Thursday 5 August 2021
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Paddling Signals

Paddling signals are a vital form of communication used by kayakers, as rivers and oceans are loud places to be and communication can often be difficult.

We are going to introduce you to the main internationally recognised kayak river signals.


One hand straight up in the air. Paddle held straight upright.

Come down, Ok to paddle.


Two hands held out to the each side. Paddle help horizontally up in the air.



One finger held up and spun around in a circle

Eddy up – Catch an eddy and go to the side of the river


Paddle held vertically and swung from side to side

Distress signal.


Point. Hold a paddle and point to an area. Point whole arm, hand and finger to an area.

Paddle towards that direction.


Hand clenched in a fist on top of your helmet

Are you ok?


Top Tips

There are a number of different signals systems used around the world and often between different groups of paddlers. So it is always worth running through the signals you are going to use with each member of your paddling group at the start of each trip, before you head out on to the water, to avoid confusion and keep things safe.

Signal clearly.

If you are unsure of a signal it is always better to stop and wait.

No signal = No move.

See the river safety section for more information on signals and how to stay safe out on whitewater.