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BCU training: asking for recommendations etc


jgeada

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Hi all,

I've decided to put some structure to my kayaking skills and have choosen to take the BCU approach. It was either BCU or ACA and from the comments here and elsewhere it appears

to me that the BCU is more focused and more recognized for sea kayaking.

Given that, which instructors/schools would you recommend and what is the best approach

to eventually getting to a BCU 4 qualification? My end goal is to eventually get the coaching

qualifications too, though I realize there is a lot of paddling yet to go to get there :-)

From what I gather the BCU training seems to be organized as a training session followed by

a skills assessment that, if you pass, then gives you that rating. And you acquire each rating

in order, as the lower ones are the prereqs for the next one in the chain 2->3->4.

So, any recommendations or guidance ?

If it matters, I consider myself an intermediate kayaker, though still have lots to learn. And I am in reasonable shape.

Many thanks,

Joao

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I've decided to put some structure to my kayaking skills and have choosen to take the BCU approach. It was either BCU or ACA and from the comments here and elsewhere it appears

to me that the BCU is more focused and more recognized for sea kayaking.

Something to consider -- the BCU now requires significant work in a canoe to get a 2-star award. You have to pass some of your assessment strokes in a canoe.

I don't know the exact status of bypassing 2-star to go straight to 3-star sea, but when 3-star was a generic award, lots of people did. I suspect you cannot now, as the point of the canoe requirement is just that, for all paddlers coming into the BCU star system (and those wanting to progress henceforth).

As it happens, the ACA has recently put in place a system of personal paddling awards that looks a lot like the BCU progression -- the old progression, without a canoe requirement for sea kayakers.

You may have already found this site -- http://www.bcuna.com/ -- it's the central hub for BCU info in North America.

--David.

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Thanks for the info David.

I hadn't read up on this years changes to the BCU training program and requirements.

If I am a sea kayaker, why would I want or need to learn to paddle a canoe?

I'm completely not interested in canoes, don't have one, don't plan on getting one and don't know how it is relevant to my sea kayaking skills to know how to paddle a canoe :-(

Anyone know if it is possible to skip BCU 2 entirely and go straight to training/assessing BCU 3?

Also, the BCU 3 pre-requisites state that evidence must be provided for 3 different 3hr sea trips plus evidence of 1 session in an alternate discipline.

What constitutes evidence? And what are these alternate disciplines? How rigorous is this alternate disciplines requirement?

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Thanks for the info David.

I hadn't read up on this years changes to the BCU training program and requirements.

If I am a sea kayaker, why would I want or need to learn to paddle a canoe?

I'm completely not interested in canoes, don't have one, don't plan on getting one and don't know how it is relevant to my sea kayaking skills to know how to paddle a canoe :-(

Anyone know if it is possible to skip BCU 2 entirely and go straight to training/assessing BCU 3?

Also, the BCU 3 pre-requisites state that evidence must be provided for 3 different 3hr sea trips plus evidence of 1 session in an alternate discipline.

What constitutes evidence? And what are these alternate disciplines? How rigorous is this alternate disciplines requirement?

Hi Joao, Well you are now required to achieve a 2* award before moving on to 3*. I agree that the canoe does not make sense. I've choosen to be a kayaker because I have found that all canoes have the same defect, they just go in circles (atleast w/ I paddle them). As to where to get good BCU training; Sea Cliff Kayakers (www.seacliffkayakers.com), Carpe Diam kayak Company (www.carpediemkayaking.com), Barrier Island kayaks (www.barrierislandkayaks.com), Sea Kayak Georgia (seakayakgeorgia.com), Sweetwater Kayaks (www.sweetwaterkayaks.com). I have taken instruction from all of the coaches associated with these shops, they are all excellent! I am currently an L2 BCU coach & am considering getting some ACA coaching awards. I understand that the ACA is getting it's act together. The person to talk to about that would be Ben Lawery (Sea Cliff Kayakers). Another option is to just take classes to improve your personal paddling skills. I choose this option last year and attended "Kayak Camp" by sea Cliff Kayakers, extremely worth while. I know other BCU paddlers who have decided to take this route. Hope that doesn't confuse the issue. By the By Barrier Islands Kayaks is having their annual symposium in June. Thanks,

Chuck

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Hi all,

I've decided to put some structure to my kayaking skills and have choosen to take the BCU approach. It was either BCU or ACA and from the comments here and elsewhere it appears

to me that the BCU is more focused and more recognized for sea kayaking.

