BCU 3-star kayak assessment

I’m taking my 3-star assessment next Sunday and am looking for any advice related to the assessment. I’ve taken 3-star training in 2003 and 2004, and practice the techniques fairly regularly. Weak spot is definitely sculling for support - any tips on that one? Are there any “gotchas” anyone else has encountered during their assessments? Thanks in advance…

My first advice to paddlers who want to learn (side)sculling, is to get the entire upper body into the water during the stroke.

It’s much harder to scull when one has to support the weight of the upper body as opposed to letting the buoyancy do its job.

There’s a sidesculling movieclip at the homepage of QajaqUSA:



So a question about bcu assessment
can you lay back on the rear deck to demonstrate this skill. Can you come up fron a capsize, scull to the waterline and come up rather than go down on that side and not capsize.

My sculling up is very reliable, my controlled descent to the water often results in capsizing and sculling up. I can sustain myself at the water line and come up as desired.

My offside scull wasn’t good
I was sick as a dog when I assessed got tired fast. Try to conserve energy or do the skills that you think will be most difficult when you are still fresh. I still passed but my offside sculling was laughable that day.

Don’t you have to change you name?
To Derek or Nigel and wear belts and suspenders and ugly wool jumpers?

but we can knock out a few of your teeth after a man u match, have a few pints, and call it even if you like punter?

Side Sculling

You are certainly on the right track by getting your body into the water, but there is more to it than that. You need to allow your body and most of your head to be immersed but you must keep the kayak on as even a keel as possible. If the kayak “falls over” on you, it will simply push your body under the water. They key is not in the sculling movement, but in finding a balance position. When done properly you can simply float on the water with no motion. These are common exercises for Greenland-style enthusiasts.

Some keys are: try to get your back as flat on the water as possible. You may have to schelp around in the cockpit so that it feels you are sitting on the side of the seat.

You need to get your weight as close to the water as possible. This is where thick hip pads are actually a liability (and why Greenland kayak are a custom fit without the need for thick pads). The thicker the pads the higher your weight is kept above the water when your kayak is on its side.

Once your back touches the water, drop your upper leg. All pressure should now be on the lower leg – the leg closest to the water.

Arch your back or push with your legs so that the kayak stays relatively flat on the water. It should be no more than at about a 45 degree angle. If it is resting on its side or at a greater angle, the kayak will simply push your body under water.

Only your face should be above the water. If you try to lift your head above water it will become dead weight. Leave it in the water for buoyancy.

With practice, you can float motionless when you get this balance position. While learning or in extreme conditions, add a sculling motion with your paddle. Think that you are simply spreading icing on a cake. During the scull, all control is performed by your lower hand (the hand closest to the water). The upper hand is just a support platform. If you get both hands involved then the sculling can become frantic and uncoordinated.

A pic of the balance position and more information is on the Qajaq USA forum at http://www.qajaqusa.org/cgi-bin/GreenlandTechniqueForum_config.pl/noframes/read/833.

The side scull is a technique that I view as a cornerstone of Greenland technique and it’s one that I am very passionate about. Sculling is usually learned in Greenland before rolling. Once you have a solid scull you soon have a roll and a balance brace (static brace).

Greg Stamer

Yes this all seems right. I’ve always been chicken to drop the upper leg. It’s really time to get rid of those footpegs, but even if I keep them, there is no reason to use that leg until I am upright

BTW that’s some water you are in for that picture you linked to. Clear as a pool in the middle of…?

Use long slow strokes…
That was what I was taught and it really works. Keep your paddle moving nice and slow, and move it right the way forwards and right the way back.

Also, make sure you are proficient on both sides - they will check!

BCU syllabus says confident committal

– Last Updated: Sep-12-04 11:50 AM EST –

It's funny when "evidence of confident committal to the paddle" (to me, that means the paddler would capsize instantly if the paddle magically vanished) turns to "must have torso lying in the water" (second quote mine).

Here is the link:


Page 10 (which is the first main right hand side page of text) gives the relevant passage regarding the level three test.

Since the topic is BCU certification, let me say that all the BCU instructors I know offer top notch instruction. This is an important part of my feelings about the BCU.

I do wonder about funny things though.

Some wonders:

As to the layout:
Does adobe acrobat have no repaginate option, or ability to easily shuffle complete pages in a document? Even the local paddling club I belong does not publish a document laid out so badly. (Thanks to Sean and others). (If the BCU work was from a volunteer I retract 90% of this point)

I do wonder about the testing process. Like any organization I worry that those who achieve a certain level want to make it more exclusive thereafter.

Is the English language so inarticulate that there is no difference between "evidence of confident committal to the paddle" and "must have torso lying in the water" ? I think not! So then: were the folks who wrote this syllabus just too sloppy or lazy to write accurately? (if so, I will be happy to work with them in this area, as a writer or a coach, in return for kayaking instruction). Has the standard changed. but the writing not caught up with the standard?. Or do testers vary from "evidence of confident committal to the paddle" to "must have torso lying in the water".

I do wonder about the above questions.

I find sculling to the latter standard much more difficult than rolling, (I find a sculling roll to be easier than sculling down to the surface and back up). In a sculling roll the buoyancy of you body helps bring you to the surface and all you need to do is establish a bit more support to balance there. A bit more of a paddle stroke and a hip snap and you are up. Lowering down you must deal with the weight and momentum of you torso.

