When you think about paddleboarding in the UK you might first picture somewhere at the seaside or a rural river location. It’s certainly true that stand up paddleboarding (SUP) has become a popular recreational pastime on all kinds of waterways across the country.
You might be more surprised to learn that many Londoners now own their own paddleboards, and you can find a whole host of great places in London to have a go yourself.
The great thing about paddleboarding in London is that it is easily accessible for after-work fun. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and enjoy social gatherings with events like club nights to help you get to know other paddleboarders. Thanks to the fresh air and gentle exercise it is the perfect outdoor sport for those who live, work or visit the city.
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Can you paddleboard in London?
Fortunately, there are lots of waterways in London where you can find a place to paddleboard safely.
As well as the River Thames there are plenty of canals, some reservoirs and even Docklands has some great locations. You will find a good choice of clubs that offer board hire and lessons.
If you use a club then the cost of hire will usually include any licence fees but if you are confident enough to go it alone then you will need to check permissions. In most cases, a licence from the Canal and River Trust will cover you but some docks have their own launch fees.
How safe is paddleboarding in London?
The canals are pretty safe for paddleboarding, but it’s important to remember that the River Thames is tidal so you should take some extra precautions.
- Wear a waist leash – The waist leash should always be your go-to on rivers
- Wear a bouyancy aid and appropriate clothing for the time of year
- Check the tide times and understand what they mean
- Always paddle upstream first where possible
- If in doubt, don’t go out – Some very windy days makes the water choppy and hard to stand up
- Ask the local SUP company for tips on where to launch and go if you’re trying out somewhere new
Where can I take my paddleboard in London?
I have put together a list of my top 6 places to go paddleboarding in London.
Hopefully, they will help you see the Capital from a completely different point of view.
If you are looking to escape from city life, then Thames Ditton in Surrey is a tree-lined oasis that provides an ideal setting for a relaxing paddle. Home to an annual regatta, it is the perfect stretch of river to try out some gentle paddling followed by a picnic by the water’s edge. You can paddle towards Hampton Court for some stunning views or choose a more challenging route downstream towards Kingston.
The easiest place to launch from is the beach which provides gently sloping access to the water.
SUP Company: Dittons Paddle Boarding started up in 2017 and is accredited by the British Canoeing Association. They offer small group lessons with accredited coaches as well as group paddles, taster sessions and 1-1 training.
How to get there: There is some car parking close by or a train station a short walk away that connects to London Waterloo in just 33 minutes.
Camden Town has always had a buzz at the Camden Lock area. It is filled with jazz clubs, bars and unique eateries and is almost always bustling with visitors who are drawn by the street food, markets and boho vibe.
The canal at Camden provides a unique experience in this creative area with a chance to do some paddleboarding in the heart of the city. You can paddle alongside moored canal boats, under bridges and there are plenty of places to explore. You can head towards Regents Park or London Zoo, just a short paddle away.
You can launch at various places along the towpath on Regents Canal at Camden but the market area at the lock will give you access to plenty of facilities. Beware of the water traffic as it is a busy area for boats. Remember to stay in the centre and move to the right when traffic approaches.
SUP Company: Paddle Boarding London have changing rooms and showers available for members and offer lessons as well as tours. It’s also good to know that they donate from fees towards their charity to teach inner-city children water sports.
How to get there: Right in the heart of London you can access the underground from Camden Town station, just a ten minute walk away or hop on one of the many bus routes in the area.
The popularity of Kew Bridge for paddleboarders comes from its central location and access to either Hammersmith or Richmond depending on the tide. Whichever way you choose to paddle you are assured of some stunning views of West London.
You can admire the historic arched bridge, built in 1903, or gaze in envy at the elegant waterside homes. For refreshments, you will find a great selection of coffee shops and riverside pubs.
You can launch your paddleboard on the gentle slopes at Kew Bridge straight into the River Thames.
SUP Company: Active360 are based right at the water’s edge and offer taster sessions, lessons and tours. They also specialise in skills and knowledge courses for those who want to build the confidence to tour alone.
How to get there: Kew Bridge is well served by a train station that connects with London Waterloo and is only a one minute walk away. Alternatively, there are several bus routes. Cyclists will appreciate the riverside cycle routes and bike parking. There is also some free car parking available close by.
Docklands in the East of London provides a unique city backdrop for your water sports experiences. Surrounded by high rise buildings and glass windows that reflect the water it is a magnificent location on the Isle of Dogs. The wide stretch of Thames provides the perfect space for paddleboarding surrounded by a mix of contemporary and historic buildings.
The Millwall Outer Dock is stunning in the sunshine and also spectacular at twilight with Canary Wharf in the background and is perfect for practising your paddleboard skills or having a leisurely paddle. Protected in the dock from the tidal stream it makes an ideal location for beginners.
Launch here is from the watersports centre and launch fees apply to those who have their own boards. Other Docks offer launch areas in the Docklands such as St Katherine’s Dock and the Royal Docks where different fees apply.
SUP Company: Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre is based at the west end of the Millwall Outer Dock and provides paddleboard hire for members and non-members including buoyancy aids. They offer courses and events at certain times around the year. They also have special activities for children during school holidays.
How to get there: Based at the West End of the Millwall Outer Dock near Canary Wharf, the nearest station is the Crossharbour DLR or Mudchute, both about a 10-minute walk away. The centre has its own car parking as well as another free car park opposite.
Grand Union Canal – Merchant Square
Merchant Square is where the Grand Union Canal in central London joins with Regents Canal at Paddington Basin. The Grand Union Canal offers calm waters that are suitable for beginners with inner-city backdrops as a view.
Paddling along the Grand Union Canal further takes you into a peaceful haven that has been recently part of a project by the Canal River Trust to improve the environment and biodiversity of the area.
You can launch with Active 360 at Paddington Basin as they have permission from Merchant Square, the company that manages the area here. You will need a licence from the Canal and River Trust to use the canal on your own.
SUP Company: Active 360 are based at Paddington Basin and provide taster sessions, lessons and trips. They also offer yoga sessions for those that want to get even more out of their paddleboarding experience.
How to get there: While there is limited car parking in the area, it is just a short walk from both Paddington and Edgware Road stations. You will find some good cycle routes with secure storage for bikes at Active360.
Richmond upon Thames provides the whole riverside experience with the famous deer park and plenty of pubs and bars that line the river. It is the ideal location for retreating from the pressures of daily life and makes a great day out.
The historic buildings make the perfect backdrop for a paddle, and you will see bridges and islands on your travels.
You can launch from the riverside at Richmond at the bottom of Water Lane, opposite The White Cross Pub.
SUP Company: The London Stand Up Paddle Company based at Richmond upon Thames provides a huge selection of options for paddleboarders from beginners to more experienced paddlers. They offer a great social paddle for adults to explore the Thames as far as Twickenham.
How to get there: Richmond underground station is nearby with links across London. You will also find many bus routes to connect you to other places in the city.
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.