Steffi shares her experiences from her recent British Canoeing 4 Star White Water Kayak Assessment…


I am sitting in front of the open fire with my dog Mr Bumble (honorary Regents Canoe Club dog member who is acting as a very good foot warmer) reflecting on my 4* assessment which coincided with the March 2016 Mile End Mill trip. I am not sure what to write about but remember that during the RCC Training Meeting a number of questions were asked about what the difference between coaching and leading is and what the British Canoeing Star Awards are about. Mh, I am thinking, why not try and attempt a brief summary? Mh, I’m thinking further…the club is in need of more coaches and leaders. You may well have heard the committee talk about this. Mh, once again… there was some criticism that maybe as a club we do not promote the British Canoeing progression steps enough. Well, if I’m honest, anyone attempting to make sense of the British Canoeing website is being seriously challenged and as such as I can understand the confusion. But, we do need your help and we do listen to what is said and we do try and act upon what is said. There are a number of proposals coming up at the AGM – please do come along as these might well help you to get onto the leadership/coaching ladder. In the meantime, here is my attempt to make some sense of the British Canoeing progression ladder.

BCU 2 Star Training Notes (no prerequisites):

Personal Skills in a Kayak and an Open Boat which include:

  • Forward paddling (250m; awareness of posture, body rotation, awareness of use of major muscle groups)
  • Steering (steering solutions such as stern sweeps, rudders and j stroke and how the paddle effects movement)
  • Manoeuvring (controlling direction in a tight space)
  • Moving sideways (awareness and use of two different ways)
  • Preventing capsizing (awareness and use of different support strokes)
  • Turning (awareness and use of different strokes and edges to achieve turning; awareness of trim)
  • Rescue skills (self rescue)
  • Personal safety (basic journey planning, use of weather information, basic map work, how to keep together as a group)
  • Some theory (basic first aid, access, environment, equipment)


BCU 3 Star Training Notes (2 * required):

Personal Skills in a Kayak which include:

  • Forward paddling (key points of good forward paddling with emphasis of engaging larger muscle group such as the torso and legs; stopping & acceleration, controlled figure of 8 course)
  • Turning on the move (awareness and use of speed, boat tilt)
  • Moving sideways on the move
  • Support strokes both static and on the move (awareness of high and low brace, hip and body movement)
  • Rolling
  • Breaking in and out of the flow
  • Ferry Gliding
  • S turns
  • Rescue Skills (use of tapes and karabiners; use of throw line; capsize skills)
  • Leadership skills (equipment, hydration, identifying hazards, choosing suitable lines to paddle = river reading)
  • Theory (equipment, hydrology of river = river reading; first aid, communication strategies, navigation)
  • Preventing capsizing (awareness and use of different support strokes)
  • Turning (awareness and use of different strokes and edges to achieve turning; awareness of trip)
  • Rescue skills (self rescue)
  • Personal safety (basic journey planning, use of weather information, basic map work, how to keep together as a group)
  • Some theory (basic first aid, access, environment, equipment)


BCU 4 Star White Water Kayak Leader Syllabus (3* required):

‘… the candidate has the skill level required to lead a group of 4 paddlers (not including themselves) in appropriate locations, up to moderate white water conditions [grade 3 white water or equivalent weirs] and to judge the conditions and the standard of the group and make appropriate decisions.’ Leading a group entails ensuring paddler’s safety and fun. In terms of the British Canoeing definition, it does not include developing paddlers’ personal skills (coaching). That said, good leadership includes stopping at features to allow people to play and henceforth enhance their skills; id does entail encouraging paddlers to e.g. eddy hop as this is a skill required for running rivers safely. The main difference is that a coach would stop at features and teach and give people feedback about their personal skills.

‘The BCU 4 Start Leader Award is a leadership award and not a coaching award.’

To achieve this level:

  • 4* formal training in personal skills [river running skills such a breaking in and out; ferry gliding; s-turns; surfing small waves; paddling into and out of stoppers; moving sideways on the move; rolling] and leadership [tactical understanding in respect of positioning, safety awareness, group control ; throw line use; capsizing support]
  • White Water Safety and Rescue
  • Evidence of experience paddling in 4 different regions and must include:
    • Paddling with a variety of groups, variety of levels including narrow and wider rivers
    • 12 grade 3 river trips as a member of a group
    • 12 grade 2(3) river trips as an assistant


BCU Level 1 Coaching Course Guide:

For people who wish to work with paddlers. A level 1 coaching qualification enables to coach on flat/sheltered water. A level 1 coach can plan, deliver, review short coaching sessions normally with the support of a more qualified coach. They can work with paddlers at any stage of development most commonly within their first year of activity e.g. run taster sessions. The training and qualification includes topics such as:

  • Prepare activities taking account of people’s needs and motives
  • Establish a safe environment
  • How to coach taking account of different learning styles and needs
  • Evaluate the sessions
  • Coach forward paddling, turning and controlling, getting in and out of a boat, capsizing, and personal risk management

To achieve this level:

  • BCU 2 Star Award
  • Foundation Safety and Rescue

A level 2 coach is able to plan, deliver and review a series of six progressive sessions on flat/sheltered water. Level 2 coaches will predominantly work with paddlers in their first 3 years of paddling.


I know there are a number of you out there who would like to get more involved. This is my call – please get in touch with me and I promise I will get you involved. It would help me to know whether you might be more interested in organising a club trip, help with coaching or would like to assist with things like equipment maintenance/hire; organising training events e.g. rolling course/New Members Evening, Beginners Courses, Drop In Sessions or social events.   Depending on what you are interested in, I am happy to talk you through what it would entail which would allow you to assess how much time it might take. The new club year is starting in June and that means we need to ‘allocate’ trip organisers to the various different club trips. There are a number of coached sessions planned including some more forward paddling and river running/river reading Drop In Sessions. There are Rolling Courses and Star Award Training Sessions planned and there is another Beginners Course starting. So, get helping – you can get me on [email protected] or 07903 964010.


Steffi on a trip to Slovenia