I would especially like to hear from two types of people

1. Those who did not find a fully immersed sculling for support stroke harder to perform than rolling. (When they were new to both)

2. A BCU coach trainer (preferably a syllabus writing committee member) who can ease my wondering as outlined above.

Ahh, the problems when you write down a standard!

Balance brace
Hi Greg

Thanks for you clarification on the balance brace. I /almost/ hit the balance today. It took some 20-30 seconds before my face was completely submersed. The trick when balancing on the right side was to rotate/force the left shoulder down.

Martin Nissen from Qajaq-Kbh gave me a demonstration a few weeks ago. He mentioned that it helped to wear a neoprene tuiliq for the exercise.

I currently only wear a 5mm wetsuit and no pfd. Next time I’ll bring my pfd.


As I brought the “submersed torso” into the discussion I shjould say that I’m not BCU certified and have no idea how the BCU instructors interpret the requirements for support-strokes. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

Here’s the relevant section from the BCU document:

“Supporting. Candidates should possess a range of support techniques in order to

maintain balance in varied circumstances. Demonstrations should include low and

high recovery strokes as well as low and high sculling for support on both sides.

Sculling for support. support The paddle to be kept low, nearly horizontal, with evidence of

confi dent committal to the paddle.

Recovery strokes. Both high and low recovery strokes be demonstrated with the

kayak well off balance. To be performed on the move, and forward paddling to be

maintained thereafter”

Source: http://www.bcuna.com/PDF-Files/1-3-Star-Kayak.pdf

I’m currently so absorbed in practicing the greenland capsize maneuvers, that I sometimes forget there are other ways of doing things.

And I agree that submersed sculling is harder than rolling. Strange considering there’s less movement and coordination involved in sculling.


Yep greenland techniques easier

– Last Updated: Sep-12-04 9:02 PM EST –

for sculling, balance bracing with paddle, etc. I can scull down and up with a greenland stick and sometimes hold a balanace brace as well. This is not due to any talent on my part, (far fron it), it is just much easier and those helping me have been perceptive and generous.

I'm not doing a balance brace with a euro this week.

Assessment ambiguities…
Thanks everyone for all the help - I’ll spend some time on the lake this week trying to piece it together. I’ll break out the face mask, as it sounds like I’ll be getting VERY wet. :wink:

I read you loud and clear on the (deliberate?) ambiguitity “confident committal” clause…

The other students and I in our 3-star class quizzed our instructor on what this meant, and he explained his interpretation as, “I need to be convinced that you’d fall over if you weren’t performing the brace.” So for those of us who were able to hold a more extreme edge, that meant we needed to apply the support stroke at a position more close to the horizontal. Subjective, yes, but it does give the coach some necessary flexibility in dealing with differing equipment, body types, and physical capabilities. This standard applied to all three support/recovery strokes covered in the assessment - low, high, and sculling.

goal of sculling
While a lot of the advice mentioned so far is helpful, most of it has a focus on Greenland technique.

Now, if you work on Greenland side sculling and get comfortable with it, it will go well at a 3* assessment. More importantly, it is a gateway skill for a lot of the other Greenland techniques.

But that is not the point of “sculling for support” in the BCU scheme.

The intent of sculling for support is to prevent a capsize while in a “stopper”, the Brit term for hole or reversal (“windowshade” is a slang term used on both sides of the pond). So technically, having the body in the water, especially lying on one’s back, is not at all necessary.

What I look for during assessment is to see the blade in constant motion, and the boat edged to a degree that if motion stopped, a capsize would occur. I have seen several candidates who would look good, but if they stopped sculling, they would simply be in a strong yet comfortable edged position. I like to see the boat past the support of secondary stability. Not that much past, but some.

Also a hint- if you do not have your 2*, you can be tested on that syllabus as well during the 3* (and probably would be). Also, too many focus entirely on the practical. The theory section is critical, as well.

Hope you do well, I hope you get a good assessor. And the best advice is to not consider it a test; it is a diagnostic. We take our cars to the mechanic, we take our bodies to the doctor, just for advise on “how’s everything doing”. Star tests should be the same.

Karl Andersson (BCU Coach 4 Sea)

Adobe Acrobat, yes
the paid for full version. The free Acrobat Reader, no ( I don’t think).

If you have the full version of Acrobat, use the page thumbnail view to drag the pages around and re-order them.

Thanks! Well thought out and said.
I appreciate your perspective, no doubt your trainees benefit fron working with you,

We were told to go all the way over
It is much simpler to hold a lean than to go all the way in. When I assessed we were told to fully commit, body as perpendicular to the boat as possible, head and torso in the water and then slowly scull up after holding for a while. I can scull up and down on my right all day but usually end up rolling up when fully commited to sculling on my left. It would have been much easier to satisfy your sculling for support definition :slight_smile:

It not about me; its the layout
the had to have the full version to publish it. Publishing in in that form smacks of lack of care, somewhat excusable on the part of a volunteer.

Thanks for the help!
Just got back from my assessment. Thanks to your assistance, I nailed the sculling for support. Apparently I still need to work on my high braces (not going over far enough), so success eludes me… but only for now. :wink: