What's What - The BlueDome guide to outdoor qualifications

In the UK all paddlesport activities are regulated by the British Canoe Union and regional bodies. If a centre has access to suitable water they will always try to provide paddling activities.

Open Canoe instructors are always in demand. A quick look at the BCU coaches lists will show that there are thousands of kayak instructors compared to a few hundred open canoe instructors. If you want to in a job in this field then don't neglect the open canoe qualifications.

Paddlesports offer something for everyone, from calm steady paced touring on canal and placid waters to competitive sprint racing and facing the challenge of racing down raging torrents. From exploring fantastic coastal scenery by sea kayak to performing the ultimate playboat moves while ‘playing’ and ‘shredding’ the river. Paddleports offers something for everyone young or old.

Paddling can offer a relaxing, once or twice a year tour on a local canal, an adventurous trip, or expedition on the thousands of miles of waterways in the United Kingdom and the Continent. An interest in Paddlesports can be an all consuming hobby, exciting, challenging and testing on white water, on the sea or through the numerous competitive disciplines. Choose the level of challenge to suit. Paddle for enjoyment, to keep fit or, if you have kids, paddle as a family and enjoy the experience together.

The British Canoe Union, as governing body of paddlesport, have an established range of discipline committees to help promote and inform on aspects of their discipline specialisms. We also promote a large network of competitive events offering the chance to take part in ‘Taster Events’ and perhaps even the real chance to represent your country. While many canoeists may not be interested in competition at any level one common theme of all types of Paddlesport is that your enjoyment will increase as your skill level increases.

The BCU operates a comprehensive coaching and education programme. BCU Coaching UK is designed to ensure that coaches and participants are fully and properly prepared to take part in the sport and that coaches are qualified to instruct participants in all aspects of technique, safety and understanding. Access to any of the awards within the BCU scheme can be achieved via clubs, centres and coaches affiliated to the BCU UK Coaching Service via membership of their respective national association.

  • Useful Contact Details
    BCU Coaching UK Office
    Adbolton Lane, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 5AS
    Tel: 01159 821100 Fax: 01159 821797
    E-mail: coaching@bcu.org.uk Web - www.bcu.org.uk
  • Canoe England Coaching Office
    Adbolton Lane, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 5AS
    Tel: 01159 821100 Fax: 01159 826265
    E-mail: englishcoaching@bcu.org.uk
  • Scottish Canoe Association
    Caledonia House, South Gyle, Edinburgh EH12 9DG
    Tel: 0131 317 7314 Fax: 0131 317 7319
    Email: enquiry@scot-canoe.org
  • WeIsh Canoeing Association
    Canolfan Tryweryn, Frongoch, Bala, Gwynedd LL23 7NU
    Tel: 01678 521199 Fax: 01678 521158
    Email: welsh.canoeing@virgin.net
  • Canoe Association of Northern Ireland
    Mr Stephen Craig, The House of Sport, per Malone Road, Belfast 8T9 5LA.
    Tel: 02871 343871 Email: office@cani.org.uk

The BCU UK Coaching Service also provides, via national associations and a network of Regional Coaching Organisers and Local Coaching Organisers, support to coaches and endeavours to provide a range of update and personal development opportunities for coaches at all levels. The tests and qualifications are organised into three overall categories, with levels of competence within each category:
Personal Performance
From 1 Star (Beginner) to 5 Star (Advanced) - click image for the syllabus
Coaching Qualification - teaching of canoeists
From Level 1 to Level 5
The tests and qualifications are structured to take account of the type of craft being used and the type of canoeing environment, for instance very sheltered water through to advanced water (demanding conditions).
Coaching Qualification - Competition canoeists
Level 1 (Assistant Club Coach) to Level 5 (Staff Coach).
Link to Tests and Qualifications System
BCU Coaching UK is committed to providing clear, effective and validated access to its coaching awards to all who seek to coach others in paddlesport activities. It aims to provide coaches with opportunities to develop core skills via a coach education and training programme linked to a well 'signed' development / performance pathway.

BCU Coaching UK is committed to quality coaching and the provision of ongoing coach education and continued personal development. Performance standards and performer development models ensure an integrated and networked approach to providing well defined pathways to paddler / coach performance right across the performance continuum.

All who may wish to gain access to the BCU Coaching UK coach education and training programme can do so via an effective, geographically balanced network of centres all of whom are promoted Nationally and regionally via a range of both in-house and external publications, a regional and local coaching organiser network, and an extensive network of clubs and paddlesport organisations.

