Kayaking and Canoeing on the River Thames


Kayaking and Canoeing on the River Thames

The River Thames is a very popular river for kayakers and canoeists, and has been practised for over a hundred years at clubs such as the Royal Canoe Club.

Tidal waters

The tidal section is popular for sea kayakers and experienced tourers. One of the few places you can paddle through a capital city directly to the sea in only a few hours.

Non-tidal section

Starting from the Teddington Lock in London the Thames becomes freshwater as it snakes across England. A place many people learn to kayak and canoe. Fairly slow and very flat, absolute beginners can put in and admire Southern England's countryside.

Thames weirs

The Thames has some of the best weirs in England, many of which have relatively easy access and tolerant lock keepers. The levels are checked by many paddlers and are reported on websites detailed in the external links section below.

The guide below specifies the minimum recommended skill level, and the inherent danger at paddling at the location.

Low water

Boulter's Weir flume

* Works during - Only in Summer. No rain needed, but can stop working after long drought
* Skill level - Low/Intermediate
* Dangers - Very low

:The most popular low water summer location on the Thames. Works in almost all low water conditions throughout the dry periods. The ramp is installed and removed for the summer period.


=Chertsey Weir pourover=

* Works during - Summer. No rain needed, but can stop working after long drought
* Skill level - Low/Intermediate
* Dangers - Very low

:The second most popular low water weir. Ideal for both playboaters and squirt boaters especially during the summer, providing deep underwater action and a place to sink ends. At very high levels other parts of the weir produce ever more powerful seams.


=Abingdon Weir=

* Works during - Late spring/mid-autumn
* Skill level - Low/Intermediate
* Dangers - Low:Works when the spring waters are dropping to summer levels, any higher and is too retentive.

Medium water

Hurley Weir

* Works during - Autumn/Winter/Spring
* Skill level - Low/Intermediate/Expert
* Danger - Low

:The most popular weir for playboating on the Thames. Attracts people from across the UK and the world with its reliability during the winter season, quality of feature and safe surroundings (deep, and no obstructions underwater).

Hambledon Weir

* Works during - Autumn/Winter/Spring
* Skill level - Intermediate
* Danger - Low

:Once was the Thames' most popular playspot, it lost its crown during a 90s upgrade which was only partially restored after air-pumped kicker ramps were put in front of the main gates. Washes out when Hurley is on a very high 4 gates. Produces a powerful surging wave, and reasonable kickings after a capsize.

Boulter's Weir wave

* Works during - Autumn/Winter/Spring
* Skill level - Intermediate/Expert
* Dangers - Medium. Shallow wave, and retentive stopper

:Boulter's wave was one of the best high volume spots on the Thames until it was rebuilt in the 90s. Since the work has been made on a ramp in front one of the gates. So far this has not produced the expected results, combined with the lock keeper's gate opening sequence.

:At near flood levels, a second wave on the wave train can be surfed. It is often surging, and not always retentive.

utton Courtenay Weir

* Works during - Autumn/Winter/Spring
* Skill level - Low/Intermediate
* Dangers - Medium. Stay away from the main gates (1st weir) - these are terminal. 3rd weir downstream is very shallow with rocks.

High water


=Shepperton Weir=

* Works during - Autumn/Winter, after heavy rain
* Skill level - Intermediate/Expert
* Danger - Medium. Large pour-overs either side of the main feature

:A high water venue when the Thames is almost bank full. Produces a fast bowling wave at certain pool levels on 8-9 gates, and a large hole at other times (10 gates, with a high pool level).


=Sunbury Weir=

* Works during - Autumn/Winter, after heavy rain
* Skill level - Expert
* Danger - Medium. Hole and wave train which can provide beatings and down-time

:Also known as Hawaii-Sur-Thames (after Hawaii-sur-Rhone) as the highest volume playspot. Under the right conditions a wave/hole forms to rival any international big water feature. Let down only slightly by its poor eddy service. A recent discovery after being redeveloped in 2005. When all 7 gates are open it can start to wash out but still be a fun paddle.


=Marsh Weir=

* Works during - Autumn/Winter, after prolonged heavy rain
* Skill level - Intermediate
* Danger - Medium/High. Bridge and underwater obstructions

:Redeveloped in 2003, a very friendly river-wide wave/hole. Getting onto the weir can be hard at certain gate settings. Long rides with multiple paddlers sharing the same feature are possible due to its even nature. This would be an ideal beginner spot if not for the immediate danger on the wave train after it. Pinning and entrapment is a real possibility - a fast 100% roll is essential.

Flood level


=Mapledurham Weir=

* Works during - Autumn/Winter, after sustained heavy rain and flooding
* Skill level - Low/Intermediate
* Danger - Low

:When most of the weirs on the Thames are washed out or terminal stoppers, Mapledurham starts working. Despite this fact, it's fairly safe between the main gates thanks to the low angle of water coming through, a good high water weir.


=Marlow Weir=

* Works during - Autumn/Winter, after sustained heavy rain and severe flooding
* Skill level - Intermediate
* Danger - Medium

:Fairly unpopular due to poor bank access and unguessable water levels. Wave/hole combinations appear at certain levels. Sticky stoppers to avoid. When all else (including Mapledurham) is washed out, Marlow will be working.

External links

* [http://www.tvfreestylers.co.uk/ Thames Valley Freestylers weir levels]
* [http://www.whitewaterthecanoecentre.co.uk/shepperton-weir.html Shepperton, the whitewater centre weir levels]


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