What makes you an intermediate?

I was browsing through some of the profiles and was puzzled by the levels that people give themselves. So the question is where do you draw the line for advancement from beginner to intermediate to expert? Is it training and lessons? Time in the water? err…I mean on the water?

abilities in rescue (self or otherwise)?

Just curious as to how people judge


I’ve thought about this
in the past. The self-rating system is a grey area.

I figure a beginner is someone WITHOUT the knowledge and experience to paddle safely under “normal” conditions for their paddling area. Again, some grey area in that statement.

Until I know more than than everyone else, and can prove it in real world conditions, I consider myself intermediate. :slight_smile:

only words
Words like “beginner”, “intermediate”, and “advanced” are so subjective as to be nearly meaningless in my book. I am an advanced paddler, paddling my solo canoe, with my paddle, on the local frog pond. On slow moving water, I might make intermediate, but on whitewater I am less than a beginner. I have owned a canoe for 30 years, but only in the last three years have I paddled solo. I own seven canoes, paddle perhaps five times a week during the summer, but still have a lot to learn about paddling technique. I consider myself to be a “learning” paddler and will be to the day I take my final stroke. I’ll never acquire the breadth and depth of paddling skills of many posters on p.net, but few will enjoy paddling more than I.

When I was “advanced,” I could solo
the Ocoee, choose different routes through rapids, make most eddies, surf most play spots, always roll but not have to much except when playing.

Now I am intermediate. I would not get on the Ocoee without being covered by a strong party, but I can do all the above on the Nantahala.

Subjective in some ways, performance based in others.

Just A Beginner…
who likes to learn on the rough stuff that can give a good trashin’ for beginner mistakes. :slight_smile:


Pam Malec
Pam Malec, author of “Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina” wrote:

Beginner: I categorize a beginner as someone having a basic working knowledge of common paddle strokes and braces. You should be able to perform a self–rescue and an assisted rescue. You should be comfortable paddling in mild conditions with winds up to 10 knots, and for up to four hours at a time.

Intermediate: As an intermediate paddler, you should be comfortable paddling in winds up to 20 knots, in waves 2 to 4 feet, and be able to paddle up to 20 miles per day in good weather. You should be proficient in self-rescue and group-rescue techniques, have good bracing skills, and be able to perform an Eskimo roll.

Advanced: You should be comfortable paddling in winds up to 30 knots, and waves 5 to 6 feet in height. You should have strong bracing and paddling skills and be able to paddle in very rough conditions. You should be able to paddle up to 30 miles per day in good weather and have mastered self- and group-rescue skills. Advanced paddlers should be highly proficient navigating with a map and compass and possess good first-aid skills.

I think I’m:

Distance - Advanced

Conditions - Intermediate

Rescues and first aid - Beginner-to-Intermediate.

Somebody here once said said …

– Last Updated: Sep-24-05 7:07 PM EST –

A beginner is someone who does not know enough to realize they are getting in trouble.

An intermediate is someone who knows when they are getting in trouble.

Advanced is somebody who goes looking for trouble.

The more I paddle and the more people I meet on the water who are great paddlers it seems like the less I know. I would put beginner in my profile but that would be too depressing after several years of spending my spare time on the water, and would seem a bit like false humility. But every week or so the Ocean makes me feel very humble.

This topic has been hashed around a lot here. Here's a link to another recent discussion.....


That’s The Crux…

– Last Updated: Sep-24-05 8:04 PM EST –

"But every week or so the Ocean makes me feel very humble."

Ratings are for folks to establish or know where they are on the pecking order.

The Ocean or River couldn't care less and can take you on a mistake -- be it a beginner, intermediate or expert level mistake. If one's lucky, then one just takes a thrashin' and be let off with the reminder -- the individual is insignificant in the larger scheme of nature. Frankly, I like it that way.

Whatever skill level I am…

– Last Updated: Sep-24-05 8:39 PM EST –

Whatever skill level I am will have to be determined by those who paddle with me.
There are so many variables; I just finally decided "it don't matter" to me anymore. That's the reason my profile is a blank.