Given that, which instructors/schools would you recommend and what is the best approach

to eventually getting to a BCU 4 qualification? My end goal is to eventually get the coaching

qualifications too, though I realize there is a lot of paddling yet to go to get there :-)

From what I gather the BCU training seems to be organized as a training session followed by

a skills assessment that, if you pass, then gives you that rating. And you acquire each rating

in order, as the lower ones are the prereqs for the next one in the chain 2->3->4.

So, any recommendations or guidance ?

If it matters, I consider myself an intermediate kayaker, though still have lots to learn. And I am in reasonable shape.

Many thanks,

Joao

Talk to Rick at the Wednesday night skills in Amesbury...he can put you on the right track....or Bill Gwynn or Jed Luby or Suzanne Hutchinson.....any of them could help point in the right direction

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I don't know the exact status of bypassing 2-star to go straight to 3-star sea, but when 3-star was a generic award, lots of people did.

FWIW, the new 3* syllabus has as pre-requisites proof of three sea journeys of 3hours/8 NM and at least 3 hours in an alternative discipline which I assume means canoe, WW or surf. No mention of needing to have the 2* award. For the new 4* you do need to have a 3* award. As to whether that means a new 3* or any old 3* will do I do not know and will leave that to the BCU denizens.

I was paddling the weekend with someone who had spent a few days paddling in Cornwall in the last year or so and he said there were essentially no seakayakers to be seen. He asked someone why there was a dearth of kayakers and was told that in GB most youths are introduced to canoeing/kayaking. However, the structure of the training/participation is so overbearing that most develop a negative attitude about it and never pursue the sport. I have no idea of the specifics, but found it an interesting commentary.

Ed Lawson

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Joao,

Right now the BCU is in a state of flux in North America, and this also includes the coaching awards. From what I understand, the organization would prefer that people follow the star progression, which was not always the case. The star system has also changed in that the "new" awards are pretty generic for 1* and 2*, but at the 3* level they branch out into 4 disciplines: Surf, WW, flatwater and Sea. The "new" 3*, which used to be a flat water award done in any type of closed cockpit craft is now similar to the "old" 4* in that it can be done at sea, in a sea kayak, and proves that the participant is a "competent member of the group", meaning that said participant can take care of him or herself, but also help someone else in moderate conditions, which doesn't mean flat water but does mean something a wee bit bumpy.

In other words, things have been bumped up a notch. The "new" 4* is a "bridge" of sorts to the ultimate 5*. It is leadership oriented, although the syllabus reads very much like the old one. The conditions for the "new" 4* are pretty much the same as the "old" one: Force4 (17K winds), sea state 4 (3-5'wave), 3 foot surf.

It used to be you could skip levels and move up, but there was a catch in that the assessor could ask you to demonstrate the skills at the previous level, ie, if you hadn't done 3*, you'd need to show him/her that you could do the strokes required for that assessment. While the new system may seem to hinder one's ability to "progress", any number of us who have gone through BCU training/Assessment can tell you that much of what you learn on a lower level is necessary for the next and for doing it successfully.

As for the coaching progression: it's confusing right now but probably not all that different than it was before. In order to be a Coach 2, you needed to pass the 3* assessment and then do a training. After you passed Coach 2 AND had your 4* award, you did Coach 3 Training and then assessed when necessary. The whole scheme has changed and it's not terribly clear how, either, but hopefully by the time you decide to pursue it, it will be clear as glass and easily understood.

