Assessment - 3 Star BCU

Yesterday I drove three and a half hours across the state to Sweetwater and met up with Russell Farrow for my three star assessment. I had a Nigel Foster Legend strapped onto the car, every piece of “kit” I own in the trunk, full water bottles and even a thermos full of hot liquid “just in case”. I was very nervous as I don’t have that much butt time in the Legend, and I had been practicing for the last two weeks with a Euro blade (which I had not really touched for at least six months). GP only

I had had excelent coaching from Jeffrey Bingham, but I knew I was weak with some of my drawing strokes and edging control and really wished I had had more practice with them, with the boat, and with the paddle…Yeah I know…was setting up my excuses if I failed.

Anyway, Russel looked at the Legend and we strapped “his” Legend onto the car “so we could be on the same playing field” HAH! and off we went. The whole time I am thinking to myself…sit up straight…paddle presentation…

Russell, probably sensing my nervousness recommended that we initially just go paddle around a bit and we did, and started talking about the BCU, some of the philosophies and how the assessments were going to change somewhat October 1st…more specific to the boat …so now there will be a three star assessment for “sea kayaking” and another one for “open canoe” etc. It was very hot and muggy and we rolled the boats to cool off. He started talking about the criteria for the assessment and since I thought I had paid for an hour instruction prior to the assessment, I took all this as good coaching time and practiced everything he talked about. We even spent some time on the beach talking about low and high pressure and the effect on the stern and directional control. (I have already taken out Nigel Fosters volume 3 to re-study!). I was still nervous but figuring that this was coaching time didn’t worry about the upcoming assessment. We practiced an eskimo rescue, and a t rescue and I got some great pointers…or should I say that I got the same pointers that I got from Jeff but in a slightly different way and it helped gel the concepts.

We worked a lot on edging and hanging draws and low and high braces (gotta keep my elbows in more) and using the feet and torso to drive the boat around the paddle…again…all stuff I had learned but I figured this was great practice. We did one thing where he had me sit on the outside of the boat just behind the cockpit and grip the boat from the outside and try to do sweep strokes. Did I mention that the Foster boat has a round hull that has two distinct chines? I barely moved a couple of feet before I was in the water…but I tried again and again until I could turn the boat a little bit anyway. then he had me get back in the boat right away and edge…Wow! I could get the edge over a couple of inches more just because it felt so rock solid after the exercise on top of the boat!

So we started heading back after practicing some moving draw strokes, doing tight S turns on edge, going backwards in a figure eight on edge (had to brace a couple of times on that one!) and we covered just about everything including a tow and Russel suggested we head back towards the put in. I asked him point blank how I was doing and whether he thought it was worth going through the assessment and he looked at me and said that he had been assessing me all along and that I had passed. He recommended that I work on exactly what I was nervous about but that overall my boat control was excellent and lets go back and do the paperwork! Worked for me! (Actually I realized later that we were out there for over three hours!)

All in all a lot tougher than I thought but I am very glad I did this.

So Now I can put a BCU 3 star sticker right next to my Team Zero sticker right next to my QajaqUSA sticker right next to my Leave no Trace sticker right next to my sticker on the bumper…

Tea anyone?


Congratulations! (nm)

Nice Job
Directional Control is one of the sexiest skills for me. Boat placement is key for surfing, and white water, and also for plain touring. You can separate the men from the boys pretty quickly during a group paddle in waves. When you see side slips, hanging stern draws, effecient side sculling, and bow rudders to keep the kayaks in position next to folks who have to use sweep strokes and no boat edge, it becomes readily apparent that folks have spent some time in the kayak.

Congrats Paul…
I am an equal opportunity sticker guy as well…don’t know what to do with them if/when I get them however. I was thinking about calling today to inquire about BCU training. Your posting gave me the push to call…thanks!

BTW…definitely pursue your plans to build a SOF. I skinned and painted mine this past week. Needs one more coat and rigging and hope to get it out this weekend. Is about 17’in length, about 19" wide, 10" at the masik and about 7" at the isserfik. Seeing the boat evolve in front of my eyes has been incredible to experience…



Make mine Earl Grey…
… sun tea, brewed on deck.


Next time we meet you’ll have to try to infect me. I love learning, and used to even like collecting “official” qualifications, so it shouldn’t be a hard sell. Still, I haven’t felt any need to go for the whole package as it were.

A couple questions:

Why not assess in your OI?

Am I going to see a euro replace your storm as spare or even primary sometimes now?

I know you see where I’m going with this…

We found the 3 star to be a real drive for preparation, because it was so stroke and form intensive. And we were pushing on finessing a lot of the stuff to make each side equally comfy right up to the day. It’s harder than many realize to get to that point - I recall not wanting to do anything involving off balance positions or turns for a couple of weeks afterwards. I just wanted to sit in the boat, be carried by the current and listen to the birdies without caring what the heck I was doing wrong or right with my paddle and body.

