Though gone from BCU syllabus...

While the often denigrated backwards figure of eight has been dropped from the new BCU 3* syllabus, it is included in the ACA Coastal Kayak Level 4 assessment:


  • Over a figure of 8 course with good boat

    control and variety of strokes

    Maybe those paddlers who felt it was an arbitrary British conceit may accept that it may actually be a way of demonstrating effective boat control?

But they don’t make you paddle a canoe
So it couldn’t possibly be a meaningful sea kayak certification.

FYI, as much as I think the canoe requirement is stupid, I am a big fan of the backward figure 8. I definitely think that is a worthwhile way to practice boat control.

I think the ACA will do anything

…for money!

Paddlin’ on


the British conceit
was to call it a “figure of eight”, imposing the British norm on its North American filial. The indiginous nomenclature, of course, is “figure eight”:

If this is really the official position of the ACA, they will soon experience my wrath.

Wrath for what?
For calling it a “figure of eight” like the brits, or for requiring paddling it like the brits used to?

I couldn’t care less about what it is called. Substantively, though I think the BCU got the changes exactly wrong – they removed an exercise that is a valid demonstration of boat control (backwards figure 8) and added a completely irrelevant skill (paddling a canoe). I’m starting to understand why my ancestors left there over 350 years ago.

great demonstration of boat control. that’s why it’s in the ACA sylabi.


Practice in any paddle craft is relevent
Paddling a canoe is a great way to learn boat trim, blade control and bilateral development of skills. It’s not the only way to learn these things but it is a good way.

I admit that I was a little skeptical about the canoe component in the new 1-2 star awards and the new L1-2 coaching awards. But, when I took the new L-1 coach (which included an upgrade session to the new 2-star) training at the Sweetwater Symposium, I had a great time. I paddled and coached paddlers in a variety of sea kayaks, whitewater kayaks, tandem and solo canoes. I was reminded that all of these boats are fun, and I learned that each of offer something to a paddler willing to learn their lessons.

Some people won’t be able to get past the canoe thing, but is it really such a hassle to spend a couple of hours in a different craft?

it wasn’t you jim but others had fits over the exercise while it was in the bcu syllabus. i can only hope those same bashers continue banging the same drum. i don’t know what the hesitation some had with the exercise…it reflects some control of what the boat’s doing and that was always the point. forwards, backwards or sideways…show some control and master your boat.

as for the bcu canoe requirement…eh, they seem to be requiring that potential instructors have at least a passing familiarity with other paddle craft. all the bcu stuff up to 4* i think was always with a general purpose kayak anyways and weren’t “sea” specific. seems like the bcu is just expanding the boundaries is all.

And sadly no longer in the BCU
sylabus. Future generations of BCU paddlers will no longer no the joy of that fun maneuver. The BCU has gone milquetoast. Dumbed down, as they say. Kidding, well, a little.


Its good for training but not assessing
Being in good aerobic condition also makes you a better paddler. By your logic, the BCU should require people to run a 7 minute mile as part of their assessments.

I have no problem with cross-training. Cross-assessing, however, is a stupid waste of time. If I wanted to know how good a canoeist I was, I could have taken a canoe assessment without the BCU mandating it. What a stupid, arrogant and ultimately self-destructive move.

Not just instructors, Rick
You have to use both a canoe and a kayak to pass the two star now, Rick. That is very different from allowing someone to either use a WW kayak or a sea kayak. If they had required instructors to know both, that might make sense. To require civilians to do both was stupid and self-destructive. Oh, well. Ultimately the people who made the crazy rule will pay the price. Actually, I suspect the people who made the rule were instructors in Britain who were already canoe instructors. By requiring NA instructors to do the same, they thought they just made themselves more valuable while the North Americans get caught up. In reality, they just killed BCUNA.

yeah, cause
that’s how the bcu folks think…they’re maximizing their market while the US folks play catch up.

reality check…aisle you.

melodramatic to say anyone has killed anything.

it’s evolved…get on board or don’t…your option.

English Gates
Similar to the figure-8, the English Gates are an excellent and fun way to improve boat control.

Only time will tell
What you think of as evolution I think of as destruction. Only time will tell who is right. I’ll be very interested in knowing in five years how many people in North American are taking assessments compared to the number that were doing them in the last couple of years. There is no doubt in my mind that it will be significantly fewer people, all because of the unworkability of the canoe requirement. Maybe BCUNA won’t be harmed by people not doing assessments any more; I don’t know.

I don’t really care, it just seems like a shame that they have taken a good program and made it unworkable here.

Now, all of what I’ve said is tempered by the fact that from what I’m hearing, assessors are not requiring a two star assessment before letting people assess at the three star level. If that is true, the same number of people may continue to assess in the future.

Now you’ve done it!
How dare you point out that fitness and endurance might actually be more relevant to someone’s on-water safety than a repertoire of fancy strokes done just so, or having all the proper kit, or a thermos of tea!

Instead of running, how 'bout a simple speed/distance paddling requirement (sea kayak specific)? Say something like holding 4+ knot pace for 3+ hours? Pretty easy - but I still wonder how many this would weed out?

A couple of years ago,
I watched a course, or test or whatever you call it being given by an instructor on a beach in Florida.

This particular instructor is well known, but I am not going to mention names.

The group were “not beginners”, and I am assuming they were being groomed for one of the levels, etc.

We watched in amazement as one of the guys kept tipping over as he was trying to get into his kayak.

Finally the instructor and two other paddlers got around his boat and steadied it while he got in.

Up intil that day, I thought it might be worth while checking into the whole process, but after watching that, decided to just keep doing our own thing and as Scupper Frank would say: “paddle on” in our own happy way.



So from afar . . . in your wisdom. . .
. . . You determined that the organization was the problem. Let’s assume you were right and you witnessed a class or even an assessment. One guy can’t get in his boat without help, and that makes the whole group suspect?

Put yourself in the coach’s position. You have some people show up for a class or assessment. One or even more of them may not be up to standards. Do you make them stay on the beach? Do you fail the whole group?

Maybe, just maybe, a better solution would be to take the group out. Provide coaching to everyone that is appropriate for their level. At the end of the day everyone learned something and some of them achieved their goal of preparedness for the assessment.

As for the fitness issue, fitness is important, but it is not the whole game.

I know quite a few paddlers who consider themselves fit paddlers. They go out paddle fast over a strait course, building their aerobic fitness. They’re fit and strong paddlers, but they do the same thing over and over. They can’t really edge their boats, don’t really roll well, can’t handle any kind of sea and ignore the rest of their group. I’m not saying that any of these things apply to you, or anyone you know just some people I know. I’m unimpressed with them as paddlers.

At 4-star and 5-star the BCU expects paddlers to have the stamina and skills to paddle long days, lead a group of paddlers in conditions and sort things out when they go bad. That’s stamina plus skill, and I respect that. Yeah! The cool-aid tastes just fine.

As for the canoe thing, why is there so much whining about spending a few hours in a canoe. The canoe skills are easy to learn, and performing them at the 2-star level aint that tough. If you don’t want to do it, don’.

And the figure-8, it may be gone from the assessment, but I suspect it will be used as a training exercise for many years.

save the drama for your mama
and get out and paddle. Plop your butt in a canoe - they don’t bite.

in your infinite kayak/life experience
you decide the BCU isn’t for you because one bonehead can’t get in a kayak? Come on… seriously. Its nice to see you are so open-minded.

Is it really that hard?
I haven’t had the chance to be at a place that have the setup. But just about everyone can do a figure 8 forward, right? So how much harder to do it backward, aside from the need to look back to see where you’re going? Isn’t it the same strokes, just reversed?