BC Paddle Awards

British Canoeing Paddle Awards Overview

British Canoeing offers a framework of awards and qualifications designed to support and recognize the skills of paddlers across various disciplines, including kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), and rafting. These awards are not mandatory for casual kayaking in the UK; however, they are highly recommended for anyone looking to improve their skills, ensure safety on the water, and progress in paddlesport activities. The awards are structured to cater to paddlers at all levels, from beginners to advanced, and they cover a range of skills and environments. Book your paddle awards here.

Are the BC Paddle Awards Required to go Kayaking in the UK?

No, the awards are not required to go kayaking for leisure in the UK. They are voluntary and aimed at improving competence and safety on the water.

Are the Paddle Awards Sequential?

The awards build on each other, starting from introductory levels focusing on basic skills and safety, progressing to more advanced techniques and challenging environments. Each award builds on the skills and knowledge gained in the previous level. However, completing the previous award is not required to progress.

Skills Learned in Each Award

The British Canoeing awards start with foundational skills and progress through to advanced paddling techniques. The pathway typically begins with the Paddle Start, Paddle Discover, and Paddle Explore awards, which are suitable for beginners:

  • Paddle Start: An entry-level award that introduces the basics of paddling, including launching and controlling the boat.
  • Paddle Discover: Builds on the start award by developing foundational paddling skills and knowledge, aiming for paddlers to become more confident on the water.
  • Paddle Explore: Focuses on developing the skills required to plan and undertake journeys on the water, enhancing the paddler’s ability to operate independently.

For those looking to specialize, there are Personal Performance Awards for specific disciplines (kayaking, canoeing, SUP) and environments (e.g., sea, whitewater, surf). These awards focus on advanced techniques and safety management in the respective disciplines.

The foundational awards (Paddle Start, Discover, and Explore) apply broadly across paddlesports. The follow-on Personal Performance Awards are specific to each discipline (kayaking, canoeing, SUP) and have three levels across 12 categories. This structure allows paddlers to develop skills relevant to their chosen activity and progress within that discipline. Additionally, there are Leadership and Coaching awards for those wishing to lead or coach in specific disciplines.


Generally the Paddle Awards can be completed in a day of training depending on the students comfort level and previous experience.

Let’s look at each award for kayaking in turn:

Paddle Start Award

Prerequisites: None. The Paddle Start is designed for complete beginners with no prior paddling experience.

Skills Learned:

  • Introduction to Equipment: Understanding the basic kayaking equipment, including how to choose and use it correctly.
  • Getting On and Off the Water Safely: Techniques for safely entering and exiting the water.
  • Basic Paddling Skills: Forward paddling, stopping, and basic steering.
  • Understanding the Environment: An introduction to the considerations for paddling in different environments (e.g., lakes, rivers).
  • Safety: Basic safety awareness to ensure personal safety and the safety of others on the water.

Paddle Discover Award

Prerequisites: While there are no strict prerequisites, the Paddle Start Award or equivalent experience is recommended to ensure participants have a basic understanding and comfort level with kayaking.

Skills Learned:

  • Developing Paddling Techniques: Improving forward paddling, introducing techniques for moving sideways, preventing capsizing, and simple turning and steering.
  • Rescue Skills: Introduction to self-rescue and simple rescues of others.
  • Planning: Basic journey planning skills including route selection and understanding weather and water conditions.
  • Safety and Awareness: Enhancing safety knowledge, including hazard identification and avoidance, and understanding the importance of personal equipment.

Paddle Explore Award

Prerequisites: Paddle Discover Award or equivalent skills. This award is aimed at paddlers who have mastered the basics and are ready to apply their skills to explore further.

Skills Learned:

  • Effective Paddling Skills: Refining and developing efficient forward paddling, turning, and maneuvering skills in a variety of conditions.
  • Rescues and Recovery: More advanced techniques for self-rescue and rescuing others, including deep water rescues.
  • Navigation: Basic navigation skills for safe journeying on the water, including the use of maps and understanding river features.
  • Trip Planning and Preparation: Comprehensive planning skills for longer or more challenging journeys, including considerations for group dynamics, safety, and environmental impact.
  • Understanding Weather and Water Conditions: An in-depth look at how different conditions affect paddling, and how to make safe decisions based on weather and water conditions.


The assessments are practical and are designed to demonstrate the paddler’s competence in the skills outlined for each award. There is a focus on continuous assessment, with feedback provided to support the paddler’s development.

Once you have gained your confidence there is plenty more to get stuck into with the various performance awards.

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I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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