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Trips Policy


1. Introduction 2. EKC River Trip levels a. Beginner (Grade 1/2) b. Improver (Grade 2/3) c. Intermediate (Grade 3/4) d. Advanced (Grade 4/5) e. Gradings for Open Canoe trips

3. Other EKC event environments 4. Event Types

a. Sanctioned Club Trips b. A Sanctioned Coached Event c. Peer Paddling

5. Trip leaders – Competency requirements and approval process 6. EKC Club Trips – Best Practice for Leaders 7. General information for event participants

8. Under 16s on River Trips

1. Introduction

Edinburgh Kayak Club is comprised of a group of like-minded individuals who have come together to enjoy the varied water environments of Scotland. The Club organises a number of events on rivers, seas, reservoirs and lochs throughout the year. There are two distinct types of club event: • A sanctioned ‘Club Trip’ • A sanctioned Coached Event

Individual members may also advertise a ‘Peer Paddle’.

Events may take place in a variety of environments and are graded according to the severity / level of difficulty of the trip.

2. EKC River Trip Levels

EKC sanctioned Club Trips are publicized with one of the following levels - as with river grades these are for guidance only, Edinburgh Kayak Club will do its best to adhere to the levels below but changes at the last moment due to environmental concerns are common. As such, trips cannot be guaranteed to run as advertised, and this may result in cancellation, relocation, or a change in grade which could preclude some paddlers attending. Edinburgh Kayak Club will endeavour to run its activities in as safe a manner as possible, however participation in the sport of Canoeing/Kayaking can be a dangerous activity with risk of injury. It should be understood that participation could lead to injury or in severe cases, even death.

a) Beginner (Grade 1/2)

Trips in this category are for those that are new to river kayaking. Those new to the sport should do several trips in this category before progressing. The rivers on which these trips will take place tend to be fairly flat with some small easy rapids. This type of river tends to be relatively gentle with plenty of time to react. There may be a harder rapid on the river, but this will be easy to spot and get out above; depending on the leader’s and your own feelings, experience and confidence you can either carry your boat around it on land (portage), or with the leader’s assistance, you can inspect it and consider whether to run it or not. At this level the river leader is very much in charge of the group, they will be leading on the river and it is normally expected that they will provide advice and assistance on basic paddling skills and how to read the river. It should be noted that even once you are well past being a novice paddler, it is still useful to go on these trips to improve your ability to lead, back mark and assist with rescues in an easy environment. Demonstrating skills on the river helps you to remember and perform them better when they are needed later in your paddling life i.e. when you are paddling something harder.

Examples of sections in this category are the Teith and the Tweed.

b) Improver (Grade 2(3) and 2/3) These trips are for those who have been on a few beginner trips and want to progress to something slightly more difficult. Depending on conditions, trips in this category may take place on the same rivers as beginner trips, but at higher water levels or with more time allowed to play in specific features. Other rivers used will have fewer flat sections and more continuous small rapids with a few slightly more difficult rapids. These trips will still largely be leader/experienced paddler led, but will have more input from the less experienced paddlers as they learn more and acquire the ability to pick their own lines and start to develop leadership skills. Before you progress on from this category to paddling intermediate rivers you should have developed a good upright paddling posture, the ability to pick your own line down a rapid of this standard, and be able to stay upright with the use of adaptive support strokes as needed. You should also have begun to develop a working river roll.

Examples of sections in this category are the Grandtully section of the Tay, the Ericht and the Nith when excluding the gorge.

c) Intermediate (Grade 3 and 3(4)) These trips are for those that are confident and capable running rivers at the improver standard, have a working river roll and want to try paddling more challenging water. There are a huge variety of rivers within this category, but in general the rivers will have fairly continuous stretches of what were considered difficult rapids in the improver category. In addition there will normally be at least one harder rapid, the running of which will necessitate taking the correct line, which may not be immediately obvious. Portaging the more difficult rapids is normally, but not always, straightforward. Swimming down some of these rapids is not pleasant and there is a risk of injury. At this level the more experienced paddlers will be happy to offer guidance on best line(s), may give tips on how to execute moves, and if needed provide safety cover. However, at this level, there is a greater emphasis on picking your own lines and learning how to tackle the river. As you progress in this category, there will be more opportunities for you to develop your leadership, river reading abilities and river awareness.

