Older/Newer Designs

Computer aided design
Wayne, what’s interesting is that even with a computer that is able to tweak hull shapes down to the utmost precision and specs, paddlers are still choosing what ever feels good to them for a host of reasons. It’s kind of like designing the seat by computer.

Imagine coming in after a test paddle on a boat you don’t like and the sales rep pulls out a spec sheet trying to prove to you how “advanced” it is.

Agree with that Jay!
That’s what’s so refreshing about Foster. The guy isn’t into dogmatic adherence to rules, rather encouraging folk to explore their own boat / body, and figure things out. Great fellow.

Those who posted here and…

– Last Updated: Feb-05-08 12:54 PM EST –

Sounds a little prickly there - what I said was based on some pretty solid efforts to track this, granted not the word of god from a coach. And I specifically said that I DIDN'T know how the new star system would affect any use of GP's, just referred to the spare requirement.

A number of people have posted on this site that they passed a BCU assessment using GP's over the last couple of years, like above. To my recall no one has indicated that the ACA has been similarly flexible. Most posts from ACA experienced folks have been consistent with the above that the ACA hasn't been GP-friendly. I haven't personally assessed with a BCU coach that was a twig person, but then again neither was anyone in my asssessment group. I think I've heard that one of the BCU guys I've done a little training with has been flexible. He's big in the traditional paddling side himself, as well as having a long-time hard standard BCU background. (He is also a beautiful paddler to watch on the water.)

As to the state of things in the BCU - I downloaded and looked over the syllabus for the new star requirements, mostly the 4 star, this last fall just after the final syllabus was posted on the UK site. That's where I saw the spare split requirement. I also took a 4 star training where they taught to the new syllabus last fall, but none of those coaches or participants were twiggers so there was no conversation about that.

If you look at the North American BCU site, you'll see that the timeline for the new star assessments is now - started sometime in January. There's no more waiting here except for someone publishing the details in writing.

The comment on the syllabi on the NA BCU site is that they are due to be downloaded from the UK. I have posted a question that has been seen by BCU coaches asking whether the NA syllabi will be exactly the same as those I saw from the UK, and the question of sameness was also asked at Sea Kayak Georgia last fall in a meeting of general paddlers with a BCU UK guy. The continuing lack of comment on this, especially since as of a month ago we were on the new star assessments over here, may suggest to some that the NA syllabus will be exactly the same as the UK. At least that's what it does to me and did to one of the people I know who was at SKG.

For the 4 star, even for the 3, the UK syllabi and/or the guidance to coaches for the 3 and the 4 star contains a very specific gear list. That list turned out to be consistent with the gear list that we went thru at the 4 star training at Downeast last September, as did many of the specific skills.

Saying that no one could know where the BCU was going in NA was reasonable last summer, at least officially. But that time is likely past, especially for the folks who will be assessing to the new star standards with the Brit coaches at Sweetwater in 2 weeks.

Might have to do with designs
optimized for high speed paddling, extreme turbulence, or other conditions that paddlers don’t actually engage in routinely. If a paddler gets to try a boat, s/he is likely to be doing so under rather ordinary conditions, and perhaps when the paddler does not even know the boat well enough to put demands on it.

I agree
A computer cannot predict what people will or won’t like designwise. It’s as much art as it is science when you’re designing a boat to sell.

But if you just want to go fast, the computer can probably do that very well.

I have some advice

– Last Updated: Feb-05-08 2:05 PM EST –

If you are going the BCU skills assesment route your choice of tools should not be that big of a deal. You should have a roll with a modern or a GP, the paddle should not matter. Anyone can use the GP for extended levering in a turn, can you turn the boat without extending and thus relying on edge and an efficient maneuvering stroke? Can you turn the boat without a rudder, or keep it straight without a skeg? People that invest in training and pass assessments most often look natural and non-plussed about the paddle or the boat, they can do it in anything. It would also be a good idea to find out if your assessor has any known biases for or against certain products.


One more thought, if you go on the coaching track you might wish to consider being well versed with many different equipment choices because it is your students that do the choosing, not you.


