Trip categoristion


Sea kayaking trips advertised and led by BCC leaders (not peer paddles) are categorised as Introductory, Improver, Intermediate or Advanced, according to the skill and experience level required to take part. We do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly you need to know in advance of committing to the trip roughly what may be expected of you, so that it's neither excessively taxing nor beyond your capabilities. Secondly, we need to offer trips that allow everyone to develop their paddling skills, whatever their level, in a stimulating and appropriate environment.

The following descriptions are for guidance only. Whilst reasonable care will be taken to select and grade trips appropriately, it must be remembered that this will usually be done many weeks in advance when neither the weather nor participants are known. The trip leader will notify participants just in advance of the meet, usually 2-3 days beforehand, of the expected conditions and any significant changes from the originally advertised trip and level. It will sometimes be necessary to change the level of the trip, or to cancel it in advance. In exceptional circumstances the leader may be forced to do this at the launch site or to change or curtail plans when on the water.

References to paddling standards and BCU awards in particular relate to the actual paddling standard of participants on the day of the trip. You do not have to have any formal qualifications, so long as you have the equivalent skills and experience. Even if you do have certificates they may have been attained a while ago, you may not have paddled much recently, you may be less fit or injured versus the time at which you gained your qualification. Be honest about your ability when judging suitability of a trip. If in doubt, discuss in advance with the relevant trip leader.

For further explanation of the terms and definitions used, see the explanatory notes below.


Aimed at those paddling at BCU 2-Star standard in kayaks, not necessarily with sea experience. Typically these trips take place in sheltered bays, harbours or inshore coastal waters in calm conditions. Landings are frequently available and straightforward in nature.

Note: These are not beginner trips, ie. not for those with little or no kayaking experience! You must have passed BCU 2 star kayak or have equivalent experience.

 Distance / duration 12km over a half day
 Paddling speed
 Sea state
Smooth (0.1 to 0.5m wave height)
 Wind Under force 3
 Surf launch/landing
Up to 1ft
 Tidal streams
Up to 0.5kn
 Distance off-shore
Up to 500m


Aimed at those paddling between BCU 2-Star and 3-Star Sea standard, with sea kayaking experience, including BCU 3-Star Sea aspirants. Typically these trips take place in inshore coastal waters in fair conditions, including nearby islands. There may be short stretches of coastline where landing is not possible.

 Distance / duration 25km over a full day
 Paddling speed
 Sea state
Slight (0.5 to 1.25m wave height)
 Wind Force 3
 Surf launch/landing
Up to 2ft
 Tidal streams
Up to 1kn or favourable
 Distance off-shore
Up to 3km


Aimed at those paddling confidently at BCU 3-Star Sea standard including BCU 4-Star Sea aspirants. Typically these trips take place in coastal waters including exposed headlands, short island crossings and moderate tidal streams. There may be long stretches of coastline where landing is not possible.

 Distance / duration 30km over a full day
 Paddling speed
 Sea state
Moderate (1.25 to 2.5m wave height)
 Wind Force 4
 Surf launch/landing
Up to 3ft
 Tidal streams
Up to 2kn or favourable
 Distance off-shore
Up to 6km


Aimed at those paddling confidently at BCU 4-Star Sea standard including BCU 5-Star Sea aspirants. Typically these trips take place in exposed coastal waters, they may include longer crossings to offshore islands, lighthouses and strong tidal streams. Tide races and overfalls are likely to be encountered which cannot be avoided. Stops are infrequent and distances between possible landings are long.

 Distance / duration 35km over a full day
 Paddling speed
 Sea state
Rough (2.5 to 4.0m wave height)
 Wind Force 5
 Surf launch/landing
Up to 4ft
 Tidal streams
Up to 4kn or favourable
 Distance off-shore
Up to 12km

Explanatory Notes

Further discussion of the intent and terms used in the all of the categories above is provided here. It is worth reiterating that the above descriptions are for guidance only. They are not intended to be definitive. However, they are intended to be representative of the worst-case conditions planned to be encountered on a trip.

Distance / duration: Usually the maximum distance and duration of the paddle that would be planned. Both may vary considerably in adverse conditions. None is prescriptive. There's nothing to prevent a shorter paddle to accomodate activities such as wildlife watching, surfing, rockhopping or such like en-route.

Paddling speed: The average speed whilst paddling in the absence of wind and tide. It does not include stopped time, for lunch or such like. Speed is often important because judgements have to be made about the time required to paddle route sections in relation to tidal streams and light.

Sea state: According to the Douglas sea scale. In open water away from the shore this should correspond roughly to swell. Waves are generally not breaking. General conditions are expected to be at the lower end of the range. May also be wind / tide induced locally.

Wind: Measured according to the Beaufort scale, this refers to the steady-state wind actually found locally on the water. Higher gusts might be acceptable depending on duration, direction, environment, group. Very difficult to predict precisely because of the local effects of the land, cliffs for example, and potentially gusty nature. Depending on location, area and source of information, the forecast wind may be higher.

Surf launch / landing: As quoted by surf forecasts. It is in feet and refers to the ride-able mid-section of the wave, not the peak to trough height.

Tidal streams: This refers to the rate of flow at the time it is paddled, not necessarily the peak rate at any particular location.

Distance off-shore: Effectively a no-landing zone of twice this distance. Relevant because of the degree of commitment required and potentially serious consequences of an incident a long way off-shore.

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