BCU 1 to 4 Star Kayak Tests


The information shown below refers to closed cockpit kayaks and decked canoes.

[For full details and requirements visit the BCU website]


BCU Levels 1 to 4

1 Star
2 Star
3 Star
4 Star
Equipment What fittings should a kayak always have?
What fitting should a spray deck always have?
How long should your paddle be?
What is an asymmetric paddle blade?
What is the advantage of an asymmetric paddle blade?
Why is a racing boat faster than a touring or short white water boat?
What materials are most modern ‘general purpose’ boats made from?
What advantage does a spray deck made from neoprene give?
What is the main difference between a ‘dry cag’ and a ‘wet suit top’?
Show a good knowledge of kayak, paddle and personal equipment
Safety What should you never do if you capsize a kayak?
Why should you not paddle alone?
Why should you keep a straight back when lifting a kayak?
Why can it be dangerous to kayak on open water before you are sufficiently experienced?
Why should you wear a buoyancy aid even if you are a good swimmer?
Why are weirs dangerous?
What is Leptospirosis, and what precautions can you take against it?
What would you pay special attention to if you were going out kayaking in the winter?
Why can a rapid or fast moving water be dangerous?
Be aware of the dangers and problems associated with paddling on moving water, and the position which should be adopted if swimming in fast moving water.
Hypothermia/ First Aid What could make a mild day seem cold to a kayaker?
Why is a waterproof cag or anorak important to a kayaker?
What (in simple terms) is meant by ‘hypothermia’?
How is hypothermia avoided?
Why should you cover cuts and grazes with a waterproof dressing?
What are the signs that someone is becoming hypothermic?
What are the most important things to do if someone suffers a bad injury?
Show a good understanding of immersion hypothermia, its causes and symptoms. Be able to deal with basic first aid incidents - eg, a cut forehead or hand - or hold a first aid certificate.
Environment & Access If you found litter on the bank or shore, or floating in the water, what should you do?
What sort of things make a kayak trip on a quiet river or canal an enjoyable experience?
Can you paddle your kayak on just any river or canal?
What would you do if someone told you that you had no right to be canoeing where you are?
What is the most beautiful place in which you have been with your kayak?
What is the best wildlife encounter you have had while canoeing?
What is the principle you should apply when you leave a picnic or camping site?
What is an ‘access agreement’?
What sort of behaviour is most likely to upset an access agreement?
What is meant by ‘a navigation’?
What is the most distressing/disturbing wildlife encounter you have had whilst canoeing?
Who would you contact if you came across signs of serious pollution - eg oil, sewage, foul smells, dead fish and birds?
Be aware of the difficulties of paddling on British waters, and how to gain information on access to rivers and lakes. Be aware of the problems of canoeing on private waters and how great sensitivity needs to be shown when launching and landing: ie, towards residents, land owners, farmers, anglers.
Be aware of the policy set out in the BCU leaflet 'Earning a Welcome' and show appreciation of the need to avoid obvious disturbance to wildlife such as playing ‘hide and seek’ around reed beds.
Planning   What should you take with you to ensure your comfort on a short trip?
How far do you think you could paddle in a day without becoming too tired and fed up?
What average speed do you think you can travel at over a 4-hour journey in your kayak without any current or strong wind to help or hinder you?
What questions would you ask the leader if, as a 3 Star paddler, you were invited to take part in a day tour travelling about 12 miles down river?
Show an understanding of what is involved in planning a trip down a river, such as access and egress, equipment requirements, significance of a weather forecast, shuttle procedures, lunch stops, contingency plans.
General What are the main differences between a canoe and a kayak?
Who are the famous users of kayaks for hunting?
Who are the famous users of canoes?
Name three different types of kayaking competition?
What is meant by ‘white water’ kayaking?
Name two manufacturers of kayaks in Britain?
How does joining the British Canoe Union help you and help canoeing generally?
Have you heard of Rob Roy MacGregor?
Have a good understanding of the types of canoeing in you are involved, and know something about the range of activities which the sport incorporates, together with an awareness of one or more of the competitive forms of canoeing which have World Championships or Olympic status, and Britain’s performance in them.
Group Awareness   How could you help someone who was having difficulty in keeping up on a trip?
Why is it important to keep together as a group when journeying?
On which side of a navigable river or canal should you paddle?
How would you raise the alarm if you were paddling at the back of a group and the person ahead of you capsized?
The candidate to show that he or she has an understanding of the importance of self control when travelling with a group on grade II or open water, and the problems which could occur without positive group discipline.
Map & Compass     Why is it important to have a compass with you when on a journey?
What sort of map is the best one to have with you for a journey on a river or canal?
The candidate should be able to align a map, work out the distance between two points, and identify any particular features which would indicate position, comprehend compass ‘variation’, and have an understanding of how to use a transit when paddling on open water.
Practical 'A' Lifting, carrying and launching the kayak
Forward paddling over a 100m course
Rotate 360 degrees on the spot
Reverse paddling
Paddle a figure-of-8 course
Return to bank and disembark
Lifting, carrying and launching the kayak
Efficient forward paddling
Reverse paddling and stopping
Moving the kayak sideways
Preventing a capsize
Lifting, carrying and launching
Efficient forward paddling
Reverse over a figure-of-8 course
Turning whilst on the move
Low brace turn
Bow rudder
Moving sideways, both static and on the move
Sculling draw
Draw on the move
Hanging draw
Sculling for support
Recovery strokes
Tilting to assist turning
Practial 'B'

Capsize, swim ashore and empty

Demonstate beginnings in:
Moving sideways
Preventing a capsize

Deep water rescue

Demonstrate beginnings in:
Sculling draw
Sculling support
Eskimo rescue

Deep water rescue
Towing and use of tow line.
Eskimo rescue.

Demonstrate beginnings in:

Practical on Flat Water       Rolling
Rescue and tow as for white water.
Practical on Grade 2 Water       Forward paddling
Stopping and reverse ferry gliding.
Breaking out
Breaking in
Upstream (forward) ferry gliding.
Use of throbag
Surf small waves
Paddle into and out of small stoppers.
Journeying   Provide evidence of at least 1 journey of about 2 hours (6 km) duration. Provide evidence of at least 3 journeys of 10km (about 3 hours duration each). Provide evidence of at least 3 self contained journeys of at least 4 hours travelling time (equivalent to about 20km paddling under normal touring conditions). At least two different rivers must be involved, one of which must contain grade 2 sections.
Demonstrate a basic ability to follow a compass bearing and locate the position on an OS map.