BCU "Correct" Bow Rudder Technique???

-- Last Updated: Jul-29-07 7:47 AM EST --

Okay....just out of curiosity here. I have noticed some discrepencies in what is actually the BCU approved method of doing this stroke. Have been told it depends upon the coach you are talking to.

There are two different methods of doing this stroke (really three with with one just being a sub-variation). Both have advocates saying that their technique is the "correct" way.

1. The technique that is shown in the BCU handbook and explained there, explained in the 3 Star syllabus, shown in Gordon Brown's book, and shown on the Atlantic Kayak Tours website. Upper hand near forehead, shaft and blade held vertical inserted near the knee.

2. The technique that "all the coaches" here on the east coast say is correct and I have heard described as the "preferred method" Blade partially submerged, inserted near the feet, shaft at about a 50 degree angle, upper hand comes around and rests on the shoulder of the side the paddle is on. Leon Somme uses this technique in "This is the Sea" one.

3. A variation of the above stroke but with the hand at the forehead and not laying on the opposite shoulder.

When I took my 4 star assessment I did my bow rudder with a vertical shaft. Another guy did his with the angled shaft and hand on opposite shoulder. Nigel Dennis was the assessor and he failed him on the assessment because of this, yet it was what he had been taught and assessed on in his 3 star assessment. Nigel did not have a problem with my bow rudder, yet the two US coaches that were present did and seemed to not have seen this technique before.

Why the discrpency? Is this a US vs. UK difference in teaching? The BCU handbook and 3 Star Syllabus seems pretty clear in that the shaft must be vertical. While it does not state this outright, it says that the blade and shaft are inserted near the knee and therefore the shaft must be pretty much vertical and not angled.

I could do the stroke all 3 ways. I prefer doing it with the vertical shaft, yet I see some advantages to technique number 3.....and don't like technique 2 at all. I will continue to use the technique I prefer but just am curious why there is a discrpency. The BCU seems very dogmatic about strokes and techniques, yet this is a pretty big discrpency. Especially if it will cause someone to fail an assessment.

Just curious.


wouldn’t the rudder
be more effective in turning the kayak the further forward the blade is planted?

Oh my…
Why not do what is most effective? (as long as it is safe) What nonsense. Years back my friend who paddled for England was kicked out of the BCU (along with some of his friends) for winning slalom races throughout Europe using non-approved strokes. Some of those are standard fare these days. He went on to become a champion paddler and Olympic coach.

current trend/thinking

– Last Updated: Aug-01-07 1:23 AM EST –

is that technique #1 you described is more effective and easier to control than #2 or #3.

More than likely the coaches who taught and assessed your friend for the 3* were either out of date with that technique or not as dogmatic/more forgiving.

The biggest difference between the US and UK regarding the BCU is that there is no formal star training in the UK. Everything is done through clubs participation. The clubs are much more organized and active over there as well. My experience is that US clubs are more social and UK clubs are social but also focus on techniques. Try this, next time you are out with your club on the water ask who wants to practice rescues immediately.

Your friend must be confused and frustrated over the whole experience. This type of situation does come up from time to time and I imagine BCUNA is working on ways to reduce/eliminate it.

As for salty's friends experience - believe it or not the BCU is actually less dogmatic now. The paradox is that when you become less dogmatic to make life easier it can create more confusion because of the loose interpretation allowed.

My personal opinion of the stroke is that using technique 2 and 3 is bad because the paddle shaft is next to your neck. In order to forward stroke, reverse stroke, sweep (forward and reverse), brace (low or high), stern rudder, draw, etc you have to move the paddle shaft from the side of your neck first. I have also seen someone use method 2 in rough seas and dislocate their shoulder when they capsized.

Write Nigel Dennis
Why not send your message as a letter to Nigel Dennis?

He’s the guy.

Just remember, If you can’t fail some people, there’s no power. Thanks for giving me more conviction about not persuing conventional rating systems.

are you thinking of pursuing
unconventional rating systems?

I have been toying with the idea of a certification, the Fun Paddlers Association (FPA), scheme based on the following areas:

  • amount of fun the candidate has while kayaking
  • number of people who enjoy paddling with the candidate
  • how much the candidate gives back to paddle sports

    It seems like safety should be included somehow.

    The biggest problem is that you can’t quantitatively evaluate qualitative data.

    The secret to any organization, whether ACA, BCU, FPA, Babina’s First Roll Frolickers, or Sing’s Short Boat Surfers, is not to take them to seriously.

Improvisational rating
one star-can laugh

two star-brings chocolate

three star-can tell a joke

four star-can tell a joke in 3’ seas and 20mph wind

five star-starts over again

do you mind if I work that into
my rating system?

BCU - What a load of crap
Did you hear about them failing Jenn C for her big assesment this Spring in Scotland because " she was not good enough at multitasking with her students."

