Skill Requirements

SKOAC: Skill Requirements for Club Trips

Each club trip differs in the kayak skills that will be required for participants to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Skills required for a specific club trip will be determined by the trip organizer, and/or the SKOAC Board using the following lists as a general guidance only. Participants are expected to self assess their abilities and take responsibility for themselves on club trips. Trip organizers help organize trip logistics and coordinate club activities – do not expect them to act as guides on trips! Note also that the focus of the rating systems requirements is on skills rather than on the number of years of experience in kayaking. A paddler with ten years of experience would still be qualified only for Level I trips if they had not developed for example reliable self-rescue skills.

Level I: No previous paddling experience is required for club trips with a level I rating. Examples would include club sponsored skill sessions on inland lakes and winter pool sessions. Level I trips or skill sessions will be used to help new paddlers develop the necessary skills to participate in more advanced trips. Level I trips will be limited to sheltered waters and short distances with few significant hazards.

Level II: Level II trips may include less sheltered open water paddles, and longer distances. Participants are expected to have a working knowledge of kayak paddle strokes, and braces. They also must be able to demonstrate a self-rescue technique such as a paddle-float rescue and have experience using at least one assisted rescue such as a T-rescue or rafting-up. A trip organizer may require a demonstration of both a self-rescue and assisted rescue before allowing a paddler to come on a Level II or higher rated trip. On Level II trips, participants are also expected to have a working knowledge of basic navigational skills such as using a chart and compass, and basic knowledge of the effects of weather on paddling conditions and how to obtain marine forecasts prior to starting a trip. It is assumed that participants can maintain a reasonable pace for trips of up to ten miles per day in good weather.

Level III: Level III trips may include open water paddling in challenging conditions, and longer trip distances. On level III trips participants should have well developed paddle stroke and bracing skills. Participants should not only have good high and low bracing skills, but be working on a strong sculling brace and learning to eskimo roll. Paddlers should be comfortable paddling in higher winds (over 15 knots) and traveling in waves of 2-3 feet. They should be comfortable launching and landing in moderate surf when breaking waves are 3 feet or less. Participants in level III trips should have a good working knowledge of navigation including strong piloting and dead reckoning skills. On level III trips participants should have the endurance to paddle up to 20 miles per day in good weather with a fast efficient forward paddle stroke.

Level IV: Level IV trips may include open water paddling, and paddling in very challenging conditions for long distances. Participants should have very strong paddling and bracing skills and be comfortable paddling in rough conditions (waves 4 feet or greater) and winds up to 30 knots. Trip participants should have mastered group and self rescue techniques and have developed a reliable eskimo roll, preferably on both sides. Participants should also be comfortable with landing in larger surf with 3-6 foot waves. As a rule trip organizers would avoid setting out to paddle in the above conditions. However as an example a late-Fall trip on Lake Superior might be rated a Level III- Level IV rather than a Level III in recognition of the greater chance of being caught in sudden storms late season.