The British Canoe
Union's program of training, assessment and coach education
has made its incursions into the United States among the
American sea kayaking crowd. Sea paddling conditions in The
UK are demanding enough that the sport is well-developed there
and BCU rough water skills and teaching techniques are safe
Although the BCU is the governing body of paddle sport in
the UK (England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland) its popularity
in the U.S has allowed the establishment of a North American
branch and an associated body of coaches and students. More
than 20,000 BCU coaches worldwide teach more than 800,000
students annually. See www.bcuna.com
for more information.
Instructional Programs -
The basic structure, major goals, and essential purposes of
the BCU's instructional courses are to teach and encourage
safety, fun and independence by students. But also to train
and support a large body of qualified instructors, coaches
and assessors that deliver approved course material to national
and international standards of care and performance. The BCU
programs are organized by the craft being used as well as
the levels of difficulty in which the paddling occurs.
BCU personal skills -
The Star Awards. The BCU's programs are organized by craft
(canoe, kayak, etc.) and venue (sea, inland, surf, polo, etc.).
The norm for a BCU paddling skills course will be to focus
your learning on a progression of skills appropriate to your
level of experience that will help you become an independent
paddler as soon as possible. In the personal skills training
used by the BCU, you are exposed to proper practices in the
training programs (classes), but are then encouraged "practice"
(code for go paddling) in order to develop and incorporate
these skills into your "unconscious". This is also
called building "motor memory", making the skills
automatic, or even intuitive.
BCU discipline, in this example "closed cockpit kayaks",
the BCU has produced a series of personal paddling skills
syllabi. These syllabi provide guidance for coaches and students
in the proper performance of the skills, and are also the
assessment criteria for each skill level, see:
BCU training courses
that prepare you for Star awards/test assessments are generally
arranged in increasing orders of difficulty. One through three
star awards teach total control of the kayak in flat water
and in the absence of wind, waves and current. The 1-3 star
tests for each discipline include all "generic"
skills that specific kayaking disciplines (sea, surf, whitewater)
have in common. Four star skills are the point where you begin
the application of the 1-3 star (generic) skills to a particular
environment, let's say, sea kayaking. Five star is the highest
personal skills award, and in most ways it's more about leadership.
Summary of BCU Kayaking and Sea Kayaking
Flat water Skills: 1-3
Star - Closed Cockpit Kayak
Star" protected water, basic skills
A general encouragement award.
You should have some basic knowledge of kayaking and paddling
in general. This level encourages safe practice, regard for
your equipment, and fun.
"Two Star" sheltered water, simple coastlines
The beginning of your kayak skill development; a successful 2 star assessment requires good basic skills "emphasizing being able to create the desired movement of the boat through developing an understanding of cause and effect rather than concentrating on rigidly defined strokes".
A successful 2 star assessment requires good basic skills "emphasizing being able to create the desired movement of the boat through developing an understanding of cause and effect rather than concentrating on rigidly defined strokes". A sampling of 2 Star skills includes: efficient forward paddling, moving the kayak sideways, good bracing either side, good stern rudder, low brace turn. Also included are the beginnings of sculling draw, sculling for support, Eskimo rescue emphasizing the "use of hips and knees to recover from an upside down position", deep water rescues and edging.
perfect control of the boat, beginning to control the boat
The beginning of intermediate
level paddling and crisp, definite strokes and maneuvers must
be in evidence.
A sampling of 3 Star skills
includes: efficient forward paddling, paddling a reverse figure-8
course cleanly, turning the kayak by low brace turn and a
bow rudder, moving the kayak sideways while on the move, sculling
draw, draw on the move. This award also includes committed
high and low braces on both sides, edging to assist turning,
hanging draw, deep water rescues, towing and use of tow line,
and the beginnings of rolling.
Sea Kayak Skills: 4 and 5 Star
Star - Sea Kayak" useful member of a group
up to moderate conditions
The beginning of advanced paddling,
transferal of 3 Star skills to the sea. This enables you to
take your kayak out in conditions up to three feet of surf
(4.5' breaking waves), three knots of tidal stream and 17
knots of wind (force 4) in a group with a competent leader.
An important part of 4 Star skills involves having good knowledge
of the kayak and equipment, the effects of tide, current,
and wind, basic safety procedures, hypothermia/first aid,
the use a chart and compass to plan a paddling trip, and group
"Five Star Sea" Expert-Leader
Five Star Sea is a leadership award. Successful assessment ensures that you have sufficient knowledge and skill to lead a group of adequate ability with safety in British conditions, i.e., more than three feet of surf, tidal streams of over 3 knots, and more than 25 knots of wind. This is intended for paddlers who paddle in areas where tidal races, headlands, open crossings, swell and challenging coastlines are encountered.
A sampling of 5 Star skills includes:
Paddling a minimum of 20 miles (in a 24 hr. period), crossings
of at least 5 miles, navigation in poor visibility and darkness.
Also paddling in winds of at least 11-16 knots; exposure to
no landing zones, tidal races and overfalls, paddling in swell
and waves; and a minimum of 8 hours first aid training.
You must be able to: control your kayak in a variety of demanding conditions, perform a variety of rescues, roll in rough water, be able to use different methods of towing, and have good group control skills. You must be proficient at camping out of your kayak, and demonstrate an ability to handle a wide range of mishaps on the sea.
The conditions for 5 Star assessments rarely exist in most regions where sea kayakers regularly paddle in the United States, and few American paddlers that seek or achieve this level of proficiency. Most American 5 star paddlers completed their assessment in the U.K. The first BCU 5 Star Sea Kayaking Skills Assessment in the United States will take place in San Francisco, during spring tides in October 2004. For more information, contact www.riptidesandrapids.com.