Examples of sections in this category are the lower Tummel and the Nith when including the gorge.

d) Advanced (Grade 4 and above) Trips at this level can have serious consequences and therefore should only be attempted once you have paddled plenty of intermediate rivers and can run them with relative ease. For this level of water you must have good river reading/running skills, a bombproof roll, be mentally up for the challenge and be able to nail your lines. Although there will still be some aspect of leadership on these trips, it is down to the individual to make their own decisions on what to run, while generally the other paddlers will set up safety.

e) Gradings for Open Canoe trips For trips involving traditional canoes, river grades are typically reduced in comparison to those for the equivalent WW kayak trips. Both kayaks and canoes may attend trips together, subject to the agreement of the trip leader.

a. Open Canoe Beginner (Grade 1) b. Open Canoe Improver (Grade 1/2) c. Open Canoe Intermediate (Grade 3) d. Open Canoe Advanced (Grade 3/4)

Trip gradings for specialized WW canoes are identical to those for WW kayaks.

3. Other EKC event environments

Occasionally, EKC may offer events other than river trips – these may encompass surf, inland water, tidal water/sea. These will be led by appropriately skilled paddlers, who will vet the suitability of attendees, and are subject to approval by the Coaching and Leadership Group. Typically a Beginner flat-water event would take place on Very Sheltered Water (e.g. Musselburgh Lagoon); suitably able paddlers may then move on to the Sheltered Inland Water environment and beyond. A Beginner surf event would typically take place in surf of up to 1 foot; suitably able paddlers could then progress to the Moderate Surf environment and beyond. A full list of event environments is beyond the scope of this document and the reader is referred to the British Canoeing Terms of Reference.

4. Event types

a) Sanctioned Club Trips A sanctioned club trip will adhere to the following: • Be advertised and coordinated through the Edinburgh Kayak Club ‘Trips Coordinator’. • Be advertised with a clear ‘Ability Grading’ from the aforementioned list. • Only fully ‘paid up’ members of EKC may attend a ‘club trip’. • Be lead by an Edinburgh Kayak Club sanctioned ‘Leader’. The Leader will likely, though not necessarily, have a British Canoeing leadership qualification. • The Leader will hold the British Canoeing White Water Safety and Rescue qualification (or higher) for all trip gradings that involve inland moving water. • The Leader will hold a current 2-day (16hr) First Aid Certificate recognized by EKC or ensure another member attending does so. • The Leader may be (though not necessarily) a British Canoeing qualified coach. Edinburgh Kayak Club only endorses the UKCC and BCU coaching qualifications. The Leader should only offer coaching if they are qualified to do so and work strictly within the defined terms of reference according to their level. • The Leader will be sanctioned to a certain river grading by Edinburgh Kayak Club Sub-group. A Leader may not lead in an environment beyond their sanctioned grade. • The Leader will determine the maximum number of paddlers on the trip. Edinburgh Kayak Club and/or the Trip Leader reserve the right to ‘close‘ the trip to control the number of people on the river. If there are more sanctioned leaders or 'experienced paddlers’ attending then more paddlers may participate but overall control of the group should be retained by one person. • The minimum number of paddlers on a sanctioned Club Trip will be 3 including the Leader. • The decision whether to run a river remains with the individual adult and the Leader should ideally only give suggestions as to whether a person has the required abilities HOWEVER The Leader has the authority to stop a person attending a trip or running a specific feature if they feel in doing so it will endanger others or there is a lack of appropriate safety resources. • Some Edinburgh Kayak Club trips may be suitable for ‘children’ or families. EKC does not offer Child Specific Trips and does not retain responsibility for children beyond our statutory requirements. Children (up to the age of 16) MUST be accompanied at all times on the river by a parent/guardian or nominated responsible adult at a ratio of 1 adult to 2 children. The responsible parent/guardian/adult should not also be the designated trip Leader. The adult in coordination with the trip leader should be capable of looking after the safety of the Child at all times. • In Scottish Law an adult is defined as a person over the age of 16. Young people of ages 16 and 17 can attend trips unaccompanied however must bring along a completed parental consent form which should be given to the trip Leader at the meeting point. We suggest that they reclaim the form at the end of the day to bring on subsequent trips, the club does not store these forms (other than for the pool) and the Leader should destroy any forms he/she has been left with. • The Edinburgh Kayak Child Protection Policy will be strictly adhered to and applies to all people under the age of 18 and those classified as ‘Vulnerable Adults’. • Edinburgh Kayak Club trips should be operated using the ‘Leave no Trace’ ethic. For more information on Leave No Trace please visit Joint trips with other Clubs It is possible that trips may be run in coordination with other clubs. EKC recommends that there is an overall Leader nominated for the whole group HOWEVER it is expected that each club will be fully capable/responsible for their own part of the group i.e. have a suitably qualified/experienced leader. All clubs should operate within their own Terms of Reference and be together for social purposes only.

