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Recreation - Non Motorised Water Sports

Sailing Density in the Solent

Non-motorised watercraft is a generic term which includes both small sailing boats (without a motor) and also paddlesports. Small sailing boats include dinghies, day boats or other small keelboats which are usually taken out of water at end of use. Paddlesports is a term for a range of watersports which involve the use of a paddle for propulsion. This includes sea kayaking, surf kayaking, sit-on-top kayaking, Canadian canoeing and stand up paddle boarding (SUP).

Most small sail boat activity occurs in relatively sheltered areas. Vessels are launched from slipways or sheltered beaches using a trailer or trollies. Activity is centred around sailing clubs, activity centres, harbours and marinas. Paddlesports are generally undertaken close inshore (typically within 1-2 km of the coast). Watercraft that are used for paddling activities have a shallow draught. This allows access to shallow areas of the coast (which are often inaccessible to larger vessels or humans on foot). The focuses of these activities is generally centred around beaches and exploring interesting coastal features such as rock formations (sea caves, arches, cliffs etc), inlets, estuaries and wildlife. Kayaks are also increasingly used as a platform for recreational fishing.

Map of Activity

The map on this page illustrates the potential for sailing activity in English waters as part of the MMO1064 marine recreation modelling project. The areas of highest potential are shown in red, progressing down through orange and yellow to green. Use the MMO Explore Marine Plans service for more detailed information.


The main impacts arising from this activity category are considered to be:

Source: Marine recreation evidence briefing: Non-motorised watercraft including paddlesports (EIN028).


The WiSe Scheme is the UK National training scheme for minimising disturbance to marine wildlife. Its adventure course has been developed to meet the needs of professional 'adventure' practitioners whose activities take place in the coastal/inter-tidal zone, such as sea kayaking, coasteering, stand up paddle boarding, wild swimming, etc. Accredited Adventure WiSe course attendees commit to abide by not only national and local laws on wildlife conservation and disturbance avoidance, but also the WiSe Codes of Conduct, in addition to any local wildlife-watching codes.

Operation Seabird

A rise in marine life disturbances being reported and the predicted rise in numbers of visitors to our coastlines due to the stay local and staycation messages for Summer 2021,  has led to the creation of the Operation Seabird (#opseabird) campaign. Operation Seabird hopes to tackle disturbance to marine life by providing education and guidance to prevent wildlife disturbances then prosecute with the support of the local police forces and the MMO where necessary.

Paddlesport Guidelines to Avoid Bird Disturbance in Solent Marine Sites

Guidelines for paddlesports were produced by the Solent Forum’s Natural Environment Group’s working group on recreation; the Recreation Focus Group (RFG). The RFG was established to look at the issue of disturbance to birds from paddlesports; an action identified by the Solent’s Relevant Authorities in the Solent European Marine Sites (SEMS) annual survey. They also help to meet actions on recreation identified in Natural England’s Solent Site Improvement Plan (SIP).

These Guidelines are designed to give generic consistent advice for Paddlesports users across all SEMS sites; they have been circulated to all SEMS Relevant Authorities (RAs). It is hoped that these Authorities will take this guidance and transpose it into their existing publications, digital media, maps and signage. It will help them to fulfill their requirements for managing activities under the EU Habitats Directive.

SUP life and Bird life

The British Stand up Paddleboard Association (BSUPA) have teamed up with the RSPB to promote a code of conduct to enjoy bird life found in our water areas without adversely impacting breading areas or negatively affecting the bird life in other ways:

Resources and Best Practice Material