Kayaking In Swimming Pools

General Information

Canoeing is usually considered to be an outdoor adventurous activity. Swimming pools however, provide an alternative temperature controlled environment which can be used to introduce groups to the activity indoors.

Pool sessions can maximise opportunities for experiencing our sports diversity, overcoming fears of capsize, learning to paddle, developing water confidence, improving boat handling skills, raising awareness of general safety procedures and also specific rescue practice, all in a safe and controlled environment.

Canoe polo is a popular sport at local, national and international level, for a large part using indoor pools. There are also now a large number of local canoe clubs in the UK many of which use regular pool sessions as a focal point for club meets, particularly during the winter months.


Qualifying Awards

To supervise a pool canoeing session, a Coach must:

  • Be 18 years of age or over.
  • Be at least “new” UKCC Level 1 Coach or “old” BCU Level 2 coach trainee, or have received specific pool training approved by the Adventurous Activities Consultant.
  • Hold a current Canoe/Kayak Safety Test Award, Foundation Safety & Rescue Award or other lifesaving award which conforms to local requirements.
  • Hold a current First Aid qualification.
  • Conform to the requirements of the pool management regarding conduct of sessions and poolside supervision.


Guidance For Leaders

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and successful outcome of any activity. For general planning details refer to Appendix C.

Specifically the following should be considered:

  • Communication with pool management and staff regarding local requirements, particularly for an exceptional session in a pool which is not normally used for canoeing.
  • Facilities for storing equipment.
  • Adequate information to group regarding appropriate behaviour and clothing etc.
  • Facilities for cleaning canoes and equipment if transported from elsewhere.


  • Canoes currently used in pools are normally of a type with rounded ends to prevent injury to participants and damage to the pool. Where other types of craft are used appropriate precautions (such as padding the ends of the boat) should be taken to prevent injury or damage.
  • Paddles with metal edged blades must not be used.
  • Canoes based at a pool should not normally be transported to other venues.
  • Canoes which have been used outside or transported from other venues must be cleaned thoroughly (specific advice should be taken from local pool management).
  • Any outside equipment e.g. paddles, buoyancy aids etc. should be cleaned before use in a pool.
  • Canoes and equipment should regularly be checked for damage (in particular any sharp edges around cockpit or footrests).



  • Consideration should be given to participants wearing appropriate body covering to prevent small scratches and abrasions which are common even with well maintained canoes.
  • Coaches may decide whether to ask participants to wear buoyancy aids (B/As) or not, however, the wearing of these is to great advantage when coaching for long-term learning with the transfer of skills to outdoor environments where B/As are essential.
  • Buoyancy Aids and helmets must be used for canoe polo sessions.


Group Activity and Supervision

A canoe session in a pool should be an enjoyable and positive experience for participants. To achieve this, the coach should take account of the following:

  • Participants should normally be able to swim. In the case of non-swimmers the coach must be satisfied that the participant has reasonable water confidence when wearing a buoyancy aid. Non-swimmers must always wear a buoyancy aid.
  • Casual swimming must not be permitted while the canoe session is in progress unless an area is roped off specifically for swimming. Appropriate supervision must be provided for this as a separate activity.
  • Where possible the session should be organised on a ‘buddy system’ basis i.e. one canoeist supported by a group member in the water or on the poolside. Where a ‘buddy’ system is not possible one member of the group must remain on the poolside as a ‘second pair of eyes’.            


Group Size

Group size and supervision ratios should generally be applied as for sheltered water but will also be influenced by local pool policy. Some pools may require a qualified pool lifeguard to be present in addition to the kayak coach. Pools are also likely to have rules on the maximum number of boats allowed in the pool at one time.

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