Contrary to what you might hear, the BCU is not some hidebound, totally rigid organization that requires that you do it their way or the highway. It has loosened up considerably since I first started paddling. The issue right now with has a lot to do with the UK talking to North America (Canada and Mexico included) and North America talking back.

Regarding canoe. It's a pain in the butt, but if you want to coach, you gotta do it. When we were in Georgia this year at the Symposium, we saw any number of Level3 and 4 coaches doing the "Last of the Mohicans Thing". No one is particularly happy about it, but there's not a whole lot one can do about it, either. I have no use for canoes but if I want to continue towards coaching, then I've got to do the single paddle shuffle.

I realize that the BCUNA website is confusing and the star testing requirements lacking clarity. As things smooth out here in the US, things will become much clearer.

Chuck has given you some great places to do your BCU training if you choose to do so. As for the ACA, Osprey Sea Kayak in Westport, MA AND EMS out of RI both offer ACA training. I know both of the Trainers and they are excellent. The ACA training/coaching scheme has improved over the years and, while it's not my choice for personal reasons, I would recommend it also.

By now it's probably pretty evident that both Bob and I have drank the BCU Kool-Aid. We've gained a lot by our progression through the system and Bob and Billy Gwynn are both Coach 2s. Personally -- and I know there are plenty on here who disagree totally with me, which is fine as long as we respect each other's positions on "Professional Training"/BCU/ACA -- I think it's a fine way to learn to paddle. You are under no obligation to assess at any time, but the training is, as far as I'm concerned, top notch in making you a safe and efficient paddler.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. Hopefully I'll be able to help you out.

Deb M

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FWIW, the new 3* syllabus has as pre-requisites proof of three sea journeys of 3hours/8 NM and at least 3 hours in an alternative discipline which I assume means canoe, WW or surf. No mention of needing to have the 2* award. For the new 4* you do need to have a 3* award. As to whether that means a new 3* or any old 3* will do I do not know and will leave that to the BCU denizens.

I was paddling the weekend with someone who had spent a few days paddling in Cornwall in the last year or so and he said there were essentially no seakayakers to be seen. He asked someone why there was a dearth of kayakers and was told that in GB most youths are introduced to canoeing/kayaking. However, the structure of the training/participation is so overbearing that most develop a negative attitude about it and never pursue the sport. I have no idea of the specifics, but found it an interesting commentary.

Ed Lawson

Ed,

I'm surprised that this person with whom you paddled had this take on the BCU in the UK. My understanding has always been that the BCU, because it was heavily funded by the government and because of the club system, made it very easy for people to become involved in water sports and with virtually no cost.

As for the system being overbearing: it's also been my understanding from dealing with a few British coaches that the star system is far from the self-imposed (in some cases) high pressure, Prove that You Can Paddle Better than Your Mates, I'm a 3/4/5* blah, blah, blah, that you might encounter here in the States. Because the BCU system is "there" so to speak, progressing through it is actually quite low key and done when the paddler feels like it, not because his/her friends are doing it or because someone feels "they have to". As I said in my post further down, the BCU has also loosened up quite a bit in the UK as it has here, and I would think that this would make it much more user friendly.

Of course, I don't know what experience your fellow paddler's friends had, either. Right now the BCU is in a state of flux, with some of the pressure to change coming from, supposedly, the UK's not-so-great preformances at the Olympic Games. Whether this pressure will result in positive or negative change I can't say either as I only am affected by what happens here in the US and by what I choose to do with the organization.

I do know, though, that like most things it seems in the kayaking world there is always plenty of rumor and hearsay to go around, which probably could be put to rest perhaps if people actually held their noses and did a BCU course instead of speculating about what it's like or isn't.

For something lighter, though: A certain Brit coach/boat designer decided he wanted to assess for his 4*. He went to his local assessor and asked to enroll in an assessment. He was quickly informed that, as he hadn't done a 4* Training, he wasn't eligible to assess. Considering said coach had recently circumnavigated Great Britain solo, I'd say the BCU was pretty rigid at that place in time.

