BCU 5 Star Leader White Water Training

I did some training with Chris Dickinson of Spean Bridge. I don’t get enough opportunities to get onto higher grade white water rivers and it was great fun to try some new rivers with people who are enthusiasic about the sport. Unlike with low level coaching courses which are often populated with people who work for councils, the leadership awards are generally for people who are strongly into canoeing. 5 Star Leader is pretty similar to 4 Star Leader but on heavier water.

We started out on the River Roy and ended up doing the entire length of it. The rain was on much of the day and the water was rising throughout. While at 4 star level you have four or so hand signals, at 5 star water grades (3-4 with some 5) the chances of needing to communicate complex commands at distance is much higher and we were given a list of about 20 commands to find signals for. We did some skills which I found very easy, maybe the slalom that I’ve done means I can put my boat on a desired wave on demand without having to think about it. We also did some foward paddling tuition which most of the other paddlers had never done but is the sort of thing I do every day in a racing boat. So crossing over disciplines does help a lot. Curious that my skills were marked as being very high when on my 4 star assessment they were considered my weak point, maybe I’ve improved a lot with more hours on the water recently or maybe there’s just a high degree of chance. On an especially large wave in a gorge section I was folling a paddler who capsized and swam which put me off at just the wrong time that I was soon in the water too, although I tried a roll a few times the water was too airated for it to work and I came out, most disappointing. By the end of the day the river was in spate and we had to paddle fast to get to the egress before it became too dangerous. The get out involved using microeddies behind trees and a steep climb up banks with roaps, quite an impressive team effort.

The evening was spent discussing interesting topics like catchment areas and flow rates and finding rivers.

Spean gorge was our paddle on day two and was a large river in lovely surroundings. We did some rescue scenarios which are always worth practicing. At the grade 5 rapid I had another capsize but made the roll which kept me happy. My leadership wasn’t as good as I had hoped, it’s hard to find the balance between instructing people and giving them free rein within boundaries, on coaching and leadership courses such as this people are usual feel the need to follow orders rather than use their own experience, on real paddles the opposite is true with experienced paddlers. We learned an interesting double roll, if you feel your first roll is failing you can swap the paddle blade round quickly and use the momentum to help you roll up on the other side. I’ve tried this in a pool since and you have to be very quick and preferably have nose and ear clips to stop your head filling with water. We also did a draw stroke on the move which is something I should practice more. We learnt why hanging draws are a bad idea, there’s a risk of objects in the water hitting the paddle, I’m glad of this since I never saw the point of a hanging draw anyway. We covered an eddy spin move which is using eddies to spin your boat quicky and gracefully so you can get a view of the complete river without losing too much forward momentum. Finally we stopped and listened to the sound of nature and considered ourselves lucky for being canoeists who can see it close up from a view few others can.

All good fun and very interesting. I highly recommend Chris as a coach. Now I just need to find 30 paddling days on high grade white water to be able to pass the 5 star assessment.

BCU UKCC Level 2 Coach in “Paddlesport” Review

Today I received my certificate for BCU UKCC Level 2 Coach. This means I am now qualified (according to the BCU) to coach canoeing in sheltered water. Of course I’ve been doing this for the last couple of years anyway but I do feel a lot more capable now I’ve gone through the courses. It is a lot of hassle though and a lot of time (I did my Level 2 training over a year ago).

The Training

I don’t remember much about this, it was over a year ago and it was very cold, possibly not best done at the end of November. There were four days of training, some classroom based, one pool based session and plenty of outdoor sessions. There’s some new teaching styles, a breakdown of practice styles and an emphasis on observation and improvement rather than following a pre-set plan.

The Other Bits

Between training and assessment there are a load of pre-assessment tasks. Managing the paperwork, finding courses and people to help with these is a significant undertaking. The BCU’s paperwork is full of mistakes and inconsistencies as usual which doesn’t help.

The first task is a supporting module which means three hours of computer slides, in this case about coaching children and young people. Not terribly interesting, would have been more useful if there actually were some young people to coach rather than just slides explaining what menarche is.

You have to do a course in safeguarding children. Just finding where this course is being held is a struggle, I was pointed at a web page that listed dates from previous years but no future dates. Hidden in SportScotland’s website under a link for 2009 was the dates for 2010. Another three hours of not very interesting computer slides and exercises. Only interesting thing was noting that the British people there were far more paranoid about paedophilia than the continental Europeans in the room.

Then there was the Long Term Paddler Development web module. This website was full of so many inconsistencies, typos, missing text and repeated text that I sent a complaint to the chair of the SCA coaching committee (no reply), the SCA coaching coordinator (who told me I could find the answers in a book, despite everything saying the answers are on the website) and the BCU (who said they incorporated my long list of corrections and will review the site, we’ll see). The quiz to pass the module can only be attempted once every 24 hours and because it asks questions that don’t have answers on the website I had to fill it in about a dozen times before I passed. The content is minimal too, I can see the point of being aware that top athletes start as children and vary their training with age until they become elite but that could be covered in one diagram. Adding on recreation to the mix is an obvious late attempt to make it relevant to the majority of canoeists (non competitors) which doesn’t work at all. Very frustrating and a complete waste of time.