Once registered with BCU Coaching UK coaches, aspirant and qualified have immediate and updated access to materials outlining all qualification specifications and requirements. A wide range of guidance notes for training and assessment opportunities are provided along with an extensive range of additional support materials, so important to modern coaches working within the infrastructure of a governing body i.e. Coaches Code of Ethics and Duty of Care, Child Protection and Screening Volunteers Information, Injury Prevention In Paddlesport, Insurance Guidelines, Guidelines for Centres and Authorities etc.

BCU Coaching UK has sought to put in place, and maintain, an administrative system that allows all administrative procedures associated with its range of qualification courses to be effectively and efficiently dealt with, ensuring clear separation between awarding and delivery functions. This system allows coaches access to a register of coaches and provides an audit trail to a coaches', coaching background, training and ongoing personal development. All details in respect of fee structures, costs and resources available for all qualification training and awards are regularly updated and are made accessable to coaches and centres via regular bulletins, magazines, publications and the web.

BCU Coaching UK provides and requires its coach education centres to attend regular workshops and updates on technical and procedural developments within paddlesport, coach education and in respect of legal matters. All coach education centres receive regular update bulletins to keep them abreast of developments and to inform them of dates of workshops and clinics. Both workshops and bulletins provide opportunities for consultation and direct communication between BCU coaching UK and its coach educators.

BCU Coaching UK has a fully published and accessible formal complaints procedure which can be invoked by all Coaching Service participants.

BCU Coaching UK, as the awarding body of coaching qualifications in paddlesport, has put in place a number of mechanisms for the measuring of its quality provision and to check that it has met its commitments to coaches and Centres. While the foremost of these are its quality assurance programme and centre approval programme and workshops, it also seeks regular feedback from all involved in the provision of coaching awards via a range of effective feedback forms (from coaches to centres and from centres to BCU Coaching UK) and monitoring visits and phone calls. The BCU Coaching UK Quality Assurance Programme and the Centre Approval Programme and workshops provide a direct mechanism for centres and coach educators to be monitored and measured against the UK standard.

Obtaining a qualification for the coaching of paddlesport
The system of qualifications for the coaching of Paddlesports is agreed jointly by the four Associations' Coaching Panels that make up BCU Coaching UK — the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland, the Scottish Canoe Association, the Welsh Canoe Association and the English Coaching Panel.

Achieving an award is straight forward. However, Paddlesport is a diverse sport, and the wide range of tests and qualifications needed to service its many different facets can make things appear complicated. All is explained, however, in the following pages and as such you are advised to read carefully the various syllabi and procedures required to achieve your goal.

Having decided what sort of discipline you are interested in, and wish to coach, it is necessary to gain the experience and ability required to pass the entry level star test and additional award pre-requisites. Attaining these indicates that you have sufficient personal experience to respond to the requirements of the course and the qualification.

A star test can be undertaken locally by arrangement with an assessor. Your nearest Coaching Organiser, whose name and address is available from the BCU or national association, can put you in touch, or you may prefer to attend one of the many advertised courses. The BCU and national association yearbooks being a good reference source when trying to identify local courses or a list of courses can be downloaded here.

Star tests can be undertaken by anyone, but the minimum age to attend a training course for a qualification to coach paddlesport is 16, and you need to be 18 to act independently as a coach under the aegis of the BCU. It is also necessary to become a BCU or national association member. The courses are numerous and are available throughout the country. Again the BCU and national association yearbooks are useful in identifying specific courses. Their costs varies, largely dependent upon whether they are being run by volunteers, or at an activities centre with full board and lodging included.

It is merely a matter of ensuring that the required prerequisites have been obtained and the central registration procedures as outlined in 'Central Registration - Candidate Notes and Advice' (CG019) have been completed and that you have then identified a suitable course date and venue. If attending courses in England or Wales you will need to have registered your intention to attend a course with the BCU or your national association and be in receipt of a C1 form available on the BCU website.

Successful completion of the training course gives you the status of trainee coach, at the appropriate level. Your name is then included on the coaching register, and you are put in touch with a Local Coaching Organiser who is able to help you — if help is needed — to progress in the scheme, and in your paddlesport involvement.
The syllabi of the Star Tests and Coaching Award requirements, and indeed the whole system of qualifications and the pathway through them, is set out within the 'How to become a coach' ( a PDF file 67k in size on the BCU website ).

BCU lifeguards
The BCU lifeguards are a specialist committee of the British Canoe Union. By constitution they are responsible for the management and administration of canoe lifeguarding services, aiming to foster and provide/support water rescue services using canoes, on both inland and coastal waters.

