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

Sean shares his experiences from his recent Moderate Water Endorsement Assessment…

The journey so far

Moderate Water Endorsement is the next coaching qualification for White Water after becoming a UKCC British Canoeing Level 2 coach. Getting to the point of assessment was a long and bumpy journey not without its trials and tribulations but you can read other articles for those.

Dartmoor in the cold and wet

The assessment is for a maximum of two assessees at a time. I had no friends ready at this point and was determined to get my assessment done before my big birthday in December so I booked onto an assessment with Darren Joy of Fluid Skills. I’d heard about Darren but never paddled or been coached by him before. So off I headed on a dark and dismal Thursday afternoon for the drive down to Dartmoor. I had planned on boating the Loop on the Thursday just to get my bearings as it had been almost a year since I was last on the Loop – but that never happened. I got sidetracked talking to folks at Lee Valley and got some helpful handy hints for the assessment from Dan.

I checked into the hotel and had a terrible night’s sleep as I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that could go wrong on the assessment! Needless to say I woke somewhat shattered and not ready for the assessment. I then was a bit gobsmacked that even Ashburton gets morning rush hour traffic so my plan to check the levels before I met Darren at the Dart River Country Park wasn’t the wisest. Luckily I made it time and didn’t appear too flustered (I hope).

Having never met Darren before and my efforts in Face-stalking had failed – I didn’t really know who I was meeting. Luckily his van is branded!


The assessment

There wasn’t really any time to sit back and relax. The assessment started pretty much straight away with Darren reviewing all my pre-requisite credentials and giving me a very thorough grilling over my coaching logbook. There was a point during this that I thought I had already failed before we even got on the water!

I was then given two students: Sarah & Jordan. Both very nice people and got to chatting with them. Apparently I’m long winded and need to just get to the point! Oops! After a quick chat with the other assessee, we agreed to both take our groups on the Dart Loop a) because we couldn’t go to different rivers and be assessed and b) it was pretty damn convenient.

The start of my session on the Loop was awful. In hindsight I felt sorry for Jordan and Sarah. I was so worried about the assessment that I forgot to actually have fun – I was delivering textbook coaching techniques but with about as much enthusiasm as getting out of bed for work! Darren pulled me aside at one point and gave me a couple of review points. Being so hung up about the assessment, I thought he was telling me I’d failed. I think that was the best thing to have happened because I completely changed from that moment and decided to have fun and make the session as much about Sarah & Jordan as I could. During the debrief after the assessment, both Sarah & Jordan both commented that it was 100 times better as soon as I switched. God I hate assessments!!!

Sarah & Jordan were great guinea pigs for the day. Not a single swim between them so I had to have a “staged” rescue scenario for Darren to observe my rescue skills. Jordan stepped up to the plate and swam down Triple Steps for me to rescue him. I then had to demonstrate rolling for my self rescues – thankfully no mandatory self swim!

Shortly after this Darren paddled up to me and shook my hand and congratulated me on passing. Expletives almost fell out of my mouth at the sheer excitement! I was so happy and we hadn’t even finished the Loop yet. As we set off paddling downstream, Jordan then told me the whammy – he had actually just done his MWE training the previous week with Darren and was looking to see what the assessment was like. For his little fib, I pushed him over 🙂

The wrap up

We all met in a pub in Ashburton that I’d never been to before but will do again – though its name escapes me! It has a big fireplace! The debrief and signing of paperwork was perfect – relaxing and good fun. Got personalised feedback from the students and from Darren which was great. Darren’s parting words were to just get on and do my 5* assessment and then do my Advanced Water Endorsement training. Urgh! And just when I thought I’d done enough….. there are more steps to climb!

I wish I could say that’s where it ends – but that wouldn’t be doing British Canoeing justice. My certificate arrived in the post three weeks later along with a coaching logbook to become a 3* assessor…. MORE coaching, more logbook hours, more paperwork! It never ends *sigh*

Sean on a recent trip to Scotland

Sean shares his experiences from his recent Moderate Water Endorsement Training…

The background

Moderate Water Endorsement training is the second step after becoming a UKCC British Canoeing Level 2 coach. The first is British Canoeing Four Star Assessment in the chosen discipline. Getting to this point fells like a maze of bureaucracy and red tape but once you get here it all seems a little clearer and the hoops you’ve jumped through to get to this point all seem a little more aligned than they at first seemed.


More paperwork, planning and pleading

After the paperwork involved in getting through my Level 2 coaching qualification, I felt it was time to get on with some actual coaching. Yes, there is a lot more of actual coaching this time round but there’s still the inevitable paperwork and keeping my paddling log up to date. I registered with British Canoeing for my Moderate Water Endorsement (MWE) Training and was issued with another half a tree of guidance, assessment criteria and course materials. It’s a lot of reading and preparation.