b) Sanctioned Coached Events Edinburgh Kayak Club may offer specific coached sessions. • In normal circumstances this may include time at an indoor pool, or a very sheltered water environment such as a pond or small lake/loch. Less frequently we may offer fully coached sessions on moving water. • Edinburgh Kayak Club only endorses the UKCC and BCU coaching qualifications. These are presented and examined by British Canoeing to national standards. • It is expected that coaches will only operate within the environment and at ratio’s as defined by the level of their award from UKCC/BCU. These are not defined or set by EKC and cannot be overruled by EKC. • The coaching terms of reference can be found at BCU Terms of Reference.

• The decision whether to participate in a Coached event remains with the individual adult and the Coach should ideally only give suggestions as to whether a person has the required abilities HOWEVER the Coach has the authority to stop a person attending an event if they feel in doing so it will endanger others or there is a lack of appropriate safety resources. • Only fully ‘paid up’ members may attend a ‘Coached Event’. New paddlers may attend a maximum of 2 taster sessions before paying for full membership in order to continue to access the Coached Event. • Currently Edinburgh Kayak Club operates ‘pool sessions’ at Gracemount Leisure Centre operated by Edinburgh Leisure (EL). For pool sessions EKC and EL require that EKC provide at least one ‘duty coach’ who is qualified with the Paddlesport Instructor Award or above. The coach should spend some time first observing more qualified coaches presenting a basic syllabus for beginners in the pool before volunteering themselves for the ‘duty coach roster’. For further specific guidance for coaches in pools please visit The Canoeist and the Swimming Pool.

• Currently Edinburgh Kayak Club operates ‘lagoons sessions’ at Musselburgh Lagoons on a weekly basis during summer months. EKC will provide one qualified ‘duty’ coach for these events. Whilst the Lagoons is a very Sheltered Water environment, participation is not without risk. Participants should be aware that there is no ‘lifeguarding’ service at these events; participants are responsible for their own safety and that of those around them. The venue is a public facility and the space should be shared equally with all park users. • Some Edinburgh Kayak Club coaching events may be suitable for ‘children’ or families. EKC does not offer ‘child specific’ coaching events and does not retain responsibility for children beyond our statutory requirements. Children (up to the age of 16) MUST be accompanied at all times on the waterside (or on the water if the session is likely to move out of hearing range of the responsible adult) by a parent/guardian or nominated responsible adult at a ration of 1 adult to 3 children. The responsible parent/guardian/adult should not also be the coach. The adult in coordination with the Coach should be capable of looking after the safety of the Child at all times. • In Scottish Law an adult is defined as a person over the age of 16. Young people of ages 16 and 17 can attend coaching sessions unaccompanied however must bring along a completed parental consent form which should be given to the Coach before commencing the session. We suggest that they reclaim the form at the end of the day to bring on subsequent events, the club does not store these forms (other than for the pool) and the Coach should destroy any forms he/she has been left with. • The Edinburgh Kayak Child Protection Policy will be strictly adhered to and applies to all people under the age of 18 and those classified as ‘Vulnerable Adults’. • Edinburgh Kayak Club coaching events should be operated using the ‘Leave no Trace’ ethic. For more information on Leave No Trace please visit