Absolutely agree

– Last Updated: Feb-05-08 2:48 PM EST –

I hope to feel that I am (finally!) ready to assess BCU 4 star this fall. At least I'd better try by then because I'll have to redo some of the pre-req's like the Canoe Safety Test if I wait much longer. That will be with a Euro because, while I regularly mess with the GP and have taken a couple of basic courses, I am more comfortable in a challenged situation with a Euro.

But that's just about doing what is needed for the BCU req's to get by the 4 star. There is a world of other things to do out there with different paddles, different boats and different paddling environments that should be pursued regardless of any certs or systems, and not just for coaching. It just makes for better and more fun paddling.

Remember to have fun as that is
what it is all about. Good luck!


Computers can get designers to the zip code, and hand tweaking after thorough testing can get you to the front door. The computer does not have the knowledge that’s in the head of a world class shaper designer “necessarily”. That person’s skill and experience, combined with the computer nets great results.

Every kayak, computer designed or not, is a compromise. If the sea state and objective were a constant, the perfect boat could be designed assuming a constant paddler. I heard Foster say something on a video to the effect that one could design a boat for every wave theoretically.

Certainly the race boats benefit from computer modelling.

In the future perhaps a paddler could plug in their profile, weight, fitness level, conditions of preference etc., and a computer designed boat could be built for them.

Second that – it’s about fun.

– Last Updated: Feb-05-08 5:03 PM EST –

It shouldn't matter a whit what you do your 4* assessment with as long as you're a competent paddler with the skill level to handle the conditions of the remit. Getting all hepped up about the BCU requirements, past and present, and whether they've been implemented here or in the UK is just gloss. While it's important to know what the assessor is going to expect, it defeats the purpose of paddling, which is taking your boat into conditions that you're comfortable in, handling them, and emerging at the end of the day safe and sound.

One thing that I think paddlers overlook if they're pursuing either the BCU or the ACA track is that all an assessment measures is how you are paddling on that given day in front of someone who's been certified to judge. Have a bad day and you might not "pass", have an exceptionally good day, and you ace it. The main point is, though, how you paddle all the time, whether on your own or with your friends and in whatever conditions.

More importantly, it's an assessment, not a test. You should ultimately gain something from it or at least realize how much you've learned. Whether it's the "old" requirements or the new ones, it all boils down to the same thing: It's how you paddle in the required conditions. No matter if you pass or fail, you're still the same person you were the day before the assessment and you'll be the same person the day after.

The reason I sounded "prickly" is because you always post with such certitude. Prior to the assessment I'd done the 2 day 4* training, paddled a lot in big water with friends, and have had instruction -- note I don't say I "paddled" with so and so Big BCU honcho as there's a huge difference -- with most of the coaches on both coasts and from the UK. I'm also more than capable of reading the BCUNA and BCU UK sites and have managed to understand as much as I can from them with my feeble, waterlogged brain. While I perhaps lack your knowledge and insight and experience in paddling, I pretty much figure what will be will be and, when the time comes to worry about it which for me, means coaching certification and probably renewing canoe test, I'll worry about it then.

The best advice I can give you is to just relax and have fun, and get as much experience as you can in conditions. It'll get you through a lot more than worrying about an amorphous BCU paddling requirement future.

The assessment thing

– Last Updated: Feb-05-08 6:10 PM EST –

No offense intended, but (padding down my first reaction now) I do wonder about reactions between the genders.

I looked at the req's to see what I needed to have done for the assessment, like using this winter to take the first aid course (that I wanted to take anyway). I paid enough attention at the training to spot other odds and ends that may need to be filled in. This way I'm not doing last minute stuff going into the assessment.

I call this making my life easier. I like not having to handle it all at the last minute. Call me nuts.

I paddle - I started WW last year, want to take playboating this year at least to see and hope to start with a canoe again this year. The BCU stuff doesn't define my paddling. But the assessment does require some planning and prep, especially in the new 2 day format.

You are still sounding a little whatever. "While I perhaps lack your knowledge and insight and experience in paddling,..." That's not prickly? You are a ways past getting your 4 star, probably have more experience by a good ways than me.

If you were aware of the status of the BCU stuff from the websites and from communication with coaches, why in heck didn't you say so?

As to the certitude part, I could look over my posts but I'd bet that's a bit off. I'm not a kid either (no offense to others).

Well said
I not sure I could have put it better, Dog.

