Leader Certification?

I just took a quick look at Flatpicks Cert post and if I read it right the only leadership training is at level 5.

Are there ACA, BCU or any other standards for training paddling trip leaders?

I’m interested from a club trip/ volunteer point of view. If the only folks certified to lead any trip are level 5 paddlers that’s going to leave a vacumm.

Oh yeah
For Real Leadership training try USMC, ARMY, USAF, NAVY and or Coast Guard. The way I look at it what the heck can one learn about leadership and leading in a week? Leader ship skills take YEARS to develop. They offer the Lifer several 45 day long Schools, just devoted to leadership and mentoring. Also they PAY you to take these Courses!!

The “Stick” Approach…

– Last Updated: Nov-24-04 8:06 AM EST –

the military is a unique situation. "Sticks" are built into the system very explicitly... Good leaders will command respect and allegiance and the "stick" disppears as a negative incentive. The crappy leaders will still rule in the hierarchy because the organization will drop the stick on you each and every time for any hint of insubordination.

The military approach is necessary to ensure the best chance for order in chaos. I doubt a "militaristic" leader will work in other settings, unless he is able to gain trust and respect through means other than the "stick."

BTW, my perspective comes from interacting with and observing some ex military types in civilian settings. Watching them give "marching orders" and expecting folks to jump just don't fly in the civilian world. They have to readjust and give reasons behind decisions and get buy in, or find they have no one to "lead."


No thats OLD School

– Last Updated: Nov-24-04 8:22 AM EST –

You can not lead effectively in PEACE time with a Stick.. However that is a very useable option in War time during a Time-Sensitive situation. Many Leadership Classes were held at various Colleges such as U.T and USC.. http://www.govleaders.org/powellprint.htm A great leadership primer.. Also lots of great leadership stuff on the site too. http://govleaders.org/index.shtml

what vacuum?
isn’t the idea that a leader have sufficient skills BEFORE he leads a group somewhere?

To my knowledge,which is sketchy as I haven’t been around an ACA IDW/ICE in a couple years is that they don’t have a guide certificate as much as the focus is instruction. The BCI breaks down the certification process to skills and instruction.

agree sort of
It does take years and not weeks to become a good leader without experimenting on customers too much. The few times I had a marine in a kayaking class i learned something about committment. That’s a whole different breed of paying customer than a 50yr old executive who’s never done anything physical or a young married doing it because their spouse wants to and they’re nervous or bored.

On the flip side I’ve seen a few instructors with a military bent alineate a few paying customers as this was fun,not required.

I went on a kayaking trip with two former military fellows,coast guard and army,they had some major communication/leadership issues.

Leadership is a skill, and one must first learn to be a good follower before they can be a good leader. The folks that haven’t learned this are the ones that USE the stick approach or as we like to say the Sledge hammer approach. Anybody that has ever delt with a NEW LT fresh out of College will know what I am talking about. Yeah they have the BOOK Classes on Management and Leadership but little to no real world ability (yet)… I have met Many Civilians that Fall into this category as well. They are generally the ones that have never been led before so they THINK they are Leaders or that the RULES don’t apply to them!!

makes sense
are you responding to my questioning the initial post that there’s an implied leadership vacuum in Flatpics hierarchy?

intermediate person’s idea

– Last Updated: Nov-24-04 9:51 AM EST –

As a solid intermediate paddler who has advanced skills in other sports and leadership training and experience there, I do see why many kayak instructors, guides, and leaders get disturbed by both a trend of beginning kayakers soon signing up as ready to take leadership class and lead trips, kind of trivializing what it takes, and what you are talking about, the notion that one has to be world class to even think about it.

I have less perspective than many here so, from my relative new comer place, I would say I have experienced people who were Star 5 and incredibly knowledgeable, really capable, etc. and Star 5 folks who had all that, but for some reason failed to recognize stuff that measly me noticed and had to point out to them.

