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  BCUNA instruction and certification
  Posted by: pblanc on Jan-12-14 2:07 PM (EST)

I am just curious. I have never been involved with the British Canoe Union of North America in any way. It seems to me that BCUNA instruction or certification never received a lot of interest from open boaters, at least in the US. Those who were interested in instructor certification in canoeing usually got it from the American Canoe Association. But it seemed that the BCUNA star awards were of interest to quite a few sea kayaking types, especially ocean-going ones.

But it is my impression that since the BCUNA followed the BCU's lead in requiring some demonstration of open boat paddling competency for their 2 star award, that support for the BCUNA has dramatically fallen off among kayakers. Does the BCUNA require the 2 star award as a prerequisite for their 3 star kayaking instructional programs?

Is the BCUNA still a going concern, or has it largely self-destructed?

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  Check out the updates on their site
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-12-14 8:30 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-13-14 11:28 AM EST --

The BCUNA is in the process of becoming a US-based organization named Paddlesports North America, as is indicated on their web site. FYI, the BCUNA was never afforded the opportunity to impose standards other than big-BCU, at least as long as they wanted the affiliation. Even the content of the website was prescribed.

Here is a link on the status of the transition.

As to how closely the new organization will run to BCU... the individuals involved in the new organization seem friendly to the changes made by the BCU in 2007, including the canoe requirement for sea kayakers. The consistency with which single blading canoeing was actually imposed as a requirement to advancing as a sea kayaker in the BCUNA can be questioned, but that is soon to be a question for Paddlesports North America anyway.

I personally think that the 2007 changes in the BCU, while philisophically interesting, have been more damaging than helpful in how the program presents to their most successful base, sea kayakers, as well as the implementation. I don't think they work well in a country without a well-established club system. And there are parts of the UK where the changes went over with a large thud as well, like Scotland.

To be fair, it should be noted that the BCU in North America entered the changeover with a severe weakness in coaches certed to teach the canoe portion. As you note, BCUNA had primarily appealed to a base of sea kayakers, mostly along the coasts and out of the Great Lakes. When the new requirements hit they did not have the coach base to jump right on it. There were also rumbles of that being an issue among the clubs in Great Britain, so it was not just here.

But no matter - this whole thing is soon going to be an issue for Paddlesports North America, not BCUNA.

  BCU and ACA
  Posted by: NateHanson on Jan-14-14 10:42 AM (EST)
BCU is certainly alive and active in many parts of the US, and their programs have a lot to offer. Both ACA and BCU do, and I think to some extent the administration of each program could gain something from looking at the other program. Both have a lot to contribute to paddlesports in the US, and I hope they both continue to thrive here.

  Agree with Nate
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-14-14 11:08 AM (EST)
After seeing Nate's post -

His point that BCU training in the US has been alive and well is very much so at least through through this last season. If anything I had the sense that there had been an uptick in the number of places offering BCU training from the prior season or two. Because BCU training is usually offered in a multi-day symposium situation, the prior few years of higher gas prices and a depressed economy had significantly impacted their ability to grow.

Becoming Paddlesports North America offers some real advantages. Being based in the US will make it more likely that PNA coaches can get insurance, something that has not been possible for any BCU coaches in this country. Hence the common situation of seeing coaches with both BCU and some level of ACA cert - the ACA cert means they can get insurance.

The other possibility, though it remains to be seen if the new leadership will take advantage of it, would be to make their training more flexible. I have long thought they should uncouple their safety and rescue class from needing a 2 star award and offer it as a course for any new paddler. It is probably their best course for helping new paddlers understand what it takes to be safe on the water, and it is a lot of fun.
  Are we talking about...
  Posted by: bignate on Jan-14-14 5:10 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-14-14 5:10 PM EST --

Individual* or coaching awards? Or both?

With respect to the former, my anecdotal experience is that these are still quite popular, at least with respect to the 3- and 4-star awards. Every symposium I've attended over the past several years, and most of those I've seen advertised, have had some combination of 3- and/or 4-star training and/or assessments, and they seem to be pretty well attended. On the other hand, I rarely see or hear of formal ACA individual skills award assessments.