Salty is right on about the power trip.

when I took a surf class from BCU folks they were more concerned that they controlled the line up than about catching and riding waves. I caught a wave with my last stroke on the wrong side of the kayak !!! Oh my !

total crap

if data doesn’t get them
humor will

would lame jokes = failing?
since it is subjective I guess we couldn’t fail anyone, but if someone told a joke and no one laughed could we fail them?

Of course we would get detractors who claim we are on a power trip because we didn’t think a joke was funny.

I guess we could really only fail people who couldn’t laugh at themselves.

Fully submerged blade

– Last Updated: Jul-29-07 11:17 AM EST –

I'm not sure what coaches you are talking about on the east coast, but I haven't encountered anyone in this part of the east coast who recommends other than a fully submerged blade. That includes old hands who regularly go back to train and paddle in the UK as well as local coaches who have more recently gone back and refreshed their skills. There apparently has been some slight diff in how to get the hand positions set so that the blade is fully submerged, but full submersion is a constant recommendation. (actually for all of the strokes including the scull)

Also full rotation towards your work, as well as for the draws. The result is a blade that is fairly close in so you really have to get the result by knowing where a neutral effect is and taking it off of that only as much as necessary in order to trun but still maintain some momentum.

I have encountered reports of some odd stuff out there - ran into someone who had supposedly passed a 3 star but found it to be a revelation that she should be rotated towards her draws. Perhaps I didn't quite understand what she was saying - maybe she had just taken a training. Her strokes in general were fairly thin. But there is also the possibility that there are some coaches out there who need to refresh things.

no chance of advancement to “start over” without humor

out of date and ‘nice’ coaches
Organizations like the BCU, ACA, and paddling clubs can be a good way to stay current and try new things. However, people have to keep an open mind, find out why things are done the way they are done, and experiment to figure how it all works.

The other draw back are coaches who are too nice during assessments; maybe they don’t want to fail a friend (should they be assessing friends anyway?), maybe they figure the person is ‘close enough’, maybe they don’t care about having a high standard. Or, the person’s skills could have regressed.

Jenn can outpaddle
most 5 stars I’ve seen…hands down. That’s probably the problem…

You know the story of them failing the gold medalist, world champion paddler because he didn’t bring his tea? True story…he was one of my friends pals.

Now, before we make too much fun of the org., it seems a lot of folk benefit from it, enjoy the system etc., and it has definitely done some good to eastablish a foundation.

And certainly Nigel Dennis is a great ambassador to the sport!! My guess is the guy failed for other reasons, or Dennis overall didn’t think he was there yet.

two points
1 - everyone knows the Brits love their tea. Having a hot drink, or ability to make a hot drink, is on the required gear list. Being required you would think your friend would have brought it even if he thought it was the stupidest thing in the world. I had my hot tea when I took my 4* on a 90 degree day, would have much preferred a thermos of cold lemonade.

2 - Nigel Dennis is actually one of the more understanding and forgiving coaches. During an assessment he said to the assessor ‘everyone makes mistakes, have them try it again and see what happens’. So I suspect it wasn’t just the bow rudder. I remember a guy how failed his 3* and complained for an hour that he was failed on his forward stroke. He was failed on just about everything, for some reason the forward stroke part stuck in his head.

Finest paddlers I know
Don’t even know what these clubs are…don’t care. Matt, don’t limit your learning to just one religiuon. Get out with the good paddlers of all sorts and go have fun. The world is full of superb athletes / paddlers who are taking the sport to levels way beyond…

A lot of these strokes work differently with different kayaks. For example body english will change depending on the boat. Hire an ex-Olympian Slalom boater for a day and you’ll learn stuff not written in your manual.

One of the reasons I like Foster, besides him just being a lot of fun, is his open minded approach to realizing that there’s a lot of personalization to these skills. It’s not black and white.


Some parts missing there. One is that the water temp may well have been the driver - having gone into uncontrollable teeth chattering in light wind and rain at 69 degree air temps in a wetsuit and drytop I have put in hot tea myself at what seemed like pretty warm summer temps temps. (In fact I packed hot tea on a day paddle in Maine just last week where we were in unfamiliar territory with an imperfect forecast.) Or hot chocolate, whatever as long as it was warm.

And I haven’t heard of anyone failing on a single stroke - usually what it has been is that there was an underlying boat control issue that the coach was seeing which maybe showed up more so in one stroke, but was present across other manuvers.

As to the multi-tasking, perhaps that is better judged if someone was present. The conditions that they expect the higher level of coaches to handle a class in can get pretty big, and it isn’t uncommon for one or two people to come into these trainings a bit underprepared for what they encounter. It’s not always easy to prevent that from happening. Having experienced a case where it took three pretty competent paddlers to handle one capsize, I could argue that ability to multi-task well in a group of trainees is a pretty darned important part of higher level coaching.

Coaching or Paddler Assessment?
Was her assessment a Coaching L4 or L5?

Higher level coaching assessments in the BCU are about leadership, teaching skills, etc… as much as anything. Your individual skills as a paddler are covered by the Star system.