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British Canoeing Personal Performance Awards

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Many of you are familiar with the BCU Star Awards, and some have lamented that there is no Star Award for being a higher proficiency paddler without also having to be a leader. These old 4* and 5* were rebranded as Sea Kayak Leader and Advanced Sea Kayak Leader, and until now we’re the only options for training and certification for more advanced paddlers.

Following the addition of the Paddlesports Leader (for sheltered waters), British Canoeing has just announced a reorganization of the Personal Performance Awards into two groups:

 - Paddle Awards: Designed to develop enjoyment, safety and skills for those new to Paddlesport

 - Discipline Specific Pathway Awards

They have also allowed each award to be direct entry, so if you want to jump right into the Advanced Sea Kayak Award, program, you can!

information can be found on the BRitish Canoeing website by following this link.  The new system should be available in 2019, and more information should be available in the coming months.  Hopefully this new system will make training and certification more accessible and easier to understand for new and established paddlers alike. 

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All I can say is this - imho, paddling canoes and kayaks is at its best when its about taking us into places we could not otherwise go to immerse ourselves in nature. Its not a competition.  The more we take awards and competitions out of it, the better it is.

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Well that's your opinion and there are certainly those that feel that way. 

Years ago when I worked through some of these awards I saw them as learning opportunities to allow me to safely get to more distant and natural  places. To go play in some really rough water and to safely go out and paddle places like the Piscataqua  (Portsmouth NH) at full ebb with boat wakes, eddies and whirlpools pulling your boat around. To go to N.S. or Fundy and be out for several days knowing that there are big tides and nav hazards to work around.

    I have taken many trips around Gerrish island with so called long time or experienced paddlers who have trouble turning their boat at speed in the tight curves, who wouldn't know a bow rudder from a hanging draw. Who struggle with basic nav. , reading the water, dealing with unexpected rough water.  Well meaning, nice people who have never learned some basic boat maneuvering. What about long mileage days? Is the group doing  18 mile days with loaded boats? Do they know a proper forward stroke?

   It is ok if someone wants minimal out of something ….    I wanted more....and have it.

   For me the problem is when you are trying to vet a group or individual as a leader or if I am a possible participant. Knowing that someone is 3 , 4  or 5 something tells me that they (on a certain day) passed a test or was taught something about kayaking. 

    Paddling the coastal waters is tougher than the inland waters for many reasons.  As one coach liked to say "you need tools in the toolbox"  or something like that..

  Semi-retired now, so nothing like going out and cranking off 18 miles in whatever comes my way. Anyone is welcome to join me but you will be vetted and/ or the trip will be adjusted. 

   

Paul's surfing photo 3.jpg

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10 hours ago, rpg51 said:

All I can say is this - imho, paddling canoes and kayaks is at its best when its about taking us into places we could not otherwise go to immerse ourselves in nature. Its not a competition.  The more we take awards and competitions out of it, the better it is.

I definitely agree with your first statement!  I don’t believe the BC path is about competition; it’s a system that provides a path for learning.  Each individual can determine what path is right for them.  When you take the BC trainings and assessments, it’s never about comparing one person to another; it’s about each person’s growth and achievement in kayaking.

i would argue that training and practicing is the best way to safely get to the places most others never get to, and BC is one way to get that training.

EDITed to add that we all have our own path, as long as we’re safe on the water, it doesn’t matter how we get there.

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I will add that the BCU taught me skills I had no idea existed and didn't think I'd ever need, and I was soo happy when proverbial $hit hit the fan and I had them. 

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14 hours ago, rpg51 said:

All I can say is this - imho, paddling canoes and kayaks is at its best when its about taking us into places we could not otherwise go to immerse ourselves in nature. Its not a competition.  The more we take awards and competitions out of it, the better it is.

Rob,  I puttered around in kayaks for years, pretty much clueless (including going places I had no business being in) until I got involved with NSPN and met John Carmody and started getting proper instruction.  In some sense, the BCU "awards" - which are really certifications and certainly not competitions (!) - gave me goals and a sense of both confidence and accomplishment.  I was very reluctant to go for four star (now sea kayak leader) because I "just wanted to paddle,"  and didn't want to put myself through what I thought would be a grueling and anxiety provoking assessment process.  Deciding to go for it turned out to be one of the best paddling decisions I've made.  It forced me to focus on things that I'd either let slide or relied on others for (locking down navigation skills, knowing where to go for relevant information for pre-trip planning and what to do with it, thinking more about what goes into different kinds of rescues and towing scenarios, decision-making in general and so on).  Yes, the assessment was anxiety provoking, but also a validation of the journey I'd taken and what I'd learned.   The whole process has made me a better, more competent, and confident paddler.  Maybe going that route isn't for everyone - but for those who've taken it, they've come out better at the other end.

And hey, when are you going to come to Maine so we can enjoy the islands and the nature and all the cool stuff that is the point of the whole operation?

Prudence

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19 hours ago, rpg51 said:

All I can say is this - imho, paddling canoes and kayaks is at its best when its about taking us into places we could not otherwise go to immerse ourselves in nature. Its not a competition.  The more we take awards and competitions out of it, the better it is.

I would suggest you go to a four star training even if it’s just to see what all the fuss is about.  As someone who is two years into the journey and coming up on assessment the knowledge I have gained was nothing I could have ever have fathomed.