I personally have some issues with hesitancy in conditions to deal with, and specifics like navigation skills to improve, and so figure that it’ll end up being a two year path for me to try for a four star assessment. But it is a great feeling to have that three star passed. Enjoy!

Greyak good question
I don’t know. Now that it is over I probably could have used the OI and the GP. Wouldn’t have made any difference to Russell whichever I used. I probably thought and was semi convinced that a hard chine boat would look crisper on edging and the width of the paddle more responsive.

I will be going out this afternoon with the OI on the lake and I just want to play around with some of the paddle control moves and see how they translate. No question that some of it woudl be more challenging with a GP though. Main difference is that you use the entire paddle with the GP to accomplish what you want to do with a Euro blade. But of course it can be done and the GP will certainly be my preference.


Besides the Legend is a “proper” English boat isn’t it?


Congrats Paul!
Although I’m more of a green tea guy, I won’t be turning down your Earl Grey if I’m hypothermic and you come paddling up.


– Last Updated: Jul-18-06 2:38 PM EST –

I prefer green tea also. I'm just a cultural and politically incorrect mess.


This rating is for flat water only. I think it is important to remember that. I realize that 90 percent of all paddlers paddle flat water and in this regard the training is excellent. But I am much more interested in trips, open water crossings, and coastal explorations. These principles that I am learning and am still very much a novice at, will help strengthen skills for “conditions” if they come up and to lower anxiety levels. And certainly will to some extent help alleviate any burden I might become to other paddlers or aid in helping fellow paddlers. That is what this is really all about.

So yeah it is good to know stuff…but am I ready for any “real stuff” yet? I dunno. I am pretty comfortable in the ocean but I haven’t gotten trashed and I haven’t been in 8 foot seas let alone 12 to 14 with nasty weather and etc etc.

What I plan to do now is to work really hard on flat water these directional control skills as I feel that I am far from proficient, and then try to transfer most of it to ocean paddling.


“proper” English boat?
Isn’t the Legend made in Canada? :slight_smile:

Should have borrowed a Pintail!

– Last Updated: Jul-18-06 4:14 PM EST –

Can spin those around with a stiff exhale.

"Proper" - Therein lies my resistance to certs. That, and no iced tea waiver.

I do want to borrow your pintail one of these days


Too late - no longer mine
Well, technically it was Kim’s anyway. Now holding for buyer. I think he’s coming to pick up Sunday. Might impact my making it to MH. Odds are no conflict. Won’t know 'till closer.

Congratulations on the 3 Star! I’ve been thinking about going thru it myself and actually had thought about a Pintail too.

I wonder if assessors would be a little tougher on you because they probably all know how a Pintail handles…

oi, gp and bcu iii
Whether you can use your GP at all or in the extended paddle position in BCU testing varies with the coach. I was able to use my GP, but not extended, which made it a bit more challenging. As for the OI, it all would have been fine except for the reverse figure 8. The OI isn’t made for quick turns on its axis. I imagine that’s why Paul took the Legend: place on it’s chine, it turns easily. I did my BCU III reverse figure 8 in a Pintail with the skeg up–sort of like using a cheater SOF for rolling . Though I have BCU IV skills, I don’t think I’m going to do any more of the sequence, especially since I don’t want to be listed as a coach. For me, paddling is play–Though my work as a medical researcher is also play, I spend altogether too much time in intense social dominance hierarchies to want to replicate the " take another test" mentality paddling.

BCU 4-star and coaching – not
> Though I have BCU IV skills, I don’t think I’m

going to do any more of the sequence, especially

since I don’t want to be listed as a coach.

Just FYI – not questioning your position on assessments and tests – the BCU 4-star award has nothing directly to do with being a coach, being listed as a coach, or even having any coaching skills at all. It is strictly a “personal performance award.” I believe 4-star is required for BCU coach level 3, but if so, that’s by far the easiest part of that coaching certification.

The nutshell definition of 4-star is something like – able to participate in an open water voyage in moderate conditions under a competent leader. Note, nothing about coaching there.


As you point out, you need the higher personal certification for the one level down coach certification. If I was interested in that, which I’m not, then I’d of course want to go up the BCU ladder. I’ve a friend who is a BCU4 paddler, L2 coach,who is now worried about liability on leaderless group trips just because he has coach certification. Sad state of affairs this.


– Last Updated: Jul-19-06 5:57 AM EST –

I agree wholeheartedly about the liability aspects. I do not see myself progressing towards any coaching levels. Frankly they scare the bejesus out of me.

Paddling is play.

This is not to say that I won't help/coach anyone who may think that I can offer something to them. Just not officially. In this respect I guess I have more of a team zero approach.


Hard to see how coach certification…
… increases liability on a paddle trip. Coaching has little directly to do with trip leading, especially at level 2… unless, of course, somebody gets hurt while you are trying to coach them through something. ;-))

Not that I believe in the logic, but it seems to me that a 5-star award would be more of a problem in that regard, as it ~is~ a trip-leadership award. Ditto for the ACA trip leader certification, at a lower level than 5-star, I believe.