Good choice. Marathon Canoeing is fun right from beginner to international level, a physically and mentally challenging sport, and it gets you a beautiful, nature-rich environment you don't usually get to see from roads or footpaths.
The best first step would be to find a local club (click here for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland), or contact one of our regional representatives who can give more detailed advice depending on your preferences and abilities.
Clubs usually hold a stock of boats and paddles for beginner members. The highest performance Marathon Canoe Racing boats are designed for speed: long, thin and unstable for beginners. But like a bicycle, with a bit of practice and hopefully very few swims you get the hang of it. So it's usually better to wait until you've reached a level you're comfortable with before investing in your own equipment. When you do, you'll find a list of suppliers on this site.
Marathon Canoeing includes Kayaking (using a paddle with two blades) and Canoeing (using a single blade). There are also races for singles (classified as K1 and C1), and doubles (K2 and C2). Very occasionally there are also K4 marathon races. Races are organised all over the country, typically every weekend between March and October and a few over the winter too. Click here to see the racing calendar.
Beginners and juniors are encouraged to wear buoyancy aids (and racing rules require it for younger paddlers and those in lower divisions). A marathon racer doesn't usually have to rely on one to stay afloat, the aim is to stay in the boat and get to the finish. More advanced and adult paddlers may choose not to wear one, once they are comfortable with the boat they are in and the water they are on.