Sea Kayak Leader Assessment. Useful Information

Sea Kayak Leader Assessment. Useful Information

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

The Paddle UK (formerly called British canoeing)  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.

Moderate tidal water is defined as a stretch of coastline with some areas where it is not easy to land. However, there will always be straightforward landing points a maximum of two nautical miles apart, crossings not exceeding two nautical miles, winds not above Beaufort force four, and tides up to 2 knots. You also need to be able to launch and land your group through surf (up to 1 metre, trough to crest height).

Assessment occurs at the remit’s upper end (Moderate water, Force 4 and tides of up to 2 knots).

This standard is used by clubs, outdoor centres, and organisations for leaders who take 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 must contact BC HQ to check if your First Aid award is accepted and apply for an APL. 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. The Course Guide provides full details. 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.
  • You have evidence of Sea Kayak leading in various sea areas. The sea areas used by the UK Met Office shipping forecast are a good guide to ensure you have experience leading in various moderate-water areas. 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.

Where can the Sea Kayak Leader operate?

British Canoeing Awarding Body recommends that the Sea Kayak Leader Award is the right qualification for Leaders working in Moderate sea conditions.

Moderate sea conditions are defined as: “a stretch of coastline with some areas where it is not easy to land, but there will always be straightforward land points a maximum of two nautical miles apart, crossings not exceeding two nautical miles, up to 2 Knots of tide (but not involving tide race or overfalls). Wind strengths do not exceed Beaufort force 4. Launching and landing through surf (up to 1 metre, trough to crest height)”.

The Paddle UK (formerly British Canoeing)  Awarding body “Environmental Definitions and Deployment Guidance for Instructors, Coaches and Leaders” document explains the Sea kayak leader remit in more detail along with staffing ratios.

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. Expect your group to paddle around the Sea Kayak Award level; therefore, they are the sort of paddlers who might need a leader on a trip. You will have to find out what they want to do and what their expertise is to give them a great trip. There are many ways to lead, and good leaders can switch between styles, positions and the level of control they use 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, and the BC website provides excellent information and guidance.

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 various moderate water sea environments is a common reason for candidates not passing their assessment.


This is very helpful. Paper, online, and even your Strava/Garmin GPS entries are excellent ways to record your leadership experience, trips, conditions, etc. Remember to highlight the trips that meet the criteria. If you do not have a logbook, 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 for reflecting on the journey, identifying what went well and what you might do differently next time.

It is expected that the Leader’s experience includes:

  • leading in a variety of moderate sea environments
  • rescues in a range of situations
  • being able to deal with a range of problems
  • working with clients and unknown participants with different needs and aspirations.

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 will not be able to 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.

Dates for our Sea Kayak Leader training and assessment courses are here.