Demystifying Courses - SUP Sheltered Water Award

Demystifying Courses - SUP Sheltered Water Award

Over the next few months, we'll be putting together some blogs on the outdoor qualifications and awards that we offer, to help clarify the pathways for progressing your personal paddling or for entering the outdoor industry as a career. Next up, is the Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Sheltered Water Award! Reach Outdoors is a British Canoeing Delivery Partner and offer a variety of activities and courses throughout the year. 

The SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) Sheltered Water award is a paddleboarding development course, designed to provide you with confidence being an independent paddler in sheltered water. The award is put together by British Canoeing, who are the national governing body for paddlesports in the UK.

It is a great progression from an introductory session if you’re looking to move on to independent paddles or journeys without professional instruction. It provides paddlers with confidence to take journeys safely with peers in a social setting .

The course itself covers:

  • Choosing a location to paddle and the factors that may affect it
  • What kit and equipment you might need
  • Safety and rescue
  • Personal paddling skills, including forward paddling, manoeuvring, and keeping balance on the board in different conditions.
  • Reviewing a journey for future personal development.

The course is run in “sheltered water”, which is classed as typically:

  •  less than 200m from an entry/exit point,
  • in winds not more than force 3 or 12mph, and
  • with limited or little water flow.

Factors that can change whether water is classed as “sheltered” or not are:

  • Wind
  • Surf/swell
  • Water movement and flow (e.g. river flow, or tidal flow)
  • How far you are from an entry/exit point to the water

It could be that on one day, you can paddle at a beach and it’s really calm water with light winds. The next day, it could be blowing a gale and it’s not safe to paddle, so knowing how to identify this is really important.

It does not have a formal assessment, but certain criteria do need to be met to get the award. It could be that at the end of your course, you and the instructor discuss a quick development plan for you to work towards to achieve the final bits of the award.

There is no minimum age to do the award, although on our open courses at Reach Outdoors, we do have a minimum age of 14 years old (bespoke courses available on request).

This award comes under the British Canoeing group of “Personal Performance Awards”. These are awards for developing your personal skills in paddling, on your chosen craft (e.g. SUP, kayak, canoe) in a certain environment (e.g. lake, sea, river).

Personal performance awards don’t qualify you to lead groups or take people out under your supervision. They can be used to supplement a leadership award, such as Paddlesports Leader, to show you’ve got a certain level of personal skill in addition to what’s required for the leadership qualification.

You do not need to be a member of British Canoeing to get this award.

How do we run the award at Reach Outdoors?

We run the SUP Sheltered Water over 2 x 5 hour days, so it’s 10 hours in total. Most of that is on the water, but some is spent in a classroom discussing scenarios, preparation, equipment and conditions. 

We ask that you have some previous paddleboarding experience (one of our 2 hour introductory sessions is about right) and that participants are at least 14 years old to attend one of our open courses.

If you are under 14 and interested in doing this award with us, please pop us an email. We can put on courses for private groups providing minimum numbers are met.

We provide all the equipment required (e.g. wetsuit, buoyancy aid, helmet, board, paddle, leash and fin) but you are welcome to use your own if you’d like, providing they are suitable.

Often, we’ll paddle at different locations on each of the days to give some variety and try to get to the limit of the conditions required for the award. Being based at Goodrington Sands Beach in Torbay provides access to a whole range of coves and beaches, as well as some nearby estuaries.

Our next SUP Sheltered Water Award is on 17th-18th November 2022. To book on, visit our online calendar at or for further dates and prices, check out our webpage here: 

For further information, or to enquire about other dates, please email

Reach Outdoors is based in the English Riviera. Check out for accommodation providers or other fantastic things to do when you are in the area.

To find full information on the award, and find a provider local to you, visit



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