All about the Star Tests

The Star tests are a series of awards that teach you the skills to make your canoeing fun and safe. The tests are agreed jointly by the national canoeing associations for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales (Welsh Canoeing Association) and England. There are five levels of tests that gradually build up the range and level of the strokes and techniques necessary for exciting, safe and enjoyable paddling. The first two levels are taken on flat water, while the 3, 4 and 5 Star are tested in the real situation, such as white water, surf or sea, and they are discipline specific so there is a different test for whitewater, surf, sea, etc. The skills you learn for One, and Two Star, are the foundations for paddling in sea, surf, white water, touring and competition.

In 2007 the BCU began the process of updating the entire award system, and introduced the UKCC Star Awards. These have raised standards and made the awards more relevant to real paddling situations. The levels are intended as 'milestones' in your learning so that you and group leaders can gauge which activities will be suitable for you to learn more skills and have fun without you being terrified or put in danger! The new UKCC four and five star awards are intended to equip paddlers to be leaders without having to become coaches.

1 Star - Beginner, 2 Star – Improver, 3 Star – Intermediate, 4 Star – Proficient leader 5 Star - Advanced leader

Types of Canoe and Kayak

Kayaks are paddled while sitting down and using a two bladed paddle . These were the boats developed by the Inuit or Eskimo people of Greenland and Canada. Canoes are paddled with a single blade and the paddler often kneels. These were developed by neolithic man in Eurasia, but reached a real level of sophistication in the hands of native north americans.

The Star Test system is aimed at all types of modern boat, but the old definitions are useful as all boats fit into one of these three categories, which are: -

Closed Cockpit Kayak: Kayaks designed for use on white water or the sea where the kayak is largely controlled by use of the lower body through the knees and thighs gripping firmly within the boat.

Open Cockpit Kayak: Kayaks designed for touring or racing which have large cockpits, where the knees are not gripped under the deck. If the boat capsizes the paddler falls out easily. Canoes used for fast touring and racing are also within this category, as are sit on tops.

Canoe: A boat paddled with a single bladed paddle, which can also be poled or sailed. These are often used for touring, but versions for slalom, racing and white water have been developed.

The UKCC two Star award has to be taken in both kayak and canoe, as this gives you a greater understanding of how the boat and blade interact, i.e. it makes you a better paddler.

Disciplines of Canoeing and Kayaking

General information on the various disciplines can be found on the BCU (British Canoe Union) website, in the booklet The Ultimate Guide to Canoeing and Kayaking, or in detail in the BCU Handbook.

The main disciplines are:-

Whitewater - paddling on rapids, rivers and tidal races

Sea - trips on the sea or estuaries in boats that look most like an Eskimo kayak

Surf - surfing in a kayak or canoe

Placid water/touring - trips on flat safe water or longer expeditions often in larger heavier boats that can carry camping kit

Playboating/rodeo - using very short boats to perform tricks on jets, sluices, wiers, races, - anywhere where the flow is fast and powerful

Polo - teams compete to score goals using specially designed boats - fast, rough and fun

Marathon - racing over several miles on flat water may involve portaging to go round locks etc.

Whitewater racing - specialise long fast boats are raced down rapids

Slalom - specialist lightweight flat boats are raced down a rapid through gates made from hanging poles. This and Sprint are the two Olympic canoeing disciplines

Sprint - racing on a flat straight course over a short distance in a boat that has the balancing characteristics and width of a razor blade