British Canoeing Coaching, Leadership & Personal Performance Awards for the Sea Kayaker

British Canoeing Coaching, Leadership & Personal Performance Awards for the Sea Kayaker

Choosing the right award or course can be confusing if you are unfamiliar with the British Canoeing awards and Coaching scheme. I hope you will find this helpful when selecting one of our British Canoeing sea kayak courses or want to become a sea kayak coach, leader or guide.

Which British Canoeing Award is right for me?

First, decide if you want to develop your kayaking skills or to Coach, Instruct, or Lead sea kayakers.

If you only want to develop your sea kayak skills, consider one of the British Canoeing Personal Performance awards:

Discover Award

If you’ve completed a Start Award and want to learn more, the Discover Award is the next step to help you better understand the fundamentals of paddling.

Explore Award

The Explore award means you have the skills and knowledge to decide where you might paddle in a sheltered water environment.

Sea Kayak Award

The Sea Kayak Award gives you the skills and ability to have a safe, fun day out on the sea in winds up to force 3, tides up to 1 knot and in tidal or non-tidal environments. The award can be taken in a sea kayak or a sit-on-top kayak. You need to have a good selection of paddle skills and be able to demonstrate a shelf rescue.

I can assess for this award during most of our courses and as a one-day assessment. Or, sign up for our intermediate courses.

Coastal Sea Kayak

The Coastal Sea Kayak award demonstrates your decision-making and paddling skills in moderate water. You will be confident in planning and undertaking journeys on the sea in a sea kayak or a suitable sit-on-top kayak in winds of up to force four and tides up to 2 knots.

Your knowledge and skills enable you to understand how swell, weather, tide and the location selected will influence your trip.

This is an excellent award for paddlers who sea kayak with a few friends and do not plan to lead or guide trips for a club or organisation. This is a good benchmark of your paddle skills and tells others that you are a competent paddler (or at least you were on the day of the assessment!). The Coastal Sea Kayak award can be assessed during our kayak trails and as a one or two-day assessment.

Advanced Sea Kayak

The Advanced Sea Kayak award demonstrates your decision-making and paddling skills in advanced water. You need to be confident in planning and undertaking journeys on the sea in a sea kayak in winds above force four and tides over 2 knots. In addition, you can make open crossings above two nautical miles. As you are kayaking in advanced conditions, you must ensure you are fully aware of the conditions around you and can make appropriate decisions.
This is an excellent award for paddlers who sea kayak with a few friends and do not plan to lead or guide trips for a club or organisation. The advanced coastal sea kayak award demonstrates a high level of personal paddle skills and knowledge.

Our Advanced kayak trail is a great way to tune up your skills and get many top tips. I do not run assessments for this award.

Training and assessment for any of the above personal performance awards give you lots of practical experience and knowledge to have more fun sea kayaking.

Assessment is an excellent way to benchmark your skills. Plus, many paddlers find achieving one of these awards gives them more confidence.

Visit the Paddles Up training website for more information about the Personal Performance awards.

British Canoeing Coaching & Leadership Awards awards for the Sea Kayaker

Paddlesport Instructor

This 2-day practical course will enable you to deliver paddlesport starter sessions, running games and inspiring adventure using short journeys in sheltered water environments within clubs, centres or other organisations.
The Paddlesport Instructor course prepares you to deliver paddlesport sessions at your club or organisation on craft suitable for the first time out on the water, such as canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and sit-on-tops.
The very sheltered water remit limits your operating areas on the sea. This is an excellent entry-level paddlesport coaching award.

Paddlesport Leader

The Paddlesport Leader Award supports you in leading safe and enjoyable trips based on your group’s needs and aspirations.

You can lead mixed craft groups in a sheltered water environment (wind up to Force 3, less than 200m from land, slow-moving rivers and estuaries). As a Leader, you can work independently or be deployed by a club, centre or organisation to lead trips and journeys.

Assessment takes place over 1 or 2 days, depending on the logistics relating to suitable environments.

Paddlesport Touring Leader

The Paddlesport Touring Leader Award supports you in leading groups in inland open water environments and on slow-moving water and rivers up to and including grade 1. This may include the occasional grade 2 rapid and simple safe weirs.

Sea Kayak Leader

There is a tidal and non-tidal waters option for this award.

Non-tidal waters are areas where there is little tidal movement or tide streams. If you only expect to lead in areas such as the Mediterranean and parts of the Baltic, choose the non-tidal option assessment. However, this will limit your operating limits to non-tidal waters. I do not know of any non-tidal evaluations taking place in UK waters.

The Sea Kayak leader (tidal waters) assessment gives you a wider operating remit. I only assess candidates for the Sea Kayak leader (tidal) award in Jersey.

The Sea Kayak leader award enables you to lead safe, enjoyable short, single or multi-day journeys. Holders of this award can lead sea kayakers with a range of experience on trips based on their needs and aspirations in a moderate tidal water environment with winds not exceeding Beaufort force four and tides up to 2 knots. Assessment takes place at the upper end of the remit (Moderate water, Force 4 and tides of up to 2 knots).

This standard is used by clubs, outdoor centres and organisations for leaders taking a group on the sea in moderate tidal water.

Though it is possible to go directly to an assessment, many candidates benefit from attending a sea kayak leader training course.

Visit our webpage for Sea Kayak Leader training and assessment dates.