I had originally planned to do my MWE with my friend Jess but unfortunately she moved on from this world and I had to take the next step on my own. I wish she could have done the training with me as it was such a fun weekend and having done our 4 Star Assessments together, I knew we would have had a blast together.

The weekend was originally meant to take place in Mid Wales but due to the lack of water, it was moved last minute to the Tryweryn in North Wales. A quick beg and plead to Clarissa and I managed to squeeze into the cottages she’d already hired in Llangollen for her peer paddle weekend.


The course itself

The weekend started with a briefing and talk about what to expect from the two days. Our first session was a peer paddle on the Upper Tryweryn (aka in Regents’ folklore as the “Upper Upper”) – we had to come up with very quick sessions demonstrating our coaching and observational skills. Surprisingly, we then ran the rest of the Upper down to Cafe Wave, each taking turns to run sessions on the way down – lots of fun but slightly weird turning a peer paddle into a coached session – it felt weird coaching fellow paddlers of similar paddling ability. It was also a little odd to be coaching in an over-remit environment – it kept us on our toes but was most definitely a valuable learning point. We then learnt some more on feedback and observational skills including use of video feedback. We finished the day with being handed out homework – I had not expected homework and was knackered already from eight hours of learning and paddling. We each had to write up a 30 minute lesson plan incorporating coaching skills, observational and feedback skills.

The Sunday started bright and early. First up was handing in our homework for review – thankfully I got positive feedback on the lesson plan. Next up – onto the river! We were going to run the Lower Tryweryn each incorporating some leading time and then “park and play” sessions as we went to deliver our prepared sessions. The day was long. We did some safety and rescue recap over lunch and each delivered our sessions with some great feedback from each other and from Matt, our head coach.

The end of the day came and I was prepared for a lengthy debrief and a hefty action plan. Maybe I shouldn’t be so tough on myself as my action plan was pretty much to just get on with the assessment. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome!

I learnt loads about how to apply the various coaching techniques on moving water and had a great time on the water at the same time. I’m looking forward to my assessment but not the paperwork pre-work that needs to be done first!


Sean shares the highs and lows on the journey to becoming a UKCC Level 2 coach…

The portfolio

At first glance, it seems quite straight forward – just complete a workbook and pull together a portfolio that includes a structured series of six progressive coached sessions. Simple. Not!

The workbook requires a lot of cross reading, reviewing and summarising. At times whilst completing it I felt like pulling out what little hair I have left on my head! It was however, beneficial in ensuring that I understand the differing styles of coaching and developmental needs of participants and students.

The six progressive coached sessions I thought would be pretty easy. I had arranged my students and surveyed them for what they wanted to work on. Dates lined up, session plans at the ready and my observer (Claire T) sorted. But things never go according to plan do they? My open boat session had to get moved as I had chosen the windiest and wettest day the canal had ever experienced and then two students had to drop out of the latter sessions (one because she had a little bump on the way). Anyway – it wasn’t over yet! More paperwork jumped out later to bite me!

I took the opportunity on the Alps trip last year to try out some different coaching techniques and tools. As a whole they were greatly received and I really enjoyed coaching boofing on Le Fournel with a group of people who were at first unsure then tried their hands at it and finally took on the big drop – a great day had by me and by the smiles on everyone else, I can only assume by them too.

Boofing the big drop on Le Fournel

Getting to grips with all the paperwork and add ons!

In October of 2014 I bumped into Rob who I did my L2 coach training with – he had spoken to Dan (Head Paddlesport Instructor at Lee Valley White Water Centre) and managed to wangle me a part time job! I wangled an extension to my L2 training validity and took on some great coaching opportunities and in addition had Dan mentor me on a lot of my portfolio and my actual coaching.

Dan convinced me not to wait for my L2 assessment before doing my 4 Star and 5 Star. So in December, I undertook my 4* training along with Steffi, Olga, Gemma, Clarissa & Ian. We had a blast – I somehow managed to get by with a cracked rib which I picked up two weeks earlier whilst paddling on the Olympic – even with a capsize that Ian came to give me a hand of god rescue and managed to push me back over cause I was actually rolling up at the time! All fun and games (and a little bit of pain). A brilliant couple of days on the Dart with some great friends and a few techniques I hadn’t practiced in ages.

