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The British Canoe Union (BCU) is the National Governing Body for the sport of canoeing and kayaking in the UK, helping and inspiring people to go canoeing. It formulates standards for training programmes with certification levels and accredits instructors to teach canoeing.

1887 saw the formation of the British Canoe Association, which lasted about thirty years. Revived in 1933, it merged with the Canoe Section of the Camping Club of Great Britain. In March 1936, representatives of the Canoe Section of the Camping Club, Clyde Canoe Club, Manchester Canoe Club and the Royal Canoe Clubmarker formed the British Canoe Union.

The BCU is an umbrella organisation which brings together Britain's separate paddlesport organisations: Canoe England, The Scottish Canoe Association, The Welsh Canoeing Association and The Canoe Association of Northern Ireland. It is concerned with all paddlesports in the UK, recreational as well as competitive, in open and closed craft, paddled with single and double-bladed paddles, on inland and coastal waters as well as open ocean.

The organisation creates the rules for competitive canoeing used throughout the UK and has over 30,000 individual members, 625 affiliated clubs and 145 approved centres. It is now approaching its 70th anniversary and is running a photo competition to celebrate.

The BCU also recently started a Rivers Access Campaign which aims to raise public awareness of the problems that kayakers and canoeists face in accessing the rivers of England and Wales (the right to paddle on Scottish rivers is already written into the law). The campaign aims to bring about changes in the law for England and Wales similar to those now established in Scotland that will open up more rivers to the public.

"Canoeing" refers to the paddling of an open, non-decked craft (though there are decked canoes) propelled by a single-bladed paddle in a kneeling position, while "kayaking" involves a closed-deck craft driven by a double-bladed paddle from a seated position. It should be noted that the term "canoeing" in the UK is often used generically to cover both kayaking and canoeing, in contrast to North American usage where the different terms are used.

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