So I think, the basic deal on ready to lead is have the hard skills, get feedback from others about how your personality traits and qualities really impact a group, and get lots of practice as an assistant so you don't make guinea pigs out of folks. Don't jump right to leading. That way you will develop accurate ideas about how good you really are, under what conditions you are competent, and who you can and cannot deal with.

So I agree I guess right now, today at least that you should not have to be a 5 to lead, depending on knowledge of limits gained through working with advanced people.

Of course, since one of the essential qualities of a sports leader is their drive and energy towards the mission and towards the welfare of everyone to come back safely first and fun second, these are people who are likely at first to be a bit big on themselves, (me included) and need to be tempered by those with the real know how. Speaking from my own history, this was a good and necessary thing, like learning don't be humber you are really not that great, but keep at it.

I Am Sure…
that the military understands truly effective and adaptable leadership relies on more than just the stick. But the stick is always inherent or you can not have military discipline. The less mature leader, however, will always fall back on “authority” and “stick” when they have nothing else.

I have a young man on staff who is an active officer in the army reserves who has yet to learn this. His position in the reserve simply does not impress the other staff who are not military.


adequate skills for the conditions
of course one doesn’t have to be an ace paddler to lead,they have to be able to lead and have skills that keep them in their comfort zone so the ability to lead isn’t compromised.

In club/social paddling there’s substantial leeway as to the leaders/facillitators role. Some folks will only lead the planning stage then what happens on the water is Brownian motion.

hot topic
this is a hot topic right now with the ACA Open Coast curriculum committee. We are in the process of discussing the possibility (yeah it’s a long route) of possibly adding a ‘guide training’ component. We’re meeting in January.

IMO, the BCU ladder isn’t as linerar as it could be. No leadership stuff before you are tested on it in 5*. In my personal EDU ladder, leadership training begins with the L-3 tripping training. Training can be placed in three arenas: Strokes and Maneuvers, Rescue and Recovery and Tripping.

On ‘official’ trips the lead instructor is usually NOT the leader of the group. he’s there for back-up and support, as are other participants, but the actual leadership is many times handed over to a lesser grade paddler. The goals of the trip is set in advance and the actual nuts and bolts can then be part of a participants involvement in the course. Experience with a safety net.

Again a huge value in having specific level paddlers on board. Certified if you will.


Again I’m thinking about club/volunteer situations, not professional guides or any sort of instructors.

The vacumm is what I would expect if only level Five paddlers are allowed to lead any trip.

I would think that a level Three paddler with good leadership skills could reasonably lead a trip geared towards level two paddlers.

Conversly a level Four paddler with no leadership skills might not do as well in the same situation.

In my experience it is easier to find level three paddlers willing to lead level two trips than level Five paddlers.

The club that I most often paddle with has a reasonably objective system for rating paddlers.

The system for choosing and rating leaders is somewhat more subjective.

So for me at least this is an area where some objective system for training and rating leaders at all skill levels would be valuable.

Another perspective
Our local club (ConnYak) adopted a “leaderless” format 3 years ago. Seems to work very well.

The only requirements now are compliance with club safety rules. A paddle is suggested, and scheduled based on the recommendation of any member who has done the paddle before.

We are not incorporated, and our offical policy is that we are nothing more than a group of friends who go paddling together, and share other related activities.

On long or difficult paddles, someone always steps forward with a plan, and makes sure that participants are up to the challenge. I still do the leader thing the old fashioned way on the paddles I suggest, but that’s just me. The rules allow for that, too.


Brownian motion!!!
Thats a great description!! L

What are the basic safety rules
Could you tell me what the basic safety rules are?

