Demystifying Courses - Sea Kayak Award

Demystifying Courses - Sea Kayak Award

The Sea Kayak Award is a kayaking personal development course, designed to provide you with the confidence and skills to plan and make kayak journeys on the sea. The award is put together by British Canoeing (the national governing body for paddlesports in the UK) and it comes under the category of “Personal Performance Awards” which are for developing your personal skills in paddling.


Who is it for and what does the course cover?

It is a great course for those who’ve done some kayaking before and are looking to improve their skills or looking to make unguided kayak journeys in the future. The conditions for this course are up to force 3 or 12mph winds and up to 1 knot (1 nautical mile per hour) of tidal flow. These provide a good range for starting to make independent journeys on the sea and building up confidence and experience.

The course covers the following topics:

  • Choosing a location to paddle and the factors that may affect it.
  • What kit and equipment you might need
  • Safety and rescue
  • Personal paddling skills, including forward paddling, manoeuvring, and towing.
  • Reviewing a journey for future personal development.


What is a “sea kayak”?

A “sea kayak” is a type of kayak designed for journeys in the sea, being quite long in length and providing comfort and ease to cover longer journeys (often with space for storage). There are also white water kayaks, which are shorter, making them much more agile for navigating rapids and features on rivers.  

You can do the course in either a “sit-on-top” or a “closed cockpit” sea kayak. A closed cockpit kayak has a deeper seat in the boat, and individuals wear a “spraydeck” or a “skirt” round their waist, which attaches to the boat and keeps them contained in the seat of the boat. If you capsize in a closed cockpit kayak, you need to know how to get out safely, either by pulling the spraydeck off the boat, or by learning different rescue techniques, and also how to get back in. It is really important you learn how to fit and remove a spraydeck correctly, as it can be very dangerous if you do not. A sit-on-top kayak has a seat in the kayak but no spraydeck keeping you in the boat, so if you capsize, then you’ll be straight out of the kayak.

Your kayak choice ultimately comes down to personal preference. An additional level of skill is required for the closed cockpit kayaks as you need to ensure you are comfortable with how to get out of the boat if you do capsize and then to get back in. Some benefits of a closed cockpit kayak are having a better feel for the boat as you are more connected to it and you can stay a bit drier and warmer (providing you don’t capsize!), as you don’t get the ocean splash onto your legs during the journey. Sit-on-top kayaks keep you a bit more exposed but many people prefer sit-on-tops as they are often more stable and easier to get in and out of.


Does this award help me to become an instructor or leader for paddling groups?

Personal performance awards don’t qualify you to lead groups or take people out under your supervision. They can be used to supplement a leadership award, such as Paddlesports Leader, to show you’ve got a certain level of personal skill in addition to what’s required for the leadership qualification.

It does not have a formal assessment, but certain criteria do need to be met to get the award. It could be that at the end of your course, you and the instructor discuss a quick development plan for you to work towards to achieve the final bits of the award.

There is no minimum age to do the award, although on our open courses at Reach Outdoors, we do have a minimum age of 14 years old (bespoke courses available on request).

You do not need to be a member of British Canoeing to get this award or take part in the course.


How is the award run at Reach Outdoors?

We run the Sea Kayak Award over 2 full days. Most of that is on the water, but some is spent in a classroom discussing scenarios, preparation, equipment and conditions.

We ask that you have some previous kayaking experience and that participants are at least 14 years old to attend one of our open courses. If you’re looking to do your sea kayak award in a closed cockpit kayak, you must have some previous experience in a closed cockpit kayak. We run a one-day introduction to closed cockpit kayaking (often the day before a 2-day sea kayak award), so book onto one of those first to provide the basics of safety and rescue in a closed cockpit kayak.

If you are under 14 and interested in doing this award with us, please pop us an email. We can put on courses for private groups providing minimum numbers are met.

We provide all the equipment required (e.g. wetsuit, buoyancy aid, helmet, kayak and paddle) but you are welcome to use your own if you’d like, providing they are suitable.

Often, we’ll paddle at different locations on each of the days to give some variety and try to get to the limit of the conditions required for the award. Being based at Goodrington Sands Beach in Torbay provides access to a whole range of coves and beaches, as well as some nearby estuaries.

Our next Sea Kayak Award is on 12th-13th December 2022. To book on, visit our online calendar at or for further dates and prices, check out our webpage here:

For further information, or to enquire about other dates, please email

Reach Outdoors is based in the English Riviera. Check out for accommodation providers or other fantastic things to do when you are in the area.

To find full information on the award, and find a provider local to you, visit



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