In the trainer notes for the new BCU 4* sea, there is an interesting sentence-

“ideally through training the candidate will experience a wide range of craft and paddles”

I would think most assessors wouldn’t care what paddle you used, as long you could control your boat effectively. Certainly, we all have biases- I have passed people at 4* that used GP’s, failed others who did use them, but I cringed when I had to pass someone using a 240cm big blade paddle. That person did well on boat control, my dislike of really long paddles could not be a part of my decision.

As for the coaching scheme, things are different. The goal of a BCU coach 1 and 2 is generic, and that coach teaches basics that allows the student to choose their own discipline. Ergo, the candidate coach that shows skill with a GP but is obviously uncomfortable with a standard paddle cannot meet the needs of the beginning student. This is not hypothetical, it is a situation that has arisen with my and other BCU assessors.

As an example, in the last BCU Coach 2 training that I ran, the last part of the last day was spent with everyone trying out a solo canoe, a flatwater sprint kayak, a racing sea kayak, whitewater kayaks, and sea kayaks. We played musical chairs with those and the paddles- wings, standard, and GP. There was some swimming involved, but also a lot of laughter.


The BCU Thing

– Last Updated: Feb-05-08 6:31 PM EST –

I rarely post on here, especially about the BCU, as I've found from reading more than a few threads -- including within this one -- that both the BCU and the ACA have a tendency to raise a few hackles -- or make people, er, prickly. I know no more than anyone else about the changes coming to North America, so I figure there's not much use -- and I have sat through a 4 day run down on said changes -- in getting overly concerned about them.

Hence, it's worth it to my sanity to keep my pie hole shut on the matter.

As for you getting prepared for your assessment: There is no reason not to be prepared for the assessment, in fact you're definitely doing the right thing by doing so. However, there's a difference between paddling for the sake of paddling and paddling so you pass a "test". That said, I do believe in the adage: "Fore warned is fore armed." In all truthfullness, I went into my 4* knowing exactly what the requirements were. But coaches are clever, which is probably why, at least in my understanding under the new "rules" they want you to assess with a different coach than the one(s) you trained with. Therefore, I can almost guarantee you, (as can my friends who've passed their 4* ) you will no doubt be hit with some things, and be expected to respond to them in a competent and timely manner, that aren't necessarily BCU 4* Requirement "approved."

I've noticed in a few of your postings that you seem to think that you won't be able to paddle in certain areas or with certain outfitters if you haven't gotten the correct number of stars. I recently asked two coaches, one from Wales and one from Cornwall, about this and they said they didn't care about one's badges and that it wouldn't prevent me or anyone else from doing a course with them that was appropriate for my self-assessed skill level. In fact, one of the woman in my training class had already paddled in a few good-sized tidal races in Wales and she had yet to get her 4* -- which she did that weekend.

Of course, BB&B might be different and would ask for "proof", but I don't really know how they'd handle it, not having done anything with them.

As for your certitude and my prickliness: Isn't it how you read things?

Or maybe it's just because I'm menopausal.

Technology vs application
What I find amusing is claims such as “performance” kayaks with rudders being a superior design.

First, what is the definition of “performance”? It is rather limited to think that “performance paddling” means going fast. Ever paddled a tide race just for fun? Sorry, but rudders suck. The joy of paddling a tide race, or the surf zone, is maximum responsiveness, and rudders are simply not as effective at turning as a skilled paddler using the paddle with a non ruddered kayak. And on this issue, it is not a matter of opinion.

The claim about superior technology inherent in rudders is also flawed. The biggest problem with sea kayaks using rudders is, IMO, the flawed technology. How many ruddered sea kayaks still use sliding foot pegs? That was flawed from day one. It is only recently that some offer adjustable footbraces with toe tabs- now that is finally a step forward. Also, the whole over stern rudders- racing kayaks, from flatwater sprint to surf skis, nearly always have underhull rudders. One very important reason (although not applicable to sprint boats) is that the over stern rudders really do fail to work well in big seas! I know, I have been at the receiving end of that situation (overstern rudders in big water) in older surfskis, and sea kayaks. Big yuck facter to be perched on a crest and lose all your directional stability.

Why don’t more sea kayaks adopt the superior performance of underhull rudders?

