Development Levels

To help you work out what courses and trips might be suitable for you, we have developed our own “Development Levels”. These are rough guidelines that you can match against the guidance notes on each course. It’s also really helpful if you can give us an idea of your development level when you are booking or enquiring about any open courses. Hopefully, it will also help you understand where you are in the skill spectrum.

Clients often ask us how long it takes to become a competent paddler. It’s that “how long is a piece of string” question. People vary so much. As a rough guide:

Stage 1 we can do in hours.

Stage 2 in days,

Stage 3 in a week or two.

Beyond stage 3 you will need plenty of practice, perhaps paddling with competent friends or a club, with some coaching along the way.

Stage 4 can be achieved in months.

Stage 5 maybe in a year or two.

Stage 6 can take several years.

Just read the descriptions and use gut-feel to chose the stage whose description feels closest to your situation

Stage 0

You haven’t sat in a sea kayak, canoe or river kayak before

You would like to learn some skills so that you can over time become an independent and self-sufficient paddler so as to join other groups of people and friends who may already sea kayak.

Stage 1

You can make progress but the kayak tends to wander about a bit. You can make circles, stop quickly and turn the kayak through 360o on the spot. You can steer using the paddle like a rudder.

You can paddle about 6km and enjoy the trip but you will probably be tired. You have good safety awareness and know what to do if you capsize.

You are dependent on the guide for safety and navigation. You prefer flat water!

Stage 2

You can steer and manoeuvre the kayak fairly accurately in all directions in calm water or light winds. You can paddle up to 12 km in a day with fluid paddling action. You can move sideways and can steady yourself with the paddle if you wobble.

You will be comfortable in waves that sometimes slop over the deck of your kayak. You co-operate with the guide in a rescue and rescue others in sheltered situations.

You can navigate in simple situations and good conditions.

Stage 3

You can plan simple trips safely and know what kit you need to take and how to stow it in appropriate locations.

You know how to summon assistance if things go wrong

You can steer and manoeuvre the kayak fairly accurately in all directions in bumpy water in winds up to force 3. You can paddle up to 15km a day with smooth paddling action. You can steady yourself with the paddle if you wobble and while turning. You can manoeuvre accurately sideways.

You will be comfortable in waves that sometimes wash over the deck of your kayak. You are adept at co-operate with the guide in a rescue and you can rescue others on your own in up to force 3 conditions. You can navigate in simple situations and good conditions.

You can land in small surf and sheltered rocky locations

Stage 4

You can plan more challenging trips including moderate tides and short crossings. You can paddle up to 20 km a day no problem and 25km is possible.

Force 3 winds are fine and you are happy in moving water provided it is smooth. You can cope in force 4 for a while and you probably enjoy riding moderate waves. You can land in moderate surf.

Your paddling is more efficient and you don’t need to think about it. Bursts at speed are possible and you have a repertoire of support and recovery strokes which are becoming instinctive. You take an active part if rescued and can rescue others in real situations. You have a basic roll that works most of the time in flat water.

You can navigate simple routes accurately and confidently.

You have a good understanding of risk factors and how to avoid them

You would know what to do if a simple incident occurred.

You are beginning to understand and exercise leadership in a group when appropriate

Stage 5

You can plan moderate trips yourself and can handle the kayak confidently in up to force 4 winds and on choppy seas. Moving water is fun and you enjoy crossing eddy lines and using the waves.

15 miles a day will be possible without feeling too tired the next day and you will enjoy surf riding moderate waves. Your paddling is smooth and efficient with good body rotation and a “square” style

You can manage sustained bursts of high-speed paddling.

You can probably roll up again after a capsize in most situations and you can rescue and tow others. You can navigate tideways confidently in good visibility or simple situations in poor visibility.

If you had to or wanted to you could exercise effective leadership in advanced conditions and bring a group to safety if things went wrong

Stage 6

You can plan complex trips

The kayak seems to respond to your thoughts.

Inch accuracy is possible even in rough water.

Cruising seems effortless. 25 miles in a day is no problem.

You are capable of sustained high speed paddling.

Big waves with breaking crests are a source of fun.

Your rolling is bomb-proof but you almost never capsize anyway.

You can rescue and assist others in really nasty conditions.

You can accurately navigate in poor conditions and complex tidal situations

You have tons of experience, excellent judgement and can lead confidently and effectively in really serious situations

You don’t need us anymore

Come and paddle with us as friends