First aid training was interesting and fun. Having an outdoors course is important.

The most important bit is the six progressive sessions. Finding punters to follow the sessions is difficult and finding a mentor who is suitably qualified and has the time to watch and review the sessions plus go over all the paperwork is tricky too. After a couple of false starts I did get a group going (the trick is to get them to pay in advance, else they won’t commit). Writing lesson plans is surprisingly time consuming but a useful exercise in getting good sessions.

On top of that there is another 10 hours of kayak and 10 hours of Canadian coaching to do. Easy enough since I’ve been running club nights this year and doing various trips.

The Assessment

The assessment at Glenmore Lodge starts the day before with a session collecting the multitude of paperwork together. After going through it all I discover I’m missing my supporting module certificate, instant fail. You have two sessions with real students. Although the paperwork says you will be contacted before to work out what students you have and what sessions to plan for, this isn’t true. We were told the night before and I spent a late night planning. You are meant to show a good range of teaching styles, observation and all the other necessities of running a good session. In the end I pitched some stuff too high for the students and didn’t show good observation. Then on my personal skills I ended up not being able to control a Canadian on a windy loch, turns out I’m not a very experienced Canadian canoeist, shame I had to find out on the assessment.

So a few months later I did another assessment in Wales. They also didn’t tell us what to expect beforehand so I planned a couple of sessions which didn’t get used. Instead we met the students on the morning and did the sessions after 20 minutes planning time. Strangely they went much better, I was able to put my knowledge of slalom to good use. One student was notably cheeky (“I’m a three star paddler”, “I’m warmed up now”) which helped because I could show her what she didn’t know.

However I didn’t do the warm up before moving boats. I also didn’t bother with helmets for anyone since it was flat water. Doing warm up before moving boats is logical (moving boats is the most strenuous part of these sessions) but I’ve never seen any professional or amateur coach do it. Likewise helmets for flat water seem excessively hassleful but I guess you have to cover your back and there might be hidden objects in the water. After arguing the points the assessor took pity and passed me.

After several weeks of asking I got a replacement from the SCA for the supporting module certificate I had lost on my first assessment. This was then sent back to the SCA along with all the rest of my certificates so they could sign me off as having enough certificates. What a messy system. It then took 3 months for the BCU to send me the final coaching certificate. I wonder what they spend three months doing.


I’ve definitely become a better coach from doing the courses. The mess of paperwork is horrible. The amount of bits that need done is a hassle, but I’m not sure what one I’d remove. Oh yes, Long Term Paddler Development, get rid of that for sure.

RiddellLeaks – Foreign Office Latest

The latest revelations sent to RiddellLeaks have revealed the inner discussions of the High Commission in Sierra Leone. Having not resolved their incorrect e-mail address after the previous shocking leak new e-mails keeps coming into our leakers address, riddell@gmail.

Today’s leaked e-mail shows how the High Commission is trying to influence the democratic process of Sierra Leone by seeking a meeting with officials regarding their road widening scheme. Not only is the British High Commission involved in this foreign interfearence in a soverign state but the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is involved too and an unspecified wing of the EU. Western corruption at it’s worst!

(OK, nothing very interesting really in this e-mail except 1) FCO continue to send e-mails to the wrong e-mail addresses even once I’ve already informed them 2) Interesting confirmation at the extent China is investing in Africa, “China Railway Seventh Group” are doing the road widening, I wonder what they want in return. 3) Impressive how putting “URGENT” in the subject of an e-mail means I automatically ignore it, checking my inbox I’ve been getting these for the last couple of months.)

Scottish Lib Dems Voting for English Tuition Fees

The UK parliament has voted to increase tuition fees for students in England. I feel very sorry for England’s future students.

As an English matter this affects the affairs of Scottish MPs in two ways, firstly the massive reduction for teaching in English unis will get passed on to the Scottish budget. Secondly Scottish MPs have constituents who are English students who will pay these fees. There is no way this vote could be seen as in any way beneficial to Scotland so any Scottish MP should either abstain or vote no. Unless they were voting as directed by their whip rather than for the good of their constituents.

Here’s the voting record. Naturally the SNP members present all voted against. So did Labour. My own MP, Ian Murray made a spectacularly bad political point which he claimed was a Point of Order. I shall now slag him off on Twitter because that’s how modern politics works. Tory boy Mundell voted for the rise.

Lib Dems, as is their style, couldn’t make up their mind. For English tuition fees: Michael Moore, Jo Swinson, Mike Crockart, Malcolm Bruce, Danny Alexander, Alistair Carmichael. Against English tuition fees: Alan Reid, Menzies Campbell, Charles Kennedy. Interesting to see the former party leaders, presumably with nothing to lose, voting for the sensible thing. Those wanting promotion and junior government posts voting against their election promises. Shame.