c) Peer Paddling Members may use the club as a forum to advertise opportunities for people to run rivers together. In the event that these are not Sanctioned Club Trips, they shall be termed ‘peer paddling’ and the following guidelines apply: • All adverts should be headed with the term ‘Peer Paddle’. • The person suggesting the trip shall be referred to as the trip ‘Organiser’. • Peer paddling can be suggested/organized/attended by any adult. The EKC Trips Coordinator will not coordinate it. • The decision whether to participate in a Peer Paddle remains at all times with the individual adult. • Not all of those attending may be full club members. • Peer Paddling does not necessarily have a sanctioned club leader. EKC suggest it is good practice to have a nominated leader on the river. • Peer Paddling will not necessarily have a person in attendance with suitable rescue and first aid certificates. EKC suggest it is good practice to have at least 1 paddler with an appropriate rescue qualification for the grading. • EKC suggests that it is good practice to adhere to the EKC Child Protection Policy at all times. • EKC suggest it is good practice to adhere to the ‘Leave No Trace’ ethic at all times. • Peer Paddling will likely not be covered by the Edinburgh Kayak Club / British Canoeing Public Liability insurance.

5. Trip leaders – Competency requirements and approval process

Edinburgh Kayak Club encourages paddlers to develop their leadership skills and attain suitable qualifications and experience to allow them to lead Club Trips. The EKC Leadership sign-off sub group will approve EKC Club Trip leaders. Approval will be granted on the grounds of experience and/or formal qualifications, as well as consent to abide by all EKC policies and procedures. Potential new leaders may be asked to lead one or more trips under the supervision of a currently sanctioned club leader as a demonstration of their suitability. In the event that an individual is not deemed suitable, then the Coaching Officer (or other nominated club representative) should be prepared to offer feedback to the individual, ideally on a one-to-one basis, and offer further mentoring or development opportunities if appropriate. Trip Leaders must be able to demonstrate a level of competency suitable for the grade of trip and the type of craft they propose to lead. Possession of a relevant qualification will help the sub-group to assess the suitability of a leader, however applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The BCU Whitewater River Leader Syllabus describes the skills standard necessary to start leading - as minimum, potential leaders require the following skills: • Good technical (paddling) skills • Good interpersonal skills • Proficiency in leadership techniques e.g. CLAP • Rapid and effective risk-assessment and decision making ability on and off the water • Strong rescue skills • Familiarity with the type of venue being paddled, if not the specific location • Appropriate navigation skills • Competence in First-Aid

Approved leaders are listed on the EKC Trip Leaders list. The sub group can impose limitations and restrictions on a leader’s remit in accordance with their skill level. The Sub-group reserves the right to request that Leader applicants complete a PVG disclosure. The Sub-group reserves the right to change the remit of a leader, or to remove the leader from the list of approved leaders at any time. The Sub-group’s decision is final. Edinburgh Kayak Club recognizes that there may be situations where the skill level of the club officials may not be appropriate to make assessment of leadership competency especially at higher river grades. Where this is the case the club will call upon the guidance of the Scottish Canoe Association Regional Coaching Officer or other suitably qualified individuals.

6. EKC Club Trips – Best Practice for Leaders


These guidelines are here to help you to run a safe and enjoyable trip. All EKC Club trip leaders must abide by the Trips Policy.


The Trip Leader is responsible for all aspects of their trip, including the vetting of participants, proposing a trip plan, setting an appropriate limit on numbers, paddler/leader ratios, and ensuring that all paddlers are sufficiently competent as well as properly equipped for the trip. Where practical, a leader may also coordinate travel, although participants should ideally be proactively doing this themselves.

This is set out in more detail below. The EKC trips coordinator will support you as you prepare to run your trip. You are welcome to share or delegate some of the trip leader duties. However, responsibility for the trip is with the trip leader.

Trip Planning

Agree the description, date and grading of your Trip with the trip coordinator, and see that the trip is added to the Club Calendar, with a link which provides basic information and your contact details.


As participants enquire about joining the trip, ask about their experience and skills.

Maintain a list of participants with their emergency contact name and numbers, and their contact details in case of last minute changes or cancellations.

Additional to the trip leader, and particularly if the number of participants takes a leader outwith remit, there should be a suitable number of experienced paddlers who can assist. It is helpful to have a second-in-command.

There should be at least one competent First Aider who is happy to act as the Trip First Aider, and takes responsibility for the First Aid kit.


The exact ratio depends on the kind of trip that is undertaken and conditions on the day, but as a rough guide, beginners should only attend easy water trips and a ratio of one experienced paddler to two beginners should apply. The ratio will determine the final numbers and it might be necessary to turn inexperienced paddlers away, or to move the trip to a less challenging location.