Christmas came and went along with my fourth trip to Uganda. Lots more coaching and personal paddling. I then decided to actually go for my 4* assessment. I went with Jesse from work and it was brilliant working alongside her and being assessed together – we work really well together as a team and having Lowri & Chris Brain as our assessors meant it felt less like an assessment and more like paddling with friends. I did have one slight issue on the first day of the assessment with one of the students bringing a boat without a central pillar – I took the decision to say no to him paddling that boat on the assessment. It meant that I had to do my first day of assessment coaching from my playboat – which I’m used to but the award isn’t about freestyle! Anyway – managed to get my 4* with flying colours which was fantastic.

And on with the training – I went on my 5* training in Scotland in mid April of this year. We spent more time in the car than on rivers with two days paddling and about 18 hours of driving!

There were definitely moments of gritted teeth and slight panic. Leading a group of friends who I’ve worked with at Lee Valley but never been on a river with was a different experience. It challenged us all but it was absolutely great fun – I got to paddle the Coe Gorge a couple of times and the Middle Orchy on high! I can’t wait to run them again now!

Awesome time had by all – here’s Joey’s quick edit of the trip

The sucker punch

I thought breaking a rib when someone else paddles their boat into you at high speed was painful. It was nothing compared to failing my L2 assessment at the end of April. My feedback was that my coaching was fine but that I failed to tick a box on the safety brief. I was utterly gutted and contemplated giving up on the whole coaching path. Thankfully my coaching pals knocked some sense into me and convinced me not to give up because of one setback.

Since then, I was determined not to fail again and made sure I got as much coaching experience as possible in. I ran the first RCC Intro to White Water Kayaking course this year, I more than doubled my hours at Lee Valley and got the opportunity for two brilliant activities – I got to paddle with Olympic Gold medallist Etienne Stott in a hot dog for a charity event and was asked to test drive some action cameras (which will come out in an eight page magazine spread later this year).

Next steps

So with much trepidation, I undertook my UKCC Level 2 Coaching Assessment again and passed in both Kayak and Canoe. Admittedly with a fair few action points on my personal canoe skills – BUT…. I made it. The sense of relief didn’t hit me for a couple of days. Next steps are to take my Moderate Water Endorsement training, do the Advanced White Water Safety & Rescue training and complete the Five Star Assessment. Preferably all before the end of this year.

If you’ve been one of my students over the past few months – THANK YOU! If you’ve been a mentor or friend through it all – thank you and sorry – for being such a miserable git at times. It’s been a rollercoaster but there’s no way I’d want to change any of it.

Images by Sean & Matt D

Steffi shares with us her experiences from her UKCC Level 2 Coaching assessment…


To be honest, it was just a fun day which was a great reward after the quite frankly boring completion of a massive portfolio. That said; the requirements do make sure that you read the BCU coaching handbook and start to really think about supporting paddlers to progress to the next level. So, I shouldn’t moan as actually, I learned a lot. It’s still dry and takes a lot of self-motivation and persuasion.

Anyway, Sean managed to get some great guinea pigs – Rachael, Ben, Emma, Emma again, Jenni and Dave – who complied with our ever increasing demands. Thank you guys! Sean even managed to organise great weather! Thanks again!

So, Leo from Getafix– the most relaxed guy ever – managed to put our nerves at ease immediately and off we went. He was very clear about what he expected and basically gave us a five minute summary of the level 2 coaching training. From then on, there was no planning. It was a matter of asking our guinea pigs what they would like to get out of day and get on with it. Leo said, this is how it’s meant to be. You have to think on the spot and come up with a creative session that takes account of all the different coaching and learning styles.

Sean started with an excellent session on edging and introducing bracing. He was followed by Roger who helped our learners along with their low braces. Lastly, mean Regents witch Steffi, who got everyone wet in an attempt to improve their hip flicking, co-ordinate the use of the legs, arms and heads to improve their high brace. Everyone had to observe, feedback, scale skills and dare devil ‘flicking’ with a polo ball or float. I think it worked! Everyone looked much better at the end of it, well, wet hair look.

The afternoon was an introduction to open boating and a recap on kayak forward paddling. Rachael is now boasting to Dave about her improved forward stroke and volunteered to show how much energy she can save at the next canal session. I am sure I heard some moaning about feeling her core muscles much more! From then on it went downhill with everyone ‘falling like flies’ plunging into the water and needing to be rescued by Sean, Roger and myself. We were that good that Rachael decided she is not going to hang in for a t-rescue in the future and will just wait for a ‘hand of god’. Lazy!

Well then, Regents has now got another two level 2 coaches in kayaking AND a level 2 coach in canoeing. Well done! Where next? Sean is well ahead and already has his 4*. I’m lagging behind but that’s my next step. And Sean is planning his Medium Water Endorsement. Great plan! Regents, I think there are great adventures ahead of us.