The prerequisites for the Sea Kayak Leader assessment are;

  • Be a member of either British CanoeingCanoe WalesCanoe Association of Northern Ireland or the Scottish Canoe Association.
  • Have a recognised British Canoeing Awarding (BCAB) two-day First Aid training. In some countries, finding a two-day first aid course that meets the BC requirements can be challenging. British Canoeing has accepted one-day courses as Accredited Prior Learning (APL) from European candidates. However, you need to contact BC HQ to check if your First Aid award is accepted and make an APL application. It’s a good idea to send a copy of your first aid course syllabus (in English). Remember, your first aid award must be valid on the assessment day. There are many two-day Outdoor First Aid courses in the UK. German paddlers can attend outdoor first aid courses run by: Outdoorschule Süd e.V.
  • A BCAB-recognised Safeguarding training course. This is very important because you may be working with vulnerable people, and there is always the possibility that you may encounter safeguarding matters. If your Safeguarding course is not on the BC list, apply for an APL and send a copy of your certificate and the syllabus to BC HQ. Some safeguarding courses need to be updated every few years to remain valid.
  • Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning course. Full details can be found in the Course Guide. Alternatives are accepted, but you may need to send a copy of the certificate and syllabus to obtain an APL.
  • Sea Kayak Leadership experience. Most successful candidates have at least 12 trips where they led groups in moderate tidal waters. Plus, 12 trips in moderate tidal waters as an assistant, where they helped to plan, organise and lead the journey. Be careful if most of your leadership experience was obtained by attending sea kayak leadership training/incident management courses. Though these courses are excellent experiences, they may have given you little time when leading the group.
  • Evidence of Sea Kayak leading in three different sea areas. In 2023 the requirement for your leading/assisting trips to have been in at least three different sea areas was reinstated. You can see the sea areas in the UK Met Office shipping forecast. Similar sea areas exist around the European coastline. Many assessment candidates are unsuccessful because they have only paddled and led in one sea area. Remember, your leading needs to be in moderate tidal waters. Large lakes are not moderate tidal waters.

Leading your group

The Sea kayak leader award is not just an assessment of your paddle skills.

During your assessment, you’ll plan a trip based on the needs and experience of the paddlers in your group. You will have to find out what they want to do and their expertise to give them a great trip. There are many ways to lead. Good leaders can switch between styles, positions and the level of control they are using with the group based on the sea conditions, coastline and paddlers they are leading.

Read, understand and, most importantly, implement the British Canoeing Participant focussed learning model, which is a vital part of your assessment. You will have been introduced to this method during your sea kayak leader training course. There is a lot of excellent information and guidance on the BC website.

Many paddlers who are unsuccessful at their sea kayak leader assessment need more experience leading groups at the upper end of the remit. In other cases, the lack of leadership in different sea areas means candidates need more experience.


This is very helpful. Paper, online and even your Strava/Garmin GPS entries are excellent ways to keep a record of your leadership experience, trips and conditions etc. Remember to highlight the trips that meet the criteria. If you do not have a log, expect to be asked many questions about your leadership experience.

The British Canoeing trip planner is an excellent way to record your leadership trips. It includes a section to reflect on the journey and identify what went well and what you might do differently next time.

BC Registration

Registration is separate from booking a place on a course.

You must register with BC Awarding well in advance so they can check you have the correct prerequisites for your assessment. Do this at least one month in advance if you need to sort out any problems. Use your BC membership login to register and pay online. 

This is separate from booking your assessment course with Jersey Kayak Adventures.

You must bring your BC registration to attend the course. If you arrive without registration, your course fees will not be refunded, and you cannot participate.

For more information, please read the Registration Guidance and send me your registration details one month or more in advance.

If you do not plan to lead or guide trips, the Coastal Sea Kayak award is an excellent alternative with fewer prerequisites.

Advanced Sea Kayak Leader

This is like the Sea Kayak Leader award, except you are assessed in advanced tidal waters, so most of the above apply.

You need to be confident in planning and undertaking journeys on the sea in a sea kayak in winds above force four and tides over 2 knots. In addition, you can make open crossings above two nautical miles.

The prerequisites are almost the same as for the Sea Kayak leader award, except that you are expected to be able to lead in advanced tidal waters. Your leadership and role as an assist leader must be in at least three different sea areas and in advanced tidal waters.

More information is here.

If you do not plan to lead or guide trips for a club or organisation or become a sea kayak guide, the Advanced Sea Kayak award is a good alternative with fewer prerequisites.

Our Advanced kayak trail is a great way to tune up your skills. I do not run assessments for this award.

Sea Kayak Coach Award

The Coach Award is used by clubs, centres and organisations worldwide, as well as independent coaches who have a career in paddlesport.
The Coach Award supports you in coaching those who want to gain/improve their paddlesport skills.
The Coach Award consists of Core Coach training, where you will explore different approaches to coaching, understanding and enabling learning and some core coaching skills. This can be done as a 2-day practical or online course.
Before your assessment, you must also complete a 2-day discipline-specific training focusing on how to coach the discipline-specific skills and what you will be coaching.
You can be assessed in Sheltered, Moderate or Advanced Tidal waters.
Moderate Tidal Water Coaches must have the Sea Kayak leader (moderate water) award.
Advanced Tidal Water coaches must have the Advanced Sea Kayak leader award.
The Moderate or Advanced Tidal waters options enable you to coach in a wider range of areas.


You must register and pay for your Coach assessment well in advance. This gives you time to sort out any problems should there be any problems with your prerequisites. Plus, you can access the learning resources and complete the online tasks before your assessment day. Use your BC membership login details to register and pay online.

If you arrive at your assessment without registration, you cannot be assessed or attend the course. No course fees will be refunded.

For more information, please read the Registration Guidance and send me your registration details well in advance.

Check out the British Canoeing coaching courses guidance page, which gives an overview of the Coaching qualifications, information about the prerequisites and how to book a course.

Which qualification is right for me?