Thursday, October 16, 2008

BCU, ACA, stars and levels

Scott is going off to Georgia for some BCU training. BCU is the British Canoe Union, so you may be wondering why he is going to be trained by some Brits in paddling a canoe (After all, we're an American Sea KAYAK shop, right?)

When I first started paddling and looking for instruction I encountered all these various alphabet soup organizations and talk of stars and levels and it was all very confusing. Since many of you are likely new to the sport, I thought it might be helpful give a brief explanation of these organizations and what they do for us.

When you are looking for instruction in a sea kayak, you want to find someone that has accreditation and training in teaching people to kayak. That way you know you are learning safely and learning good technique. Here in the US there are two organizations that provide instructor training. The ACA (American Canoe Association) and the BCU (British Canoe Union). Don't be put off by the "canoe;" These organizations both focus on kayaking in addition to canoeing.

The ACA is a US based organization with an extensive curriculum of courses in kayaking. These courses are taught by ACA certified instructors. To become an ACA certified instructor, you must complete several days of Instructor Training, pass a multi-day Evaluation and be proficient as a paddler. The certifications come in different levels of proficiency (both as a paddler and as an instructor). To maintain certification, an instructor must continue to take updates. Scott, Deb and I all have ACA certifications. The courses we offer at the shop are based on the ACA curriculum.

The ACA has recently added a way to assess your individual proficiency in paddling. Sometimes we like to know where our skills stand, receive feedback for ongoing skills development, see how we match up to others, etc. The ACA has created a program of Level Assessments. If you want to 'earn' a Level Award, go to the ACA website to see the skills needed to earn a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 Award, then sign up with an ACA instructor who is certified to asses your skill. At our shop, Scott is available to assess for Coastal Kayaking Levels 1–4.

So that's the ACA.

The BCU is not just for the British!
The BCU has an excellent cadre of coaches that travel around the world to raise the level of paddling skills – including here in the US. The BCU does not provide a curriculum of courses. In their system, you receive coaching from BCU certified Coaches. When you have received enough coaching and had enough practice, you can be assessed for a Star Award. A Star Award is an indication of your paddling proficiency, seamanship, and leadership (at the more advanced star levels).

Scott is off to get his 4* award. To make things more complicated, the BCU is currently changing their star requirements - Scott is going for the NEW 4*. He has his NEW 3*. Deb has an OLD 4*, Sue has an OLD 3*. Deb and I need to upgrade : )

The BCU puts aspiring coaches through a quite rigorous course of training. Coaches are rated as Level 1 - 5 Coaches. (These Levels are not to be confused with the ACA Level Assesments. Oy.)

See how simple?

Basically, if you are looking for someone to teach you kayaking skills, look for an ACA certified instructor or a BCU certified coach. If you want to have someone assess your individual paddling skills, either the ACA or the BCU will be happy to do that for you.

Good luck to Scott! He will be learning from and being assessed by some of the best sea kayakers in the world: Nigel Dennis and Steve Maynard.


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