BCU intensive sessions

We’ve been paddling some form of kayak for over a decade. We’ve paddled rivers, ponds, large lakes, bays and the coast of Maine. We’ve made it safely through squalls and conditions that sent lobster boats to port. We’ve had an array of lessons here and there. We’ve participated in numerous pool sessions.

Nothing we’ve done compares to the intensive 2 day BCU 3* training we just went through. (Acknowledging that 4* & 5* training exceeds our recent experience.) The coherent skills training and work over two full consecutive days was challenging and satisfying. There is much discussion on p.net of the value of BCU training. For those who denigrate specific aspects of the BCU required skill sets, the value and relevancy of these becomes obvious when experienced in context.

I want to weigh in to say that any paddler who is dedicated to improving ones efficiency, safety, and enjoyment would greatly benefit from such sessions.

We all know that technique is not
important to sea kayaking. ;-). Just Kidding! sounds like a great time.

The real thing

– Last Updated: Jun-06-05 9:24 AM EST –

Congratulations. I feel the pangs of envy. Tell us more details. When Celia and you will submit yourselves to the 3 stars assessment?
As there are not any Bcu courses in Spain, the only way to receive the training is flying to the UK. Then maybe a detour to visit typical English shrines such as the Vcp factory.
One of my club mates learned to paddle 30 years ago as a foreign student in Wales and after retaking the sport a year ago, he still keeps solid skills.


Where did you take the course?

Where, Assessment Plans
Evan, a coach and area paddler who also participates on this board, kindly arranged for this training on Lake George in upstate NY. Kudos to Evan for that - I am sure he did a lot more work than he has told us about. It was arranged thru Jed Luby and he brought along two other coaches, Jeff and Warren (sorry about losing the last names guys).

I can’t say enough good about this and coaches - all a treat to meet - but I just found out I have to hop up to a meeting. Suffice to say that it really nailed a couple of issues that I’ve had, with the right kinds of things to practice that should get me over that hump during this summer.

Jim and I plan to try for assessment the end of this season, maybe taking advantage of a one day refresher closer to then.

possibly Jeff Adler from Cape Cod?

Does Evan instruct through Atlantic Kayak Tours on the Hudson?

Format, Jed, crew, and goals

– Last Updated: Jun-06-05 2:12 PM EST –

We specifically signed on for 2-3* training. Jed regularly noted skills that were part of 2* & 3*. He, Jeff, and Warren were always alert to individual paddlers - offering helpful suggestions, encouragement and tailoring exercisies to the abilities of individuals. Saturday was primarily focused on learning specific skills (including basis, variations, and usefulness) and Sunday was primarily focused on employing skills.

As I have found with every advanced BCU coach I've encountered, the attitude was of sharing skills and experience. Some on this board have mentioned haughty or arogant coaches. I've yet to meet an advanced BCU coach who is not humble.

An amazingly nuturing environment was maintained throughout the weekend. There are a number in the group of paddlers whose technical skills far exceed mine. Yet, never did I feel incompetant or inadequat.

We are fortunate. Evan, who organized this weekend, organized ongoing Thrusday evening skills sessions which feel communal. Most who participated this past weekend already knew each other from these sessions. We started with a degree of mutual trust and respect.

We will continue to work on skills. With each other, during ADK paddles, and the Thursday sessions. This year when Celia and I spend our annual 3 weeks on the coast of Maine, we will be better paddlers and will have much to work on and think about. After returning from Maine, we will probably do a refresher, either with Jed or at Atlantic Kayak Tours. Ideally, we will be ready for 3* assesment by the end of the season.

Jed Luby's piece on his 5* training, published in Atlantic Coastal Kayaker and posted on the MIKCo site (link below), is an engaging and useful read.


I’m sorry, I have no memory of Jeff’s last name. He brought his orange (really orange not ‘traffic yellow’)Nordkapp H2O - pretty distinctive boat as it is completely orange - deck, trim and hull. (I tend to remember people’s boats easier than their names :{

Jed is based in New Hampshire and Warren in NYC. Jeff and Jed have worked together a lot. My impression was that Jeff was based in NH as well - but that could be wrong.

To the best of my knowledge, Evan has not taught at Atlantic Kayak Tours.

Probably not and yes
(I think I got the order right.)

I think Jeff said he lived in NH, and yes Evan has taught at Atlantic Kayak Tours.

Now I can finish the other thought… there were allover two fabulous things that came out of this weekend. One was that we were given a real complete “kit-bag” of things to go home and practice, with details about how to do things that change a particular stroke or technique from looking functional to looking smooth and effortless (like in the videos). The other was that everyone got some specialized help in areas that were particular sticking points for them, so that anyone who arrived with a particular logjam that was inhibiting their moving forward has tools to move past that problem.

The coaches’ ability to hone in on each person on a individual basis was stunning. I’ve been exposed to good instruction in the bit I’ve taken, but never before have I experienced teaching that was so effectively targeted.

And we had fun too! There was some physical wear which I had to do some stretching last night to counter - but altogether it was more fun than difficult.

Info on Jeff, Warren, and Evan
Jeff Brent lives in New Hampshire, trained at Maine Island Kayak & ASSC in Wales / teaches at various shops in NE.

Warren Parker lives in Manhattan, trained / teaches at New York Kayak.

Evan Shaw trains at MIKCO, teaches at Lake George Kayak, Bolton Landing, NY.

Clarity from Tom Bergh

– Last Updated: Jun-08-05 9:01 AM EST –

One of Tom's emails to me today I believe is closer to Jed Luby's stated goals in relation to the BCU system than I was able to articulate:

"Am sure Jed gave you a decent picture of the Star system.

...in fact there is no such thing as a 2 or 3 star training in the BCU. We all do them because people don't get it otherwise.

