Paddler Progression

Whether you are relatively new to sea kayaking or have some experience, we all want to improve our skills. CKC calls this ongoing skills improvement ‘paddler progression’ which is closely aligned to the Paddle UK (previously known as British Canoeing (BC)) Award structure. The diagrams below indicate the skills, activities and training that are needed for the Paddle UK awards and for CKC graded trips. See here for the grading of trips: Trip Gradings Note that after the Sea Kayak Award, a paddler has a choice whether to focus on their own skills or move to a leadership (or coaching) pathway.

The Club has regular River Thames sessions, swimming pool sessions as well as regular trips on rivers, estuaries and, of course, the sea to support your progression. And as you progress you will gain your independence on the water, learn the necessary skills to paddle sea kayaks efficiently and effectively, and ultimately lead groups in appropriate conditions should you wish to do so.

The pathway below is generic and it should be used to help you to determine roughly where you are and where you might want to go.  The Club is here to support you so talk to any of the existing coaches or leaders and the Training Officer and they will help you come up with a personal plan to achieve your own progression goals.

As an indication of the time to progress, a very keen new paddler might take a year to complete the equivalent of Start, Discover and Explore. Then a year to progress to each of the next awards: Sea Kayak Award, Coastal Sea Kayak Award and Advanced Sea Kayak Award. Similarly, moving to the leadership or coaching awards would take approximately a year between each award.

However, these timings are indicative and dependent on your aptitude, desire to move forward and how much you are able to paddle week to week. Some people achieve the reasonable standard of Sea Kayak Award and stop their skills development there, others may take many years building excellent skills before moving forward to the next level. Remember it’s not a race and there is no finish: it is a lifetime of learning. And it’s about being efficient, proficient, competent and safe on the water at the level that matches your skills.


If you have developed the necessary skills there will be opportunities to be assessed on the Paddle UK Awards as well as in other qualifications (e.g. First Aid, VHF Radio, Coastal and Tidal Planning, etc).  However, it is not necessarily all about “bits of paper” and as to whether you should do the assessment is completely up to you, the Club will certainly not mandate this.  It might be that to undertake the training may be more than sufficient to meet your personal goals without ever needing to be formally assessed.

Having said this, you may find that not having the “bit of paper” could limit what trips you can participate in particularly those overseas where rental companies may insist on seeing certificates (e.g. Sea Kayak Award/3*) as a prerequisite to loaning out boats and equipment.  Furthermore, if you think you might want to move into either the coaching and / or leading pathway then a number of the qualifications are mandatory prerequisites.