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Overview of Paddle Boarding Qualifications

Paddle boarding is new, fast growing & exciting. There are quite a few organisations providing credible paths to qualifications so have a read and decide which one is best for you.

In Summary, there are 4 awarding bodies:

  • Academy of Surf Instructors (ASI)
  • British Canoeing (BC)
  • British Stand Up Paddle Association (BSUPA)
  • Water Skills Academy (WSA)

Each organisation has a very different background and approach to paddle boarding which is reflected in the awards you get and how you get them. This also means that your watersport background and ambitions will have an impact on what awards you choose. Whether you are from the buoyancy aid – donning whitewater kayak crew or from the powerboat-driving wind & surf gurus, there is certainly something interesting and exciting in paddle boarding for you. Is it an extension of surfing? Is it a paddle sport? Is it a ‘thing’ in its own right? Try it and make your own mind up.


Academy of Surfing

ASI is a very well established international surfing organisation. As it is international (originating in Australia) the awards are more recognised around the world and they now have a small office in the UK. It’s worth noting that the ASI is one of the few organisations that are entirely focused on education & training and in some countries, they are endorsed by governmental education programmes. They have a very well developed suite of awards but not all of them are readily available in the UK. There are about 4 or 5 ASI approved school in the UK that run training courses.

More information on the ASI pathway

British Stand Up Paddle Association

BSUPA was formed from a UK based kitesurfing/windsurfing/surfing scene to try to best represent paddle boarding. The guys and girls that run it are all very experienced and work in the industry which means they all have their fingers on the pulse of what’s needed. It’s reasonably new and evolving organisation and is the only SUP specific one of the awarding bodies. It’s probably fair to say that they have the second most comprehensive suite (in terms of the number of courses and pathways) of SUP awards behind ASI. Their awards are more geared towards people wishing to work at locations with lots of wind sports on offer.

More information on the BSUPA pathway

British Canoeing

Awarding bodies don’t get more recognised than good old BC. As an official NGB, they’ve been issuing awards for years for canoeing & kayaking. However, the juggernaut that is BC has been very slow to react to the rise of paddle boarding and as a result, has a very limited qualification offering (i.e. only one short one!) We are assured that the newly appointed paddle boarding committee is working on a more comprehensive offering. How long this will take is anyone’s guess but once they are out we are confident they will be a robust offering and certainly a good option for those with existing BC qualifications. It will be interesting to see if they could capture SUPers from the surfing scene.

More information on the BC Discipline Support Module


Water Skills Academy

The Water Skills Academy is a newly formed organisation who are developing awards and training in various niches with the UK watersports industry such as multi-person paddle boards, sit-on-top kayaking and coasteering. They also do lots of lifesaving work. It’s run by people from many aspect of watersports which means they have a well-rounded skill set as an organisation and can combine all the trains of thought from all areas of watersports which perhaps the other organisation may struggle with. They have created a framework for paddle boarding qualifications which is in development.

WSA has lots of awards listed on their webpage here

WSA Foundation Coach

Remit – Sheltered water environments

Prerequisites – WSA Rescue first aid or a recognised lifeguarding award 

Getting it – Its a 2-day course with a 1-day assessment

Cost – It costs £280

For more information see here

With thanks to,

Thanks to Tim at SUP Bristol for helping with this article. SUP Bristol is the leading SUP organisations in the South.


Categories: Paddle Boarding