BCU - ACA question

Couple of questions really.

Are the training and assessments with Euro paddles or can you use GP’s?

I have tried to find the specific differences in the BCU star ratings and have only gotten generic information. Can anyone comment on some of the specific levels within the star ratings and the skill sets required before advancement?

The major differences between BCU and ACA?


I can’t help you on …
your first questions, but if you are going to get into racing at all, I advise that you join the ACA.

I just joined and the only reason is with the amount of races I do in a season the membership will save my wife and I much more than the membership cost.

I bucked it for several years and just didn’t enter the races that you had to add $10 for the ACA insurance.

That is the only benefit that I can see for me in joining the ACA.




– Last Updated: Oct-22-05 8:37 AM EST –

Can't speak to the ACA side, but I know of people who are interested in doing coaching and are specifically going after the ACA cert to get covered under some liability insurance. The BCU does not offer that nice little piece in the US, though it does have arrangements made in Great Britain. I have been told by those familiar with ACA from older days that the BCU requirements are more specific, and that the ACA is adding specificity to thiers.

The best place to get a list of all required BCU skills may be the website for Atlantic Kayak Tours in downstate New York, the North American BCU center. Don't have time to find the link right now but I'll look later. As far as the BCU star system - thru 3 stars are basically flat water skills. 4 star is about performing those kinds of things effectively in dimensional water. That is why the 4 star is the first one where a fully independent roll is required, though no one we've talked with knew how you could actually make it thru the 3 star without a roll on at least one side. 5 star is a rarely sought level that is mostly about being ready to lead trips. And it's a bear on the training - really, really difficult and boats get damaged.

BCU 3 star gets you a lot - like the ability to join most of the really interesting trips at places like Body, Blade and Boat out in the San Juans.

A lot of paddlers with time on the water start their assessment at the 3 star - as long as the assessor includes the one and two star prior syllabus it's OK.

Just passed the 3 star so can remember it. Allover criteria for things like braces, sculling etc is that the assessor has to see you over enough that the boat will definately have flipped had you not deployed the appropriate strokes. And they are supposed to push you to and past your comfort edge. The rolling requirement often gets knocked off while someone is trying to pass the bracing part.

Here's what I remember of the requirements -
Proper carrying of the boat
Entering and exiting the boat - Without using the paddle, both from knee deep water and from a (usually tall) dock
Basic strokes - good forward stroke, sweep stroke, backwards straight
Braces - Static high and low brace, moving high and low brace
Draws - Hanging draw, moving draw, regular sideways draw (forget the exact name)
Turns - Low brace turn, bow rudder, stern rudder. Stern draw not required here but another good one to have ready.
Manuvers - Backwards figure 8, sculling for support with a sweep stroke to get up, turn 360 in place, paddle forward with the boat on edge (each side) such that the edge alone creates a full circle
Rescues - Eskimo rescue both bow and paddle shaft presentation, act as rescuer and rescuee, fully assisted rescue also both roles
Towing - Demonstration of proper, I think it's commmon for the assessor to add a rescue scenario where the tower is carrying two boats.
Rolling - Ability to get up on one side in three tries with the assessor only touching the paddlers blade at most to assist. (But by the time you can do the above you've gotten a roll.)
Ability to secure the boat to the roof rack using rope and recognized knots
Some basic knowledge about kayaking, demonstration of good judgement and a couple of trips of I think 3 hours or more.

I think that's it - but I may have forgotten one or two things.

Euro or GP
I can’t speak to the ACA but will speak about BCU. I live in Massachusetts and know a couple of BCU instructors that use GP and will train and assess with them. I have been told that if you use a GP, you should look for a BCU instructor that is familiar with them and uses them to assess with.

If you want names, let me know.


syllabus for each training level is downloadable from their North America website.


Many and few differences
Depending on what your goals are…

BCU is the standard for sea kayaking. In Florida, Sweetwater is the place for BCU training and assessment.

I think BCU skill sets are more detailed and comprehensive than ACA for kayaking.

My sense is that for whitewater, ACA is the standard.

Greenland paddles are not officially disallowed in BCU training and assessment, but as noted above it is best to find coach(es) who are sympathetic to the “dark side.”