The people I paddle with have a good idea of my skill level. I'm not sure it's "need to know", or even "nice to know" information for those who are unlikely to ever paddle with me.

I think most paddlers with "any" experience at all, can very quickly identify those that do, or do not have their s--t together.


It’s quite simple, really…
Beginner: 1 boat, 1 paddle

Intermediate: 2-6 boats, 2-4 paddles

Advanced: 7+ boats, 5+ paddles

(Ding…ding…ding) We have a winner!

Always …
I really don’t intend to change my profile from beginner. There is always plenty to learn and there will always be more advanced paddlers than I. I guess I’m in sing’s camp on this. But, by the other rating system, 2 kayaks (4 1/2 paddles), 3 canoes (5 paddles). Unfortunately, if you gauge how valid responses are to a posting by checking the self assisgned p.net rating you can easily be mislead. There is often great advice provided by “beginners” and worthless … provided by “advanced” paddlers. Only trust the intermediates!


I don’t capsize
on my favorite whitewater stretch anymore, so I am beyond beginner. Can’t do the same stretch standing up with one hand behind my back, so I guess I’m not advanced.

I guess I will always be a beginner
Did a roll once, in a pool - have no desire to ever do one again!



For sea kayaking I think the following

Advanced: Paddlers such as Nigel Foster, Derek Hutchinson, Flatpick, Wayne Horodowich, Jen Kleck, and all other BCU 5 Star paddlers.

Intermediate: Paddlers who can and do paddle in “small craft warning” conditions, can paddle at least 20 nautical miles on the ocean, have made open crossings of 10 NM or longer, can launch and land in 5 - 6 foot surf or bigger. Comfortable with bracing and can usually remain upright when the water gets rough.

Beginner - can handle winds of 10 - 15 knots, can re-enter a boat with assistance, doesn’t handle surf well, Needs to paddle with others in order to remain safe.

I like it!
2 kayaks and three paddles, so on the acquisition scale I barely squeak into intermediate. On some the other criteria folks have mentioned, I am on the cusp.

Seriously - there are a lot of ways that people rate this. I finally removed any level whatsoever from my profile, because it was just too darned confusing. On the group that goes out on local evening paddles I am well in the top rank of the group on skills and experience. But when we paddled in Maine (ocean) with people we’d met via this board and knew of thru a downstate kayak center, my husband and I figured we were probably the least skilled paddlers among the five of us.

If I pass the BCU 3 star assessment this weekend, and complete the same for 4 star by the end of next season, I’ll figure that I am moving into being a decent paddler. But I don’t know that I’ll add a level to my profile even with that. I considered the always beginner option, which has a lot of appeal. But it seems that the easiest thing to do is skip citing a level altogether and let your paddling speak for itself, since it is really only people you paddle with that need to know a level anyway.

I also think the beginner/intermediate/advanced thing is so subjective that it’s really meaningless. Paddlers with some experience can tell pretty easily what someone else’s skill level is. A club I paddle with occasionally wants new members to paddle with someone from the club before going on a long trip, for just this reason. I can tell you I’m an expert and tell you about all this great equipment, but that doesn’t necessarily make me an expert.

In the different rating methods here, I’m anywhere from a beginner to advanced… Basically intermediate without the roll, paddled long distances and in rough stuff but only own one boat.

Ah ha!
I have gone from beginner to advanced in only a couple of posts and about an hours time1



Pesonal skill
I base my rating if i can safly paddle without majer probloms. and deal with with the chalenges that arise often enough to count. not only for/with myself but others. o the kind of waters i normaly paddle. but i feel that taking my skills,gear or paddling condions ect for granted, will take all i think i have going for for me and toss it out the window. but often enough it won’t affect just me.

Guess there is good reason
that I consider myself a beginner. Paddling in 5-6 foot waves, for 20 or thirty miles, with a 30knot wind, and feeling comfortable? That is not in the cards anytime soon for me I am afraid.

I do enjoy 1-2 foot waves, 10-15mph wind, and a lazy 10 or 12 mile paddle.

I am a happy beginner though.