I think, too, you need 2* before 3*. As for proof of X-number of journeys of certain duration, this is nothing new. All you need to do is paddle a few weekends with your friends, write it down, and you're there. As for the other disciplines: I think 3 hours at Popham with a coach or, again, with your friends, might suffice. However, don't hold me to that, either.

Deb

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I'm surprised that this person with whom you paddled had this take on the BCU in the UK.

Deb:

I should have been more clear when I said I did not know the specifics. The person who mentioned this exchange with the British paddler did not say the comment was about the BCU. It may well not have been. I thought it an interesting commentary since it was another example of how it is easy to turn off youngsters in age and mind by taking a fun activity and overly structuring it.

As to canoes, once you see folks running Class III water in a canoe your perspective about them may change.

Ed Lawson

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...For something lighter, though: A certain Brit coach/boat designer decided he wanted to assess for his 4*. He went to his local assessor and asked to enroll in an assessment. He was quickly informed that, as he hadn't done a 4* Training, he wasn't eligible to assess. Considering said coach had recently circumnavigated Great Britain solo, I'd say the BCU was pretty rigid at that place in time....

That's odd. I was always given to understand that the training was not actually required -- all you had to do was perform as specified for the particular award, including mastery of prior skills too. Oh yes, the five-star does require an official three-day training, but that's far and away the least of anyone's problems passing the five-star.

BTW, I know that Peter Bray had a beef with the BCU roughly along the lines you describe, after kayaking the Atlantic solo! Was that whom you meant? He's pretty up-front in his book.

As for coaching, I too have the BCU Coach 2 cert. But it's (barely) pre-canoe, so it now confers on me exactly zero privileges to train or assess for any of the post-canoe star awards. For what it's worth, I am pursuing ACA instructor training while the BCU sorts things out.

There are many good coaches in the ACA as well, in fact, some of the same ones as in the BCU! Their instructor training, is, IMHO, better in some ways than the BCU and not as good in others. And though they have their own flavor of kool-aid, I think there is movement afoot from both sides to be a lot less contentious than in the past, especially with regard to technical paddling specs. For example, last weekend I saw a prominent BCU-and-ACA coach teach a nicely parameterized low brace turn, with a BCU style at one end of the spectrum and and ACA style at the other (depending on how much braking you do on the brace side)

--David

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From what I gather the BCU training seems to be organized as a training session followed by

a skills assessment that, if you pass, then gives you that rating.

Others have given great advice about people to talk to in the club and the names of some regional coaches who are well regarded. Since I am not into the BCU system ( I have taken BCU training courses and thought them great), I only offer this generic advice. Its important you find coaches with whom you are in synch. Also, a person can be great at a sport and a lousy coach. My impression is the ultimate test in obtaining various personal star awards is the demonstration of specific technical skills along with a level of overall competence/comfort in varying situations/conditions. While the training can introduce you to technical skills and provide a safe environment to paddle "over your head", attending classes and symposiums will not ultimately give you either. That requires much practice and focussed time paddling in varied situations where the skills are used and refined and become instinctive. So my advice is to not over spend your time and money on training/symposiums. Make sure you save the money and allocate the requisite time to go on an adequate number of journeys to develop the overall competence needed. And never discount the value of just playing about to see what works and what doesn't.

Ed Lawson

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That's odd. I was always given to understand that the training was not actually required -- all you had to do was perform as specified for the particular award, including mastery of prior skills too. Oh yes, the five-star does require an official three-day training, but that's far and away the least of anyone's problems passing the five-star.

BTW, I know that Peter Bray had a beef with the BCU roughly along the lines you describe, after kayaking the Atlantic solo! Was that whom you meant? He's pretty up-front in his book.

As for coaching, I too have the BCU Coach 2 cert. But it's (barely) pre-canoe, so it now confers on me exactly zero privileges to train or assess for any of the post-canoe star awards. For what it's worth, I am pursuing ACA instructor training while the BCU sorts things out.