Relevant safety equipment must be taken on a trip. The exact nature of this would depend on the trip but would typically include:

  • First Aid kit

  • Emergency repair kit

  • Tape / Tow line

  • Throw lines

  • Knife (each paddler should carry one)

  • Carabiners / pin kit

  • Mobile phone and/or GPS (VHF for sea-trips)

  • Map and ideally a compass

  • Emergency group shelter

  • Spare clothes

  • Spare food and warm drinks.

  • A pair of spare split paddles would be ideal, as would a saw on canoe trips.

Trip Preparation On The Day

As well as the weather and water conditions, you must check, so far as is reasonably practicable, that participants have a suitable level of experience and skills for the trip, and that they have brought suitable equipment. You should feel that you can turn away paddlers you are unsure about.

If you have to change location or timings or even cancel the trip because you are unhappy about the conditions, the group or equipment, then that is your call. The trip coordinator will support your decision, should you have to do this.

Ask all participants to notify you of any ailment which might affect them on the trip.

Please check that they are EKC members, and that they are over 18, or have supplied a parental consent form. All participants on EKC Trips should have read the Information for Participants and the Trips policy.

Leaders may consider leaving a print out of the list of participants with their emergency details with a responsible adult, notifying them of their safe return.

The Trip!

The most important safety factor during a trip is the cohesion of the group. Therefore, make sure people know each other’s names, and are confident calling out to each other. Introduce your righthand person, and the First Aider.

Explain hand signals, who has which safety equipment and the method in place for reaching help in case of emergency. Talk through rescue procedures, and allocate tasks.

It is encouraged that you ask one or more of the more experienced paddlers on the trip to provide backup support. This may include:

  • Setting a comfortable pace

  • Fielding the back of the group (Tail end Charlie)

  • Buddying up with a nervous paddler

  • Assisting in rescues & tows

  • Helping to communicate messages or take over for a part of the trip

Remember that during the trip, the leader`s priorities are self, then the group, then the casualty, then the kit. As such, the leader should not rush to undertake rescues if this puts him/her at risk, or leaves the rest of the group exposed. If there are other experienced paddlers present, and close to the incident, then they should ideally undertake the rescue, leaving the leader free to manage overall group safety.

Property and Environment

In most cases in Scotland we have a right to paddle the river but not to be on the banks above the high water level. This may be impossible to comply with, especially in rescue situations. Always be as polite as possible. If a disagreement with a landowner or angler occurs gather as much detail as possible and report to the SCA. (Cameras can be useful here)

Participants will respect property rights along the river and avoid disturbing wildlife. Try to take more litter with you than you brought and leave the river and banks in better shape than before you were there. Seal launches, whilst fun, are not good for river banks!

Also interesting is protecting our environment:

After The Trip

Don't forget to tell your emergency contact (or Coastguard if on the sea) that you are back safely. Debrief with the trips coordinator, with a view to improving the Best Practice guidelines. Let the trip coordinator know as soon as possible if there was any incident involving emergency services, first aid, or child protection issues.

Please invite participants to report back with any comments or issues. Nominate someone to write a short, informal trip report and post on our Facebook page ideally, with pictures. Keep trip notes and a record of all those who took part in the trip.

7. EKC Club Trips - Information For Participants


Edinburgh Kayak Club organises a number of Club Trips on rivers, seas, reservoirs and lochs throughout the year. They can vary enormously, from a gentle paddle on a Loch to rugged conditions on fast white water. It can be helpful to refer to the water grading on the river guidebook and SCA websites for a general idea, but the conditions on the day depend on the weather, and on water levels. The trip might have to be relocated, often at the last minute, and on occasion a trip might have to be cancelled.

Club Trips are advertised via the Calendar on the EKC website. For details, click on the entry in the Calendar, or contact the trips coordinator. The trip constantly evolves, so please check the link regularly. The advertising for the trip includes information on the trip leader, the difficulty of the rip, and the level of ability expected in the participants. Those interested in any trips please contact the leader or the trips coordinator well in advance. Do not simply turn up on the day.