So all we really can do is give a baseline, and advance the cause a bit, eh?"

PLEASE SEE BELOW EXPLICATION ("Seamanship is a true life lesson, with a skill set second to none.") IF THIS IS PERPLEXING OR IRRITATING

Clarity indeed
What a great report…

Indeed, what is often needed is clarity, it confounds me the prejudice and misconceptions about the BCU star system.

So many assume it is about certification in regards to “gnarl” factor, specifically, that it could lead to a government enforced licensing system. As in, "are you going to put in this river? It is rated class 3, do you have a class (star)3 rating?

It is almost unfortunate that the BCU star system appears aligned with the river rating system.

A better view of the BCU star system is that it is best approached as percieving education in a comprehensive manner.

In sea boating, for example, I am amused at how many people think they are “intermediate”,or,“advanced” because they have paddled for what they think as a sufficient number of years, or because they can pull off an armpit or butterfly roll.

Too many times I have seem people with cool flatwater skills (rolls included) flail in the environmnet that actually necessitates such skills. And, despite the label “sea” kayaking, how often it is that “seamanship” is sorely lacking (example- great that you could roll in that situation 15 times, why didn’t you predict that you shouldn’t have been there?).

The gist of the star system is that it points out what should be the obvious- that most practice what we are good at, and avoid what we are not good at.

Comprehensive education.



– Last Updated: Jun-07-05 6:20 AM EST –

"...in fact there is no such thing as a 2 or 3 star training in the BCU. We all do them because people don't get it otherwise.

So all we really can do is give a baseline, and advance the cause a bit, eh?"

Must need a secret BCU decoder to figure your email communications out. :) Yeah, Tom Bergh/MIKCO is recognized. But where is the "clarity" in this snippet of email message? What is the great unwashed paddling masses not getting "otherwise"? Whose "baseline" and what great "cause" are you all advancing? Sounds like the communication from the cartoon, "Pinky and the Brain." Pinky: "What are we doing today?" Brain: "Take over the world, stupid!"

The problem in providing this little snippet of your communication with Tom is that it actually gives the appearance of bit of arrogance that I am sure Tom really doesn't have.

I am glad you're training and feeling more comfortable with the paddling you do. If BCU works for you, power to you. :)


your inference, not Tom’s implication

– Last Updated: Jun-07-05 9:12 AM EST –


Sorry Tom's snippet, as I conveyed it, reads as arrogant to you. Of course that is not reflective of Tom (who is very humble) nor was it my intention.

It apparently wasn't as clear in its intent and content as I thought.

I will try again - there is no specified curriculuum or format for training to the BCU 2 or 3 star level. However there is mastery of certain skill sets that is expected in order to attain 2 and/or 3 star recognition. Many coaches use those skills as an armature for sessions aimed at improving paddlers' abilities. BCU coaches incorporate such skills into a broader view of paddling, seamanship, respect for nature and regard for the sea. I believe that is what Tom means by 'the cause.'

Maybe this excerpt from Tom will be clearer: "Seamanship is a true life lesson, with a skill set second to none."

Speak briefly
… and refer to thoughtful things. I can’t imagine anyone less arrogant than the folks at MIKCO, but it seems that we are so accustomed to lots of words that it is often easy to mis-interpret briefer statements of things.

Thanks Sing
I thought I was missing something there as well.

Every time the BCU structure begins to sound appealing (it does appear to have a lot to offer - mainly due to the quality of the people more than the system) I see a a comment like: “people don’t get it otherwise” and am turned off.

Of course I know it’s not fair to take such snippets out of context, but it’s hard to miss things like that. 2-3 star syllabi read like basic solid calm water skills. What’s not to get (without paid BCU instruction)? The skills, or the BCU version/interpretation/assessment of the skills that will warrant a rating?

I really should have bought that one star patch I saw on eBay…


Potential BCU trainee?

2-3 Star, Calm Water
Actually, viewing 2-3 star skills as oriented towards calm water is correct in the BCU system, according to coaches with whom we have spoken. That is one reason the roll comes in later in the BCU context than in some other systems, because in calm water other self rescue options are reliable.

The desired progression is to develop absolute confidence in paddling on your edges and using a good assortment of strokes properly in flat water. The 4 star is more demanding on some technical details, but broadly speaking can be viewed as demonstrating the same confidence in edging, strokes etc in dimensional water as was required for the 3 star in flat water. (4 star is also where you need to be able to roll.)

This is a very, very careful and progressive approach. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, or a universal way to go. It was also explained to us that some of this system developed because in Great Britain it is (or was) an all-volunteer Coast Guard, which was being greatly overburdened with rescues since the paddling conditions there are quite difficult.

Context and Coherency
There are many skills, many ways to learn them and even more ways to use them. Just as there are many words, different ways the learn them, and many ways to employ them.

Every system of acquiring knowledge, skills, and understanding attempts to provide a means through which mastery can be acheived.

For most endeavors, varying means to mastery have evolved.

I think all systems of learning paddling skills share the goals of safety, efficiency, and exploration. Maybe the “it” that the BCU system hopes to convey is the interconnectedness of skills along with a respect and regard for nature and, in particular, the sea.

That’s Better…
I don’t know Tom personally but know of his reputation, a good one, from others whom I know.

The original snippet, out of context, does not give a good impression of what he’s trying to convey to you in some personal email. I think this last post is much more clear and less subject to interpretation.


4 star roll not "required"
The roll can be waived for 4 star at instructor discretion as long as all other skills are solid.

I question that, as I think to have meaning a basic technique like a roll should be required (on both sides!) at the 4 star level, but I also think it’s good that some flexibility and instructor discretion is allowed in the system (cuts both ways though).