There are many good coaches in the ACA as well, in fact, some of the same ones as in the BCU! Their instructor training, is, IMHO, better in some ways than the BCU and not as good in others. And though they have their own flavor of kool-aid, I think there is movement afoot from both sides to be a lot less contentious than in the past, especially with regard to technical paddling specs. For example, last weekend I saw a prominent BCU-and-ACA coach teach a nicely parameterized low brace turn, with a BCU style at one end of the spectrum and and ACA style at the other (depending on how much braking you do on the brace side)

--David

To my knowledge, Peter Bray doesn't design kayaks.

Actually, this need for coaching prior to the BCU assessment occured probably around 25 years ago, maybe less. You are correct in saying that, at least under the "old" BCU reqs, no training except for 5* was required. I am not sure -- is anyone who's involved in the BCU at this point -- whether this has changed and a formal training will be required prior to assessing. My understanding from attending SKG this year -- and I believe you were there and attended the morning BCU Dog and Pony show as we did-- is that if you do a training prior to an assessment, they'd like to see you assess with a different coach. Perhaps you heard differently, though.

My point in doing a training is not that it ultimately prepares you for the assessment but it does give you an idea what to expect. The rest is up to you.

Deb M

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Others have given great advice about people to talk to in the club and the names of some regional coaches who are well regarded. Since I am not into the BCU system ( I have taken BCU training courses and thought them great), I only offer this generic advice. Its important you find coaches with whom you are in synch. Also, a person can be great at a sport and a lousy coach. My impression is the ultimate test in obtaining various personal star awards is the demonstration of specific technical skills along with a level of overall competence/comfort in varying situations/conditions. While the training can introduce you to technical skills and provide a safe environment to paddle "over your head", attending classes and symposiums will not ultimately give you either. That requires much practice and focussed time paddling in varied situations where the skills are used and refined and become instinctive. So my advice is to not over spend your time and money on training/symposiums. Make sure you save the money and allocate the requisite time to go on an adequate number of journeys to develop the overall competence needed. And never discount the value of just playing about to see what works and what doesn't.

Ed Lawson

I can't stress what Ed has said enough. You can do trainings until the tide stops turns, but ultimately you learn by a lot of bum in the boat time.

I also want to emphasize that whether you go for the stars or the ACA badge, all the assessment is just that: an assessment of your skill level. It isn't pass or fail (unless you view it that way) but a learning tool. In an ideal BCU world (Hah!), you take away from the assessment a sense of what you may do well -- and what you may need work on.

An assessment and the result is not the be all and end all of your paddling personality, and anyone who judges another by how many stars and bars they have isn't worth spending water time with. Bob and I made the decision to go the BCU route because we felt that it afforded us the best training with professional and well-trained coaches. Our decisions, especially mine as far as 4* went, were personal and were used as markers for our development.

There are 4* paddlers that I will not paddle with and there are paddlers with no stars that I'd follow into hell because I trust them. Ultimately it boils down to paddling safely, efficiently, and having fun and we found that the BCU provided us with that training. It may not work for someone else.

As far as lessons/symposiums, I can't stress the value of professional instruction enough. There are many good coaches out there who fit with different people and different learning styles and you may discover that Coach A who works for your best friend may not work for you, whereas you learn more in an hour from Coach B, whom none of your friends may know or like. A class will teach you how to paddle efficiently and safely, which is the most important thing. The rest is up to you.

And, no, I have not been brainwashed by "The Brits" and I have no interest financially in the BCU. ;):D

Deb M :surfcool::roll:

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Thanks everyone for this discussion and advice.

Absolutely, training needs to go hand in hand with time in the water to practice skills and experience varied conditions. Yin and yang.

Mostly I want the training and the assessments as a meter how of I am progressing, what I need to improve and/or learn and what I am doing right. It is easy to acquire bad habits over time and I believe instruction is one of the best ways of identifying those and correcting them.

- Joao

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