New 4 Star Canoe-Kayak Leadership

A good number of children will have got their one or two star awards during a summer holiday. I did many years ago. It has always been on my list of things to do before I die to learn some canoe coaching skills. Recently the 4 star award has been overhauled to include leadership for trips, not the same as coaching but just as useful, so I signed up to a course from Here’s my notes as a reminder to myself and incase anyone else finds them useful.


  • Ask people for their experience
  • Do a kit check, look for airbags, buoyancy aids which won’t come off when swimming, ensure people have spare hat and top
  • Say that if anyone has medical problems they should let you know (less embarracing than asking for them to tell whole group)
  • Show boat manual handling (pick up to vertical from front then put on shoulder, all without bending back). Also you can slide plastic boats quite safely.
  • Do a warm up (can be done on the water just as well if flat)
  • Agree on signals: all go, one at a time, break out into eddy, stay still, get out
  • Show how to swim safely: on back, feet first

Drip feed the above rather than all at once.

When they first get on the water and on the first rapid, watch how everyone paddles and assess their ability.

Notes on leading down a rapid:

  • Lead down a group from the front, ensure to keep line of sight, always be looking over your shoulder to keep an eye on everyone, typically follow at two boat lengths
  • If you can’t see the full rapid go ahead to first eddy so you can, keeping line of sight with group who stay above. Call them down one at a time or all together as appropriate.
  • Watch out for trees, rocks, shallow areas and other hazards people could get pinned on, lead from the back when most likely problem is canoes getting stuck.
  • Always be mindful of position of most usefulness for when something goes wrong.
  • Eddy hop when you can’t see the full rapid, go to next eddy and call people down one at a time. If can’t fit everyone in the eddy have a chain of eddys and pass message up chain, this needs to be practiced first.
  • Go to the outside of corners so you can see around them sooner
  • Keep a headcount
  • CLAP: Communication, Line of Sight, Avoidance (better than cure), Position of more usefulness


  • First Aid Kit: bandages, triangular bandage (large, canvas), sterilised water, tea lights, painkillers (asprin for heart attacks), inhailer, dressings, eye pads, scissors, micropore tape, electrical tape, duct tape, steri strips
  • Group shelter
  • Spare split paddles
  • Spare clothes, jacket, leggings, hats
  • Hot flasked drink
  • Knife
  • Throw bag
  • Sling with snap on carabina
  • Mobile phone
  • Spanner, bolts
  • Torch

Dry bag(s) for much of the above. First aid kit in sealed container.

Organise shuttle runs and don’t forget your car key.

One Reply to “New 4 Star Canoe-Kayak Leadership”

  1. Where you have ‘Position of more usefulness’, above, should it be ‘…most usefulness’?

    John C.

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