Details are given, below, of a classification system that the club will adopt to indicate the level of paddling difficulty that might be anticipated on a given trip, and, thus, the suitability of that trip for the individual paddlers.

A recognised International Grading System exists to classify rivers in terms of the difficulty of their navigation. While this grading system is very useful, you should be aware of its limitations:


  • The grades are vague, to cover a wide variety of types of river and rapid and grading is very subjective;

  • It gives no information about the volume of water;

  • While, generally, the risk to life and limb rises with the grade, this is not always the case and danger is not specifically included in the grading;

  • A rivers grade will normally rise (and sometimes fall) with rising water levels;

  • Weirs are excluded from the grading - these, as a matter of course, should be inspected.



Paddler Ability

Description of Water



The Novice:

beginner under supervision

Small lakes, canals and sheltered still inland waters



The Beginner:

1-star intro to moving water

Gently moving water with occasional small rapids and few or no obstructions. E.g. River Avon



The Improver:

2-star paddler

Small rapids which are easy to navigate with an easily recognisable route with regular waves, small stoppers, drops and eddies. E.g. Dart: Holne Bridge to Buckfast



The Intermediate or Proficient:

3 or 4-star paddler with some white-water experience

Larger rapids with irregular waves, stoppers, drops and obstructions. While the route is still recognisable, more complex manoeuvres are required to negotiate rocks, stop in eddies and cross currents.

E.g. Dart: Loop, Usk: Mill Falls


Very Difficult

The Proficient or Advanced:

a 4 or 5-star paddler where rolling ability is often needed

Large rapids and falls with long continuous stretches that may be difficult to read. Inspection is usually necessary from the bank. Precise manoeuvring required to negotiate challenging water.

E.g. Upper Dart, Dee: Town Falls


Extremely Difficult

The Advanced:

5-star paddler. Rolling ability must be bombproof

Complex and difficult rapids. The water is always fast, often heavy, with holding stoppers, narrow passages, steep gradients and falls. Inspection is essential, the route is often difficult to detect. A hazard to life.

E.g. Upper Dart @ high levels



Go with another club!

Extreme - nearly impossible and high risk