Brownian motion?
Long ago lived a seaman named Captain Bravo. He was a manly man’s man who showed no fear in facing his enemies. One day, while sailing the seven seas, a lookout spotted a pirate ship and the crew became frantic. Captain Bravo bellowed, " Bring me my red shirt." The First Mate quickly retrieved the captain’s red shirt and while wearing the bright garment he led his crew into battle and defeated the pirates. Later on, the lookout again spotted not one, but two pirate ships. The captain again howled for his red shirt and once again vanquished the pirates. That evening, all the men sat around on the deck recounting the day’s triumphs and one of the them asked the captain: “Sir, why do you call for your red shirt before battle?” The captain replied: “If I am wounded in the attack, the shirt will not show my blood, and thus, you men will continue to resist, unafraid.” All of the men sat in silence and marveled at the courage of such a manly man’s man. As dawn came the next morning, the lookout once again spotted not one, not two, but TEN pirate ships approaching. The rank and file all stared in worshipful silence at the captain and waited for his usual reply. Captain Bravo gazed with steely eyes upon the vast armada arrayed against his mighty sailing ship and, without fear, turned and calmly shouted: " First Mate, bring me my brown trousers."

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. :wink:


Make that #4 on the criteria list!
4. Good storyteller.

Not certification, but what?

In a general sense I agree with you. There’s no way that expert paddlers should be the only ones allowed / authorized (by whom?) to lead trips at the club level. Of course, having said that, we need to define the scope of trips that non-experts can safely lead, no? And so doesn’t this become the thing that is so difficult to define?

< of course one doesn’t have to be an ace paddler to lead,they have to be able to lead and have skills that keep them in their comfort zone so the ability to lead isn’t compromised. >

I would offer a slight (though verbose) variation on this thought:

“A competent leader should have the experience to understand the limits of their skills (boat control, group control, seamanship, etc), the knowledge to understand how multiple factors can combine to develop conditions that exceed those limits, the vision to foresee various hazards before they develop, the judgment to weigh risks vs benefits for alternate courses of action and the strength of character to put the safety, welfare and enjoyment of the group ahead of their own wants and desires.”

The above being said, who among us has not lead others without having fully considered all of these issues or staying strictly within our limits? To say that only level 5 paddlers should lead is preposterous. That leaders would be well served to aspire to become level 5 paddlers is another issue.

The difficulty is that we don’t always know what we don’t know and in not knowing we expose ourselves and our charges to the potential for dire consequences. Certainly some experts paint a dangerous and difficult picture of leading in order to make themselves look all the more worthy of praise. But who other than the more-skilled / more-experienced paddlers should we look to for guidance?

Every now and again I re-read Deep Trouble in an effort to drive the complacency from my own thinking. The combination of seemingly benign factors can lead to situations that far exceed the sum of the parts. There but for the grace of God. . . Many of the best, in various high-risk sports, consider themselves lucky to have survived their early experiences.

< In club/social paddling there’s substantial leeway as to the leaders/facillitators role. Some folks will only lead the planning stage then what happens on the water is Brownian motion. >

You certainly have the experience to understand the limits of this method but does everyone who buys a boat or everyone that considers leading others on the water have your same understanding? I wish they did but I don’t really believe that is the case.

A fellow paddler once offer this (paraphrased) explanation to me: “In social settings, people are loathe to feel less-skilled / less-qualified (less of a paddler?) than another clubmate and so instead devalue the very skills and experience that differentiate them from the more-highly skilled”.



Leaderless trips still start with someon
I like that format, but it still assumes that someone takes the initiative of suggesting a trip and getting the ball rolling. That someone may or may not have “credentials.”

If all the interested paddlers are self-sufficient (for the likely conditions) and they don’t vary too much in paddling ability, it should work. This is basically the situation when a small group of experienced friends paddle together regularly. But if there’s even one really slow or less-skilled paddler, what happens? Someone might have to take on the role of either telling that person to go back or escorting him/her back, or else everybody (theoretically) has to slow down.

A small group of experienced friends paddling together is not the same as a club, and definitely not the same as a commercial guided trip.

In the first case, nobody cares about “credentials” other than knowing each other and oneself, and in the last case the customers expect the guide to be more knowledgeable than themselves. The middle area, the club trip, is where I think the most trouble could arise. You have as much potential for varied “clients” as in a commercial trip and as much potential for lawsuits.

And that’s why almost nobody wants to lead club trips here…even though there is no requirement for cert. at all. Why volunteer your time and effort to make yourself vulnerable to being sued? Adding a requirement for prospective leaders to pay to learn and get cert. would really kill the club trips.