Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sea skills

Do you need a licence to paddle a kayak at sea? Not really unless you want to participate in certain activities organized by NSW sea kayak club, and I presume other clubs. That "licence" is called grade 3 or sea skills.

Last Saturday Stuart gave his time, as volunteer assessor, to assess 3 new aspirants to this level. The 3 aspirants were Mark, Chris and me.
We were to be at 8AM ready to paddle at Bundeena. From my home it is almost 2 hours drive so I decided to go the night before and camp. I drove to Audly where I could not go on because the river had flooded the road and there was a car stuck half way with water to its doors. Short after 11pm police came to officially close the road and when asked they said that by the morning it should be clear again. So I camped near by.
When I woke up the river was a lot lower and the bridge almost clear. However police were there to make sure nobody tried to cross until the all clear was given. I drove to the entrance to the National Park and waited there. I thought that most of the others would come through this road and I would meet them there. However only Chris got there and at 8AM the road was still closed and nobody else appeared. We moved to the very start of the road going into the park from the highway and there we saw a sign about the closed road and to take the road through Waterfalls... If we had known about that before...
Anyway, we arrived to Bundeena at 9AM where the others were waiting. We unpacked the kayaks, got changed and the assessment started by checking the gear. Then we paddled out towards Cronulla beach.

The paddler has to show several skills, among them you need to perform an auto rescue (jump into the water and get back into your boat) and the assisted rescue (get back into your boat with the help of another kayaker). However before we got to Cronulla we spotted 3 sharks and while they don't usually  bother with people (we are not in their menu) I didn't want to be swimming among them in murky waters (they don't have very good sight and may confuse you with a troubled fish, which is definitely in their menu). We left these exercises to the end when back in the harbour.
When we got to Cronulla we had to show our skills in the surf by landing, launching and rolling. Below is my go at that:

After that we needed to show some maneuverings skills (paddle backward, turn the boat 360 degrees, paddle sideways, etc) and how to tow another kayak

Stuart leading and Mark towing Chris.

When we made it back into the harbour we did the rescues exercises and got off the water just in time for the storm to wash the salt water off the kayaks.
After changing into dry clothes we all headed to the pub where Stuart gave us his feedback on what he saw and stamped all of us approved to paddle out in the sea. 

Next time I come across bad weather can I show it my new licence to shush it away? :-) I think not...

Below a few pictures of the day:


  1. Your video of assessment seems a fair representation of what is expected. Your rolling and confidence appears suitable for the "license" you gained. While the standard of assessment should be similar in other AC Clubs, that often is not the case. When I used to paddle with "licensed" people in Clubs very few were able to pull off what you show in the video. The Club coaching was minimal and there was (and still is) a great emphasis on having private lessons to gain the “license”. The way it is currently conducted in my area, in my eyes, unfortunately I see it just as money making scheme.

    1. Hi Gnalydog,
      I've also found that training toward the assessment within the club is not as complete as the skills required to pass. In the year I have been member there was only 1 basic training in the surf and 2 "mock" assessments.
      However my real concern was with the number of real assessments carried out during the year. The one I took part on was the only one!!! So only 3 people were assessed in the year and I know a few more guys that wanted to be assessed as well.