If you’ve ever fancied your hand at canoeing in one of its many forms, or you are an experienced paddler who has moved to London, we hope the Club will have something to offer you.

To become a member of the club you must also join (or already be a member of) CSSC Sports and Leisure (CSSC)*.

Anyone who is an employee in the public sector or of Royal Mail, BT, or companies carrying out ex-civil service work; or is a past employee of one of these organisations who is retired on pension is eligible to  join CSSC direct.

If you aren’t in any of those categories (for example you are not in employment, are self-employed, or work in the private or voluntary sector) you can join CSSC by being nominated by a friend or relation who is an existing member.

These notes should help to introduce the club and what it does, and to indicate how you can go about joining our activities.

Do you need previous experience?

No! We are always happy to welcome newcomers – complete beginners and experienced canoeists alike. Most of our members had done little canoeing before they joined. We don’t require you to turn up every week for formal courses, but our qualified instructors are keen to help you progressively learn, at your own pace, coaching you as often as you are able to come along.

We provide opportunities for beginners to try out the sport and to develop their skills, under qualified supervision, both in a swimming pool and outside, according to the season. Some canoeing skills are easier to learn inside in warm, still water, so we organise pool sessions during the winter in central London. Other skills benefit from practice outdoors in plenty of space: paddling in a straight line is not quite as easy as it looks!

What do we get up to?

Although generally known in the UK as “canoeing” rather than “kayaking”, most of our activities actually involve the use of single person boats called ‘kayaks’ which are propelled with a double-bladed paddle while sitting.  However, the Club also possesses three open ‘Canadian’ canoes.  These large boats are propelled by a single-bladed paddle while kneeling or sitting,and can be paddled solo or in tandem with another person.

New members are welcome to take part in any of the Club’s activities, according to their experience and ability. We are primarily interested in recreational canoeing (rather than competitions).  This can take many forms, and we try to provide something to please everyone. A summary of the Club’s calendar and trip reports are available on this web site; if you want further details we are always happy to send more detailed information to people who are interested in joining.

The Club meets weekly throughout the year on most Tuesday evenings:

  • During the autumn and winter, we paddle in an indoor pool in central London – for training, practice and games! Currently we use the Britannia Leisure Centre in Hackney
  • During the spring and summer, we paddle on the River Thames at Chiswick, gathering at the Civil Service Boathouse (also home of Cygnets and Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Clubs) close to Barnes Bridge. These evening trips are good fun, a good chance to meet socially, get a bit of exercise, and for beginners, learn the basic skills. Within two or three miles of Chiswick, there are a number of very decent pubs – useful for a quick break during the evening!

We also organise weekend paddling on rivers in the South East of England.  Day trips are designed to help beginners and to provide practice in basic moving water skills.  These trips are also a great way of exploring our local area. 

The Club also provides an unrivalled opportunity to get away from London at weekends and see other beautiful parts of the country.

Throughout the year, we organise regular weekend trips away to white water rivers in Wales, the South West and so on, aiming to provide the variety to suit both experts and beginners to white water.  Unsurprisingly, the best white water is found naturally in the wetter months of the year, but certain rivers have dam releases and so can be paddled in the summer. 

We also enjoy sea kayaking.  We organise several weekend or day trips every year, but our sea kayaking tends to be restricted to the summer and autumn when the hours of daylight are longer and water/air temperatures are higher. 

We also organise an annual summer holiday.  For example in recent years we have gone sea kayaking in the Channel Islands, Northumberland, Cornwall, the Scilly Isles, Pembrokeshire and the Stockholm archipelago in Sweden.

What equipment do you need?

The Club has general-purpose kayaks available for members’ use, plus paddles, buoyancy aids, spraydecks and helmets, as well as some more specialised (white water and sea) kayaks, and three open canoes. The only thing which beginners need to provide, apart from enthusiasm, is suitable clothing. In the summer, this need be no more than shorts, T-shirt and gym shoes, plus a fleece for cooler days, and a waterproof anorak or canoeing cagoule on chilly days or if it rains. For winter canoeing or moving water, a wetsuit (“long-john” and boots), with a cagoule, is normally used. A towel has been known to come in handy!

Beginners are advised not to buy equipment until they have had the chance to try it out, and to get expert advice (eg from the Club’s more experienced members). There is a great variety of types of boats and equipment available, and it is a shame to make mistakes over hasty purchases. For example, someone who wants to specialise solely in flat water touring would look for a quite different type of canoe from that used for white water playboating. There is normally no urgency for new members to buy their own equipment.

What does it cost to join?

Our annual subscription is currently £40.00 per annum, but a reduced rate is payable by those joining the club for the first time after more than 3 months of the calendar year have already elapsed. You will also need to pay CSSC their subscription. We do not expect newcomers to join until they have had the chance to meet us and have a go, but charges are made to all non-members taking part in Club activities, in respect of temporary membership. We also make small charges for the use of Club equipment on weekend trips, and for everyone using the pool.

If you’d like to join, or to add yourself to the Club’s mailing list, then please download a copy of our Membership Form –  (Adobe Acrobat format – 71KB), fill it in and post it to us or scan a signed copy and email it to us.

If you would like further information, then just E-mail us – secretary@civilservicecanoeclub.org.uk… Other ways you can get in touch with us are summarised in the contact details section.

The Adobe® Acrobat Reader® can be freely downloaded. Viewers with visual difficulties may find it useful to investigate services provided to improve the accessibility of Acrobat documents – http://access.adobe.com

Can the club store my personal boat for me next to the river?

No. We have limited storage space and have to use it for storing club boats which are used regularly on our own trips. Please do not contact us about this, as this is not something we can be flexible on.

Page Updated 31st May 2024