The new award scheme

In January 2019 a completely new award scheme was set up by the BritishCanoeing organisation (formerly the BCU).

Some rough guidelines are given below, but see their website for full details as there are a vast range of options.

If you're looking to get in a boat for the first time, Paddle Awards are for you! The awards will develop your confidence in the craft you choose in a sheltered water environment, developing your fundamental skills and decision making skills, enabling you to start your lifelong journey into paddlesport. These are:

The Start Award is exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a place to start your paddling journey. If you’re brand new to the sport and really want to learn the basics to get started, then this is the award for you. You’ll cover everything from getting in and out of the boat, what you need to wear and paddling forward.

Who is it for? Pretty much anyone of any age who wants to learn how to get started on the water. You don’t need any previous experience to take your Start Award, just the desire for fun! You can take the award in any craft, from kayaks, canoes and SUPs.

The Discover Award allows you to develop your decision making and practical skills for a fun and safe time on the water, as you become a more skilled and independent paddler. Through this award you will learn how to choose and effectively use equipment, whilst developing an understanding of the factors which affect your paddling.

Who is it for? Anyone of any age who want to develop their skills on the water. You don’t need any previous experience to take your Discover Award, just the desire for fun and learning! You can take the award from any craft, from kayaks, canoes or SUPs.

The Explore award. If you want to become independent on the water, go on self-guided adventures and know how to control your craft and stay safe on the water, this is the award for you. If you’ve never been paddling before, it might be worth starting with the Start and Discover awards. In this award you will take ownership of your own decisions and learn to make confidence choices, based on the places you paddle, wind and weather.

Who is it for? Anyone can take the Explore award. Designed to help you gain confidence on the water, it is aimed at any craft, age and ability.

Discipline specific Personal awards for sea kayak

The Sea Kayak Award endorses your skill, judgment and the decision making required for a successful day on the sea. You will be confident in planning and undertaking journeys on the sea, in winds up to and including force 3 and/or tides up to 1 Knot, using sea kayaks or sit on tops, in tidal or non-tidal environments, with proficient skills to be in control throughout. Your award should be seen as a sound basis for building the experience and knowledge associated with Coastal Sea Kayak Award holders. There are no prerequisites or age requirements.

The Coastal Sea Kayak Award endorses your judgment, decision making and expertise and requires a good understanding of paddling on the sea. You should be confident planning and undertaking journeys on the sea in winds up to and including force 4 and/or tides up to 2 Knots, in a sea kayak or specific sit on tops in tidal or non-tidal environments. Your confidence should be based upon both proficiency in skills and a broad appreciation of surroundings and environmental context. Your award should be seen as a sound basis for independently building the experience and expertise we associate with Advanced Sea Kayak Award holders. There are no prerequisites or age requirements.

The Advanced Sea Kayak Award. As an Advanced Sea Kayaker, you will have extensive experience of paddling on the sea. Your experience will include paddling a wide variety of sea conditions with winds over force 4 and/or tides over 2 Knots, using sea kayaks in tidal or non-tidal environments, where you may make open crossings in excess of 2Nm, as well as travelling along the coastline. There are no prerequisites or age requirements.

There are also awards for Canoe (open boat), white water, SUP and a few more disciplines besides

Coaching Awards

If you're interested in starting your coaching pathway or progressing your coaching, there are various options depending on the skills you’re looking to develop in your paddlers. From introductory taster sessions, to long term development, there’s something for everyone! The various pathways provide structure and support to develop your progression. Click on the buttons below to select the right pathway for you.

Paddlesport Activity Assistant

A Paddlesport Activity Assistant is a volunteer who supports the delivery of paddlesport at their organisation, which includes Clubs, Centres, Scouts, Sea Cadets, Guides, YMCA groups, DofE and many more. This is a great first step if you're a new or existing volunteer and want to become more involved and support your organisations activity. The activities can be wide ranging from a ‘Warm Up Lead’, ‘Slalom Session Timer’ or ‘Trip Assistant’. Someone in this role will have a passion for paddlesport, is keen to share their enthusiasm and help others. 

Paddlesport Instructor

A Paddlesport Instructor is someone who runs starter and taster sessions and short journeys in very sheltered water, within the safety management systems of your clubs/centres or other organisations. Paddlesport Instructors enable newcomers to have a great first time experience on the water, by creating a fun and safe environment, encouraging new paddlers to come back. A Paddlesport Instructor is an enthusiastic paddler, who is keen to introduce people to the sport.

It is a two day combined training and assessment course


  • Foundation Safety and Rescue training
  • Aged 14 or over
  • Home Nation Coach Registration (CR) Form
  • National Association membership 

Coach Award - discipline specific

A Coach is someone who supports paddlers who want to gain or improve their paddesport skills. This includes coaching beginners new to the sport or paddlers looking to develop their skills in the range of disciplines and environments our sport has to offer. This may include developing independent paddlers, supporting athletes at competitions or the physical and psychological development of your paddlers. A coach is able to plan, deliver and review progressive sessions safely, effectively and independently. A Coach is keen to develop others, introduce people to their discipline(s) and share their experiences.

Performance Coach - discipline specific modules

A Performance Coach is someone who supports paddlers by delivering long term-development programmes in specific disciplines and are likely to have responsibilities for participants’ development for up to a year. A Performance Coach may be in charge of Paddlesport activities in a club or centre or a working professional. A Performance Coach is approachable and committed to developing themselves, as well as others.

Coaching Diploma

The British Canoeing Coaching Diploma programme is targeted at coaches who wish to further develop the performance of the paddlers they coach, who are operating at the forefront of paddlesport coaching, and who have an interest in Postgraduate level study. Applicants may have specialisms in one or more areas, for example:

  • Coaching paddlers in any of our competitive or non-competitive disciplines
  • Coaching paddlers in specific age groups
  • Coaching paddlers at different levels (e.g. beginner, intermediate, expert)
  •  Coaching paddlers with different aspirants/motivations (e.g. participation, educational, high-performance, talent development)
  • Paddlesport Coach Education

The 2 year programme aims to support the development of coaches as visionary and knowledgeable decision makers, with exceptional skills, behaviours and the highest professional and ethical standards. Coaches should expect that they will be able to advance their own and others development; lead cutting-edge programmes (or parts of); and make a positive impact on paddlesport performance and behaviour. 

The course is an innovative programme run through a partnership between British Canoeing and the University of Stirling.  The programme aims to offer you an opportunity to reflect on your coaching practice;  to question, share, reinforce those reflections; interact with, review, and consider academic literature to enhance your insights and to receive academic recognition.

Within these there are multiple options, which you can check out here

In addition there are Leadership Awards, Safety Awards and Personal Development Awards.

For further information about all Awards visit the BCU website or the SCA website