SUP on The Tideway
Safety on the Thames
The Thames in London – right up to Teddington is tidal with on of the biggest tidal ranges in the world. There are strong currents and risks to manage. It is also a busy stretch of river with commercial traffic, pleasure boats and rowers.
The following FAQ covers most of the things we are asked throughout the year by our customers and others planning their own Thames adventures. We strongly advise that everyone intending to paddle the Tideway unguided downloads and reads the Tideway Code which you can find here
It’s tidal all the way from the sea at Southend up to Teddington Lock. Tides above Richmond Lock are mostly weaker but still strong enough to be dangerous to the unprepared and inexperienced.
No licence is required for individual paddlers on the Tideway but above Teddington Lock you require an Environment Agency Licence or British Canoeing (BC) membership.
There are few restrictions on Stand up Paddleboarding during the daytime above Putney. Night SUP is restricted and you need to be TSK1 (Thames Skills and Knowledge 1) trained to paddle at night. Downriver of Putney Pier you need to be TSK1 trained and paddle in groups or be TSK2 trained. You should read the Tideway Code (PLA Website) if you intend to paddle below Putney Pier so that you can become familiar with the restrictions. Active runs TS courses throughout the year with theory parts on Zoom and practical parts on the river.
Anything which can pin (hold) a paddler in the tidal current can be a hazard. This includes trees, pontoons, moored boats, jetties and bridge piers. Also river traffic of all types from rowers to large tugs towing barges
This is possible with PLA permission which will be given if you have sufficient training and experience or if you have some relevant experience and are guided by an LKE (Local Knowledge Endorsement) qualified river guide. We can put you in touch with LKE guides if you are planning this.
Yes, above Putney if you have taken TSK1 training (refer to the Tideway Code) or down to Chelsea Bridge if you are part of an organised and TSK trained group.
Thames Source to Sea his is a big undertaking and takes careful planning and resources. They will require a detailed Passage Plan which gives timings and risks you expect to encounter on each stretch of river through London and on to the sea. Generally South is regarded as open sea but it would be reasonable for a Source to Sea to finish at various points below this e.g Gravesend, Greenwich, Putney, Kew Bridge or even Teddington (the start of the Tideway). By deciding to finish at an earlier point on the river you will greatly reduce your costs, risk and hassle while still completing a substantial achievement. Unless you are a very experienced SUP paddler you should be thinking or an earlier finish point. Downriver of Putney you will generally need to be guided by an LKE (Local Knowledge Endorsement) qualified kayaker or safety boat pilot. We can suggest a few who may be willing to do this and costs are likely to be £250 per day upward.
Sea to Source
Paddling far against the tides is not really feasible so you will need to use 3-4 flood tides to get from the sea to Teddington and to get to Putney you will generally need to be guided by an LKE (Local Knowledge Endorsement) qualified kayaker or safety boat pilot. After Teddington you will be heading upriver against the constant fluvial flow of the river which for long distances in only feasible in low flow conditions (generally summer).
We can help with advice, passage planning, seeking permission from authorities and other aspects. We can do this online via Zoom meetings which we charge for in advance. This is all subject to our time availability as we have many requests.
Yes of course if you are experienced and understand the risks and how to manage them. The Tideway is generally not a safe environment for inexperienced or unskilled paddlers because of its strong tidal currents and many moored boats, pontoons and jetties. It’s also a busy stretch of river
You will need to get your passage through London to the sea agreed by the Thames Harbourmasters and you can contact them via the PLA recreation team on Recreation@pla.co.uk. The PLA website also has useful information and you can find the Tideway Code there. This Code of practice is referred to and discussed in numerous parts of our Thames Skills and Knowledge courses.
These should never be used on tidal rivers (or in our opinion any rivers) or estuaries because of the risk of entanglement and drowning. Use a quick release (QR) leash (waist)belt or QR buoyancy aid attachment. In a slow moving, weak current lead leashes are not really dangerous and may add to safety but river currents can speed up quickly with heavy rainfall upriver so only very experienced river paddlers are able to assess the risks constantly. Leg leashes are of course safe on open sea and in lakes and generally they can be the best option for open water paddling without obstructions as there are very few circumstances in open water where you would need to release from your board in a hurry and of course, accidental release could increase risks.
It’s always best to be dressed to take account of possible immersion . In summer light thermal are generally best and in winter a wetsuit or drysuit is often best. A light long John wetsuit (no sleeves) is often ideal except in summer temperatures over 15c
They protect you from cold water shock and hypothermia and if its necessary to separate from your board or if this happens accidentally you will still be buoyant even in strong currents so survival is likely.
Kew Bridge Tide Times 2024
These are the estimated tide times for Kew Bridge. They have been calculated by us using tidal data from the Port of London Authority for London Bridge.
Remember although this data is generally very accurate these predictions are made in advance so it’s always useful to check nearer the time using the PLA website or another one of the free tidal apps – we recommend Tides near me. Also take into account other factors – Fluvial flow after heavy rainfall etc. If you would like to learn more about the tides check out the Thames Skills & Knowledge course.