Ever pulled your loaded boat up on a granite slab,or landed hard on a beach break? Just say no to underhull rudders…

I kinda disagree about sea kayaks being slow to adopt technology in comparison to others. Anything really innovative in canoes these days? And after the planing hull whitewater kayaks in the mid 90’s, I can’t think of anything revolutionary since.

Perhaps another viewpoint is that there are some people that don’t buy just 'cuz it is the latest technology. I am writing this on a pc from 1999, which I understand is reaaally dated technology. Still types ok, though.

TITS effect
can’t be overstated. put something in video, done well, culture and fashion follow.

But there had to be people out there
doing it, pre-TITS, in order to actually have a film. Remember back in the 70’s when Wild World of Sports had Walt Blackadar doing the Grand Canyon and the Alsek and Susitna? The Tsunami Ranger folks were filming in the 80’s. TITS came around after a market upsurge so it is natural that a well made film series would do well and inspire. But the egg came before that particular chicken.


BCU Surprises

– Last Updated: Feb-06-08 1:39 AM EST –

I would hope and expect that there are some surprises in the 4 star assessment - there were in the 3 star. If there is a conflict between listing minimum skills and including surprises it escapes me, especially with two days of time.

As paddling for the sake of a test - I know that's not what it's about for me. But you just really really want to issue cautions about that. So thank you for your good intentions.

With humor and wit
There is a reason why Nigel likes his training sessions to be titled “Fun with Foster.”

He is a real treasure in the paddling community.

We Agree Bnystrom

Please re-read my message. You will see we are saying the same thing. Yet you automatically begin attacking me personally.

I said the skirted cockpit is a native inevention that is still very practical today.

I said native craft were excellent for their function and materials.

We are saying the same thing.

Many of you are Missing the Point

– Last Updated: Feb-06-08 12:11 PM EST –

We all have our preferred style of paddling and choose the equipment that we think suits our needs best. When I re-read my original message I see made too much about why I think these designs have grown in popularity. I was only trying to explain why I think modern kayak designs have grown in popularity despite the traditional forces reistant to change.

The originator of this topic was asking about emerging design trends in the field of sea kayaking. The topic is "New vs Old Designs." I think the introduction, acceptance (by some) and growth of these newer designs is noteworthy.

I noted that there has been a growing segment of kayaks that are often called performance kayaks, but you can call them whatever you want. I think many traditionalist don't like the name "performance paddling" associated with these new science-based boats. I heard somone once refer to these boats in a derogatory manner as "paddling appliances." I actually think this term is a compliment to the function of these craft.

Anyway, these "paddling appliances" are gaining a foothold for not only the racer, but also the recreational and touring type paddler. I am talking about science-based designs like the Swifts, QCC's Epics, Sedas and others. These boats do their job quite well for many modern paddlers. I don't expect everyone to find this style of boat to their liking. However, no one can deny that there are more and more of these boats out on the water because they do their job very well. I do think many resist them becasue of mental perception of what a sea kayak is supposed to look like. You ask most people to draw a sea kayak on a napkin and what they draw will look more like a banana than a boat.

There is another design trend in ocean style paddling craft that has emerged. Surfskis and other high performance open water boats have grown in popularity. Boats like surfskis have taken the form-follows-function concept to such a degree that some traditionalist hesitate to even consider them a version of sea kayak. I feel surfskis definitely fall within the general realm of seakayaks. They may be the most pupose-built sea paddling craft today. Surfskis have ignored any notion of what a sea kayak is supposed to look like. Their shapes have emerged to look little like traditional sea kayaks. These boats have ignored tradition to such a degree that they make the QCC's look old fashioned. This is not to say that most paddlers should run out an buy a surfski. But you can't deny that there are more and more people finding that surfskis better serve their open water paddling goals.

Anyone that respects how the native designs evolved because of their function and materials available at the time should be able to respect the modern designs that are gaining footholds. Both are cases of form following function.

I did vary from the topic somewhat by noting the unusually strong resistance to change that I've seen in the field of sea kayaking. I want to thank many of you for your negative comments. You help support the theory that sea kayakers are very passionate about resisting change.

Do we agree that modern designs have emerged and are gaining in popularity over the last twenty years? Do we agree that sea kayakers in general have a stronger resistance to change compared to other forms of sporting equipment, transportation, recreation, whatever? Those were my points and I stand by them.