The organisation works closely with the RLSS, SLSA, ST.JOHN and other rescue bodies in order to keep training, skills and qualifications of all the voluntary organisations on the same level plane.  Among the 17 or so awards on offer currently there are the 8 and 16 hour first aid courses which cover the prerequisites for the BCU coaching awards. Trainer and examiner status can also be gained for the entire award scheme and details can be obtained from the National Training Officer.

BCU lifeguards offers both professional qualifications to the dedicated lifeguard and safety/rescue courses to those wishing to know more about group and personal safety.

BCU lifeguards provide safety cover at various events throughout the year. These inc. long distance swims, white water events, raft /canoe races (inc. Devizes to Westminster) as well as patrolling beaches etc. during the summer months.  For further information on any aspect from starting a new unit, joining a club or gaining a qualification, please contact the following:
Visit www.bculifeguards.com

Open canoeing
Open canoeing has become a popular pastime with an increasing number of people who do not paddle anything else. Once seen as the workhorse, transporting furs and goods across vast continents, it has now been accepted as an ideal craft for taking mum, dad and the children out for a pleasant day on the river, canal or sea.
Its history in this country dates back to the early 1880’s when John McGregor travelled through Europe and the Middle East in his Rob Roy canoe.

People are now looking for different experiences to improve their quality life. Wilderness camping trips, where a person spends a long period of time away from civilisation with all necessary equipment stores in their canoe, are becoming popular and naturalists are able to view wildlife in its own natural surroundings, causing a minimum of disturbance.

Parents with small children wishing to take part in leisure activities together are turning to open canoeing; partly because it helps with family relationships, but also as it creates interest in their children’s education.

The open canoe can also provide for those wishing to experience the challenge of white water. Good outfitting and additional buoyancy allows river running at all levels.

Descending a rapid in a canoe can be exciting without the fear of being stuck in the canoe should you flip and for the more experienced open canoeist, the specialist white water canoes offer a new dimension to the sport. Not only can you now paddle Grade five white and run big drops, but these canoes now allow you, with practice, to roll them. Whatever type of open canoe you paddle, as long as you are out on the water enjoying yourselves and the surroundings, the rest of the world will wait for you.

Sea kayaking
The BCU Sea Touring Committee looks after the interests of sea paddlers in Britain and is involved in all aspects of the sport at all levels. Sea kayaking is historically one of the earliest forms of paddling, with archaeological evidence suggesting highly developed craft and skilled hunter-fisherman as far back as 5000 BC.

Nowadays sea kayakers are not normally in the position of fishing for the family fare, but the craft are remarkably similar in lines to their museum antecedents. If you are interested in trying out the sport, there are ideal opportunities to join BCU organised paddles and meets with experienced sea paddlers.

Sea kayaking is environmentally friendly and appeals to all ages who enjoy open spaces, salt air and the feeling of being at one with nature. The sea is not, however, a big lake and the ocean has temperament and character which needs to be understood. Weather, tides, and charts should to be considered and journeys planned. Not all sea paddling is calm water: for some the essence of the sport is in meeting challenging conditions and undertaking long open crossings, or playing in over-falls and tide racing.  A new development in recent years has been the introduction of sea racing: standard expedition sea kayaks are raced over distances up to 12 miles. All the races are friendly and informal and have touring classes.

Sea kayaking for many however, is a quiet, individual experience to be enjoyed quietly, away from the crowds. Symposiums are great social events as well as being informative and practical. Whatever sea paddling means to you, the Sea Touring Committee is on hand to help if you need them.

Touring and recreation
Canoeing is an activity that appeals to paddlers of every age and level of fitness. The adventurous can attempt steep mountain streams, looking for the excitement of speed and action; others travel on the slower flowing rivers, lakes and Is finding enjoyment in the scenery and countryside. Recreational canoeing can be started early age, enjoyed by all members of the family continued on into retirement.

Recreation includes White Water Rafting and all other non- competitive activities.
Even for the easiest waters all canoeists should be to swim at least 50 metres in canoeing clothing. It is not sound practice to set out on a canoeing expedition alone, or without practice or experience.

On fast rivers and the sea, there should be at least three boats in a group, so that they can help each other if the need arises. Start easy rivers or canals and work up gradually to waters. Do not attempt sea or estuary canoeing until you have had more experience, can well and have learned about winds, tides and currents and buoyage.

Most canoeists learn their skills by joining a club or attending a course run by a club, school or centre. These are listed in the regional and coaching pages of this website or the BCU Yearbook.

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