Some of us was born with natural good manners, but for other folk its all a big mystery so a guide comes in handy. People says to me, Aunty Pawlata what's all this etiquette stuff? So I've gathered together some bits and pieces and written it down so as you'll all know what it's about. A little bit of study and you can be real posh on and off the river.


Travel is difficult if you've scrounged a lift in other folk's cars.

  • be considerate to your driver
  • get yourself ready in time
  • bring a big clean waterproof bag for all your wet kit (a large dry-bag or heavy duty bin liner is great)
  • offer to pay your share of the petrol before you get home and make sure you says your thank you

Getting on and off the Water

The fancy folk at the BCU and WCA put a lot of work into making access agreements so do your bit to help. No bare bums: change discreetly and pretend to be modest. Avoid damaging fences, gates and crops. Now I know that seal launches are great fun, but they do cause erosion; so avoid seal launches on soft (ie not rock) banks.


Now we all get in trouble from time to time and some of you seem to make a habit of it. I`ve spoken to the good Mr William Nealy and listed his top three commandments for rescuers.

  • Doctrine of Extra Danger. Thou shalt not by thy actions put thyself or thy swimmer in more danger than the swimmer was in originally.
  • Doctrine of Presumed Insanity. Thou shalt never make physical contact contact with any swimmer until thou has ascertained the mental state of the same swimmer.
  • Doctrine of Supreme Ascendancy of Chase Boaters. Verily the chase boater (rescuer) is like as a god and the swimmer but a wretched supplicant unto him or her. As the naughty dog fears its angry master so shall the miscreant swimmer fear the wrath of the chase boater if his or her every command is not instantly obeyed.

Waves and Holes

Waves and holes can be fun for everyone. The rules below are like the rules for choosing the right fork to use at a posh do. They stop other folk looking at you and thinking what a plonker.

  • Thou shalt not be a wave hog. Allow yourself a maximum 2 minutes less 5 seconds for each kayak in the queue.
  • Thou shalt encourage the less competent paddlers by giving novices extra time and space to learn.
  • Thy group shalt not hog all the best play spots, move on down when the next group arrives
  • The current occupant of a wave or hole shall be deferred to as thou would defer to the lord high executioner, so do not enter an occupied hole or wave unless the occupant invites you in.

First Aid

Love thy neighbour but do go on a first aid course so you know what's what when tender loving care is not enough.


Take it from me, we are truly privileged to enjoy a beautiful but fragile environment. We can help sustain it by avoiding paddling when water levels are low, when we may damage the river bed, and by launching carefully to avoid damaging the river bank. Whilst on the water let's think about our neighbours and avoid excessive noise when we may be disturb other folk.

So there you have it a quick guide to etiquette on and off the water. Remember not to annoy other folk especially if they may affect our access agreements, or they may be your rescuer at the next rapid or if your expecting a lift home!

Happy paddling!

Date first published: March 2001 by Aunty Pawlata