The overall ethos is that each participant should come prepared to look after themselves. As with any outdoor pursuit there is an element of risk, so it is important to study the information below, understand the basis of your participation and not put yourself, or other paddlers, at risk.

Junior members attending club trips must have parental approval and have completed the consent forms. All participants must be fully paid up members of the EKC.


In all cases, participants must be competent group paddlers, ideally holding at least BCU 1* certificate or equivalent. For kayak trips, attendees must have attended a least two pool sessions, have demonstrated a basic level of competence and be comfortable doing wet-exits. For canoe trips, paddlers must be able to demonstrate competence on very sheltered water and capsize drills prior to moving onto gentle rivers. For all paddlers some level of familiarity with rescues of self and others is preferred.

Please check the specific requirements of a trip with the leader, or the trips coordinator.

Please be aware that Trip leaders may refuse to let participants to come on a trip because they are unsure of their competence or fitness or because the trip is oversubscribed. Participation is always at the discretion of the Trip leader.


Participants can hire a boat, paddle, spraydeck, buoyancy aid and helmet from the club, but they must bring all other equipment including warm clothing, food and water. Check that you have what you need before you leave your house – turning up with no food or drink and without suitable clothing may put yourself and other paddlers at risk, and you may be politely turned away.


Paddlers must either have transport, or bring petrol money. Trip coordinators and leaders may assist with, but are not obligated to either arrange or provide travel. Participants are expected to do their fair share of driving to venues.

Before The Trip

Please inform the trip leader of any ailments. Participants are expected to have read this policy and the Access & Environment pages on the SCA website, as well as the water grading there, and the river descriptions in the river guidebook. Information on the weather can be found on BBC Weather, Metcheck, Windguru etc. The most comprehensive site for river levels is

After The Trip

Participants are invited to submit feedback. EKC reviews each trip for post-event improvements and to share best practice. We are interested in short, informal trip reports ideally with pictures or any other feedback. We are also happy to treat comments as confidential where appropriate.

8. Under 16s on River Trips


Edinburgh Kayak Club wish to encourage and engage children to attend trips. We wish to provide the supportive, fun and safe environment necessary to build skills and confidence. We recognise that environments can be intimidating and so in order to provide the best support for young paddlers the following applies on club organised trips:

  • Careful consideration should be made for young paddlers under the age of 16 paddling beyond grade 2, see ‘Development for progressing beyond grade 2’ section below.

  • Prior to the event the guardian / parent should check that the trip is suitable for the under-16 – simply turning up on the day is not acceptable.

  • Every under-16 must have a completed parental consent form and have a paddling parent/guardian accompanying them.

  • Under-18s need a parental consent form only.

  • Each paddling parent / guardian can take two under-16s.

  • Trip Leaders must ensure they are aware of any children attending their trips.

Whether the parent / guardian is a novice or an expert, it is still the responsibility of the coach/leader to decide if the under-16 can paddle on a specific venue / day. From a paddler perspective, this can be based on prior knowledge and/or profiling on the day. The coach / leader will take other factors into account – these include, but are not limited to:

  • Age / size / ability / equipment

  • Conditions on the day – river levels / temperature & wind / Location & ease of access + egress / Ratio of Coach / leader to paddler ratio

Development for progressing beyond grade 2

Consideration should be given to suitable rapids and water levels for breaking into higher grades, working on 1 portageable higher grade rapid where stages can be broken down being preferable to a river trip involving multiple higher grade rapids. A suitable example can be Grandtully rapid:

  • Initially put on at the bottom where skills can be developed and challenged in stronger flows.

  • Consider skill level and confidence, it is really important not to push too far too soon and affect confidence in the long term.

  • Then moving to the middle with challenges of breaking in and taking route river right, then breaking in and taking route river left, catching eddies and progressively high ferry glides crossing river.

Again consideration to skill level and confidence before moving up to the top:

  • When the river is at the right level take them from the top, starting when it is very low and moving water is only 8-10 ft. wide.

  • Consider speed at which progression happens may be over weeks/months, a typical young paddler may require to operate in the middle section regularly for months to consolidate confidence before moving up.

  • Aim to develop good links between parents and coaches, which is vital so they also understand the risks involved.

  • If the young paddler is considered not ready to progress beyond grade 2 they may wish to seek help with a development plan and/or mentor from the club or privately.

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