British Canoeing

“Helping and Inspiring people to go canoeing”

The British Canoeing program is internationally recognized as the gold standard in paddlesport training. Set up in 1936 to send a team to the Berlin Olympics, the British Canoeing (formerly called the British Canoe Union or BCU) has grown considerably.

the organization is continually being refined around the needs of paddlers, leaders, and coaches. It recently integrated its complete delivery system to align with its organizational philosophy.

“British Canoeing believes in a participant led approach when creating and enabling experience from which people will enjoy, learn and develop through paddlesport. The Coach Award courses are designed to support coaches to deliver safe, engaging, empowering and enjoyable paddlesport sessions with the paddler at the heart of the process; whilst also fostering a sense of a paddling community and supporting the inherent social aspects of the sport.”

This community-connected, participant-led ethos is one that we at Sea Kayak Baja Mexico wholeheartedly embrace.

A new Paddlesports Leader award for sheltered water and various watercraft is one of the specific programs that has come out of this recent upgrade. Other leadership awards have been restructured as well. Sea Kayak Leader (formerly 4-star Sea), and Advanced Sea Kayak Leader (formerly 5-star Sea), have both been moved from the skills track to a new leadership track.

The coaching track has also been overhauled.
Paddlesport Instructors provide introductory sessions in any of a variety of craft: sea kayak. Sit-on-top, SUP, canoe, recreational kayak, or competition-specific paddle craft.

Coaches are certified to work in sheltered water, moderate water, or advanced water to develop paddlers according to the paddlers’ aspirations, backgrounds and needs.


In order to maintain meaningful performance standards, certification awards are given only after the test, or “assessment” is passed. Assessment is a checkup on your skills. Upon completion, you receive feedback on their strengths, tips for improvement, support for your ongoing development.

1 Star

Is an introduction. When the paddler can independently enter the kayak, exit it, capsize calmly, and steer generally in the desired direction, the first Star has been achieved. Focus at this level is on fun. Depending on the aptitude of the learning paddler, training and practice may take from 1 to 3 days, and the assessment can often be included in the day’s outing without feeling like a test. The introduction can take place in any paddle-powered boat.

Taking a 1-star assessment is optional in our Basic Course.

2 Star

Focuses on cause and effect using the paddle, the boat, and the body. Training happens in different kinds of boats such as a kayak and a canoe, or a sit-on-top. Before assessment, the paddler should have mastery over a variety of maneuvers and capsize prevention. Imagine wearing your kayak like you wear your shoes; they go where you want without having to think about how you made that happen. Skills include edging the boat to turn, ability to paddle a course with only one paddle blade on one side of the boat, and ability to paddle a course backwards. Two-star skills need to be demonstrated in both a double-bladed craft such as a kayak, and in a single-bladed craft such as a canoe or a SUP.

We include 2-star skills in our Kayak Foundations Course.
Link to BCU 2-star Trainer’s Notes

3 Star Sea Kayak

Takes those solid flatwater skills into dynamic environments–wind, waves, current. Efficient techniques for using the environment can save a lot of energy. Training is done in a single sea kayak, and includes not only paddling technique, but study of the sea. Three-star focuses on basic navigation with nautical chart and compass, as well as strategies for minimizing risk. The roll is required at this level. The BCU 3-star Sea assessment entails taking a journey in dynamic water. The standard is high. Boat handling must be precise and efficient in challenging conditions. Candidates should also bring a log book showing their paddling experience. This award is proof that you can comfortably handle wind to 15knots and seas to 1 meter, including maneuvering and performing quick rescues. Three-star Sea award is a prerequisite for more challenging trips worldwide, including some of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico’s exciting expeditions.

We include 3-star skills in our Sea Paddler Training.

We also include the certified safety course “Foundation Safety and Rescue Training” and introduce concepts from “Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning”.
Link to BCU 3-star Sea Trainer’s Notes

Sea Kayak Leader

Is an award for leaders who have developed extensive kayaking skills plus the experience to lead a group of kayakers in moderately exposed areas, such as the islands in the Loreto National Marine Park. Non-guides who want a seek level of personal kayaking skill also learn a lot from the challenge of taking the sea leader training.
We include 4-star in our Sea Leader Training.
We also include the certified safety courses “Foundation Safety and Rescue Training” and “Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning” which are prerequisites for the Sea Leader Assessment.
Link to 4-star Sea Leader trainer’s notes

5 Star Sea Kayak Leader

Is the highest award for leaders whose personal kayaking skill, experience, and judgment enables them to take experienced kayakers anywhere in the world.
Link to BCU 5* Sea Leader Assessment Notes

Level 1 Coach

Is the entry point for people wanting to teach in the BCU system. The Foundation Safety & Rescue Training course is a prerequisite. A 2* Award is recommended, but may be taken later. This 4-day program is an excellent course on coaching any sport. In the UK, coaching is a highly respected profession, and the skills of teaching physical activity can be applied to any sport, once the coach demonstrates competence in that activity.

How do people learn? How can I maintain a safe and fun learning environment? What are my student’s goals? How can I present the skills so that this group of children or adults or young professionals can best acquire them? Am I positioned so that the students can see and hear me? What can I learn from watching them do an exercise? How can I help this student achieve his or her goals?

According to the BCU pre-course information, “The BCU Certificate in Coaching Paddlesport develops your ability to plan, deliver and review, safe, ethical, and effective paddlesport sessions. On the course you will develop “how to coach” skills alongside technical understanding “what to coach” specifically relating to the skills beginners require. The course will cover how to:

  • prepare coaching activities, taking into account participants needs and motives
  • establish a safe working environment
  • deliver prepared activities
  • establish working relationships with participants and others
  • prepare participants for the coaching activities
  • conclude the activities
  • evaluate the effectiveness of coaching activities
  • evaluate the effectiveness of personal coaching practice
  • manage effective rescues

Coach 1 certification allows a coach to run basic training sessions. With a Coach 1 certification, the BCU coach may also work with other coaches on more advanced courses, provided that their personal kayaking skills are sufficient.

The Coach 1 course includes a certification. There is no separate test later.
Click here for info on our Coach 1 Course
For general information about coaching and the BCU, please visit the Paddlesports North America website

View our list of upcoming BCU courses and tours


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