The Star Awards are a set of personal development awards designed to indicate a persons ability in a canoe or kayak.

The awards give an individual an indication of the areas they need to work on to become more proficient. They are also useful for trip leaders / coaches because they indicate what the group members are capable of – and this helps them plan a suitable trip.

There is also a new Paddlesport award scheme which is an alternative to star tests but is oriented towards younger paddlers (under 14).

1 Star : Novice

An introductory award indicating very basic ability.

A flat water award reflecting basic boat control that can be done in a kayak or open boat (canadian canoe). The first star award reflects the level of skill that people would typically reach after a 6 hour introductory course, e.g. one full day on the water or a six week evening course.

2 Star : Beginner

Awarded to recognise a good set of foundation skills.

A flat water award covering a range of kayak and open boat (canadian canoe) skills. This award must be assessed in both a kayak and canoe. It should be assessed in more than one location, e.g. a river and the sea, and the padddler must have taken part in more than one club event. Consequently it demonstrates a broad set of skills in controlling a variety of craft in sheltered conditions.

3 Star : Intermediate

A boat specific award reflecting a high degree of personal competence. There are 5 separate awards at this level, each of which must be assessed and awarded separately.

3 Star Flat Water Touring Kayak – An efficient paddling stroke demonstrating reliance on torso rather than arms to enable a larger distance to be traveled. Capable of adjusting the trim of their boat in response to the load carried and the prevailing conditions, with winds no more than Force 3. The paddler should have experience of at least 6 club events in more than one sea location and a river with grade 2 sections.

3 Star White Water Kayak – Capable in grade 2 rivers, as part of a led group, able to catch eddies when paddling down a rapid, and paddle upstream in grade 1 conditions.

3 Star Open Boat (Canadian Canoe) – Demonstrating a fluent J-stroke, poling and sailing. Capable of paddling fluently on rivers and lakes, adjusting the boat’s trim, as part of a led group, with winds no more than Force 3.

3 Star Sea Kayak – The level of skill, understanding and knowledge demonstrated is of the standard of an able improving sea paddler. Capable in a moderate tidal environment, as part of a led group, with winds no more than Force 4.

3 Star Surf Kayak – Equipped with the ability to move their boat with control in the surf, not surfing straight at the beach. Surfs the waves rather than being surfed. Uses dynamic body movement. Engages rails. Demonstrates S-curve transitions and the ability to exit the wave at any point.

4 Star : Leader

Recognises the ability to lead a group of 4 paddlers in appropriate locations, in up to moderate conditions. As with the 3 star award, there are 5 separate awards at this level, each of which must be assessed and awarded separately.

The paddler will personally be comfortable on grade 3 rivers, or moderate Force 4 conditions, confidently demonstrating a high level of boat control, and qualified to lead a group of 4 other paddlers in trips where they would ideally encounter no more than grade 2 water.

In addition to the personal skills and group leadership skills, the paddler should have their Safety And Rescue, REC First Aid and VHF Operator awards, and carry a VHF radio.

The 4 star leader award is aimed squarely at skilled amateur paddlers in clubs and societies, rather than professionals working for outdoor pursuits companies, where the cost of attaining and keeping professional coaching qualifications up to date can be prohibitive. Capable of planning trips, assessing and managing risk, ensuring the group safety, and acting as team leader when rescuing is required. Demonstrates good group awareness and control.

Foundation Safety And Rescue

This award concentrates on how to keep yourself and others safe when paddling. It is an extensive safety qualification covering risk awareness and management, individual and group safety, use of safety equipment, and in-water rescues.

It introduces the principle of CLAP – communication, line of sight, avoidance, position of most usefulness.

Important principles introduced are

  • Rescue – self, team, victim, equipment
  • Rescue – shout, reach, throw, row, wade, swim
  • Use of tow lines and throw lines
  • Clean Rope – no loops or knots; and if you carry a rope, carry a knife

Rescue & Emergency Care First Aid

This award concentrates on how to act as a first responder to a casualty, and covers basic first aid including CPR.

Important principles introduced are

  • Danger – check for dangers
  • Response – is the casualty concious
  • Airway – clear and open the airway
  • Breathing – check for unaided breathing
  • Circulation – check for bleeding
  • Deformity – check for breaks and swelling
  • Emotion – provide emotional support


Level 1 Coach

The L1 coach at work (they love to talk)

The level 1 award is the entry level coaching award. Level 1 coaches can operate alone in very sheltered water environments with groups of up to 8 paddlers, only if a supervising coach has provided session guidance and task cards for the level 1 coach to follow. Level 1 coaches with the 4* Leader personal skills award can take small groups onto flat water, introduce them to kayaking and canoeing, then take them on short trips in moderate water environments such as the rapids at Shaw’s Bridge.

Level 2 Coach

A level 2 coach is able to deliver a series of canoe and kayak sessions safely and efficiently in a sheltered water environment. It is aimed at Level 1 coaches who feel they are ready to further develop their coaching skills so that they can deliver sessions independently of other coaches.

Level 3 Coach

A level 3 coach is able to plan, implement and analyse long term development programmes. This is an appropriate level of coach for a person to be in charge of paddlesport activities in a club or centre. It is at this level that coaches begin to become increasingly specialised.


» British Canoe Union

» Euro Paddle Pass

» Canoe Association Of Northern Ireland