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I respect you all.  You have all been very kind and welcoming and you have helped me out a great deal.  I understand your point of view.  But, right now I am in a different place when it comes to paddling.  I'm completely in favor of paddling with friends and helping new folks come along with their skills and making new friends.  But, the awards stuff and the formalized training programs isn't for me.  I would love to paddle with you someday, and I sure could use some skills.  But, I'm not interested in the formal stuff.  Maybe after I retire my attitude will change.

 

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9 hours ago, rpg51 said:

I respect you all.  You have all been very kind and welcoming and you have helped me out a great deal.  I understand your point of view.  But, right now I am in a different place when it comes to paddling.  I'm completely in favor of paddling with friends and helping new folks come along with their skills and making new friends.  But, the awards stuff and the formalized training programs isn't for me.  I would love to paddle with you someday, and I sure could use some skills.  But, I'm not interested in the formal stuff.  Maybe after I retire my attitude will change.

 

Well, Rob, you just have to retire then!  Come to Maine!

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Interesting. I wonder if there is a market for that and how one would apply one's award? Are East Coast coaches going to assess for this soon?

Sea kayaking outfitters on the West coast and abroad, especially in challenging environment, will probably want to see certification of skills that are usually acquired in leadership awards (nav, weather, sh!t-hits-the fan-scenarios, etc.), at least the more serious ones. Maybe not? (I have never paddled abroad...Pru!).  Or does the skills award encompass these parameters sans leadership skills?

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I have personally run into a number of people who wished they could just do the skills part of the 4* & 5* programs without the leadership, so there is a market for it. Many outfitters in the US and abroad generally prefer participants to have BCU 3* or above in order to participate on basic trips.  I imagine that these new awards will make it easier for those seeking more adventurous destinations to be able to just email their BC Coastal (or Advanced) Sea Kayak certificate to let the outfitter know exactly who is coming on their trip or, more importantly, asking to rent equipment for an unguided trip.  I remember recently talking to one outfitter about renting boats from their fleet, and they were a bit hesitant until I mentioned my experience, and it was no longer an issue.

More information about the new awards can be found here: Frequently Asked Questions

I found this one to be the most interesting:

Are the awards equivalent to the existing Star Awards?
The NEW awards are very different in terms of content and purpose. The NEW awards have been designed for the paddler’s development and engagement in the sport. Providers will approach and facilitate the awards that reflect the ethos of supporting paddlers and empowering individuals. As the awards do not directly link to Coaching and Leadership qualifications, it is encouraged that formal assessments are not conducted and that a formative approach is used that develops an individual’s progress.

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So now that it's all changing... how does one go about getting started? I had wanted to start working on the 3* program (but it seems like training for that are few and far between - and maybe I'm supposed to find a 2* first). Is it too late now?

 

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15 minutes ago, JRL said:

So now that it's all changing... how does one go about getting started? I had wanted to start working on the 3* program (but it seems like training for that are few and far between - and maybe I'm supposed to find a 2* first). Is it too late now?

 

Janet I works contact John Carmody to check in on the 3*.  FYI Kelsey has put together an open study session next weekend in the Boothbay area for folks to do some practice for upcoming assessments.  If your considering doing any type of assessment you should join in to talk to folks already along the journey!

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10 minutes ago, jonathanoltz said:

Janet I works contact John Carmody to check in on the 3*.  FYI Kelsey has put together an open study session next weekend in the Boothbay area for folks to do some practice for upcoming assessments.  If your considering doing any type of assessment you should join in to talk to folks already along the journey! 

Really wish I could, Jonathan! MDI last weekend, moving this weekend, and Wyoming the weekend after... Boothbay is a bit far to squeeze in there ;)

Does John Carmody ever publicize events? (other than the Rendezvous) Or is it for private students only? 

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52 minutes ago, JRL said:

So now that it's all changing... how does one go about getting started? I had wanted to start working on the 3* program (but it seems like training for that are few and far between - and maybe I'm supposed to find a 2* first). Is it too late now?

 

Janet, a 3 Star Sea candidates must:

  • Provide evidence of at least three different journeys on the sea, of about three hours duration (eight nautical miles) each [just about any NSPN trip applies]
  • Maintain consistent British Canoeing 2 Star standard of performance in the appropriate craft before starting to work towards the British Canoeing 3 Star Sea Kayak or Sit-on-top Award. It is recommended that the candidate holds the British Canoeing 2 Star Award
  • Have the ability to swim confidently in the sea environment, wearing normal paddling clothes

The Star programs are still available in 2018 if it is important to you, and I think you probably fulfill the "2 Star standard of performance" as the award is not a definite prerequisite.  What you need to understand is that British Canoeing has a different approach to introducing people to paddle sports, where new paddlers are expected to paddle different types of watercraft until they discover what really appeals to them.  For this reason, the 1 Star and 2 Star Awards requires paddling at least two different types of watercraft (kayak, canoe, white water, etc.), whereas the 3 Star Award is craft-specific.

Looking towards next year, you could choose to pursue the Sea Kayak Award which is probably going to be at similar performance level (still waiting for definitions of each award).  You can also choose to pursue the Coastal Kayak Award or even the Advanced Sea Kayak Award since all awards are direct entry.  The new program seems to deemphasize the goal by eliminating the ladder-style progression and concentrate more on the individual paddlers overall development.

This is also true of the new coach development program, where we are focusing less on teaching one skill a certain way to a group of matched skill-level learners, but instead working with more diverse groups while providing individualized coaching for each paddler.  This learner-based coaching style seems to match this new Performance system by removing much of the structural constraints and allowing individuals to progress through their skills development at a pace that works for them.  It is an interesting new approach to the sport, and I can't wait to see how it will actually be implemented.

 

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