With respect to coaching, however, it's the opposite. Plenty of ACA instructor certifications, but relatively few BCU coaching assessments. Celia has hit on one of the main reasons for this, which is the relative paucity of high-level BCU coaches in North America, especially after the changeover. Another factor, I suspect, is the BCU emphasis on multi-disciplinary paddling, especially at the lower levels. This has a disproportionate impact on the coaching track because each BCU coaching level is a prerequisite for the next, so you can't skip the multidisciplinary stuff. With the individual awards, though, you can jump right in at the discipline-specific awards (3-star). I think there is something in the 3-star criteria about showing that you've had some experience with another type of paddling, but I've never seen that enforced in practice.

Also, my impression is that in terms of curriculum, BCUNA has always just been a pass-through entity. I'm pretty sure all the awards just say "BCU."

* I'm including in the "individual" awards category the BCU 4- and 5-star leadership awards, which technically aren't really individual skills awards, but are not coaching awards either

  Jumping right in
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-14-14 5:49 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-15-14 12:19 AM EST --

Unfortunately, your own experience highlights some of the problems since the new guidelines.

In fact there have been cases where someone was barred from jumping right into a disciplinary track for an individual award because of concerns about the other skill. I have experienced this myself and I am not the only one I know. There have also been variations in what the other skill has to be. There have cases where the other skill has been agreed to be present where someone has something like whitewater kayak training and experience, even though that is also a double blade skill. But at least one RCO has stated this is not adequate because it is still a double blade.

The post-2007 guidelines about cross-disciplinary skills to advance in a given one, say sea kayaking, have been differently interpreted by the various RCO's since the new guidance came out. It has resulted in an array of experiences by people who had not achieved a 4 star prior to the change, and frankly some of them have been extremely bad.

This is an area where I see the new organization having an opportunity to improve, if they are willing to put in flexibility that is not approved by Nottingham. They may not be, since the closer they stay to big-BCU guidelines the more likely it is that BCU will accord PNA awards equal merit with their own. I personally think that the folks in Nottingham have such an arrogant attitude that this will never happen, but I know that there are some who are hoping for it.

  Posted by: bignate on Jan-15-14 7:00 PM (EST)
Out of curiosity, I looked at the 3-star requirements, and they do state as a prerequisite that the candidate provide evidence of at least one "session" of about 3 hours duration in an "alternative discipline"

To my mind, that's so vague a requirement as to render it both meaningless and non-enforceable. I'm curious as to how you saw it implemented in action, so to speak. Did the coach just ask the candidates and rely on the honor system?

  It so depends....
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-15-14 9:43 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-15-14 9:56 PM EST --

My own experience, and that of others I knew, was that there was no admittance to take even a 2 assessment (not discipline specific of course) without serious competence in a canoe, single blade. I am talking good strokes, and a variety of them. At least one of the individuals involved in this decision - one of the problems was that there had been a number of people involved in this conversation one of which had never coached me - knew that I and my husband had spent decent time doing WW kayaking and had taken classes on the Deerfield River. Whether they knew that I had done Zoar Gap I don't know, but all that would take would be a question. In any case, being told what I was not up to based on conversations among coaches who never spoke to me themselves was not exactly kosher BCU either. It is safe to say I was very hot about that.

By the way, at the point all of this happened, I had just spent a full day of canoe training as well as having taken a couple of half day canoe classes at a prior gathering - from someone who was there. Even if someone wanted to be sticky about single blade versus double, I had long since passed any three hour requirements with people that were involved in this mess.

Then there are experiences that seem closer to your impression, where the coaches brought out a canoe and introduced the sea kayakers to basic strokes during the training, and called that the alternative experience. I can't give you times and dates, but at least one report of a training and assessment I read a couple of years back from the Great Lakes came out like that.

I have received word that in some regions my whitewater time would serve as an alternative discipline... unfortunately said regions involve costs and travel that has not been practical.

As I said above, the alternative discipline idea is a wonderful thought, and it is good for us, and all that stuff. And it probably works decently in a club system where paddlers don't have to go out and personally buy and store all different boats and paddles they need. But even if it was administered consistently - and as above my experience is that this has not been at all the case - there are not that many people who have the funds and time to acquire and regularly use that many toys.



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