an on-coming vessel of whatever kind, shape or size, always pass to port. If you are overtaking it, it is down to you to keep clear and give the other user room.

Stay safe, care for other people around you as well as for your surroundings, and don’t forget to enjoy your time on the water!

COVID-19 Paddling Tips: Practicing Social Distance on the Water
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COVID-19 Paddling Tips: Practicing Social Distance on the Water


  • Andy N

    Good article! I am lucky enough to live right beside a lake and the River Avon is only a few hundred metres away. I am continuing to SUP (and also kayak and windsurf when conditions are not good for SUP) and to be honest, I rarely see another person. An easy way to enjoy life and stay fit while following the government guidelines on social distancing.

    • Glenn

      This will be interesting, l live very near the Tamar River, so a 5 minute drive away, and nobody else in the water. I can park within 5 meters of the river, any bets?, as river police ALWAYS patrolling, due to naval base. Will let you know!

    • Tanya

      How do you think would be the best way to safely clean equipment during this time?

  • Geoff Hodgson

    We live 1.6km away from a launching ramp on the River Frome in Dorset. Going to give it a go with our kayaks next week, but half expect to be told to go home. And yet there are dozens, if not hundreds , of people in bikes in nearby Wareham Forest; if they can peddle, we should be able to paddle, as long as we “stay safe”.