Sunday, December 04, 2005

What I did with my 4-star patch:

Because Derrick was curious & I'm bored out of my skull tonight. Man, this business being just a little too sick to feel like doing anything but not sick enough to just stay in bed is incredibly annoying.

Yup, so there they sit on the bookshelf, all three of 'em (the Canoeing Safety Test on the bottom, then the 4 star is sitting on top of the 3 star). I guess I do like to look at them. The problem is they also sit there & mutely pose that pesky question of "what have you done since then?".

Answer - Well, not a whole heckuva lot, really.

I guess there's always next year.

BTW for the non-kayakers, here's what all this talk of stars is about...

There are various not-for-profit organizations whose mission is to promote the sport of kayaking, encouraging people to take up the sport & teaching them how to do so in a safe & responsible manner. The "4-star" to which I refer is the level at which I have been assessed on the British Canoe Union rating scale.

This scale runs from one to five stars, one being the most basic, five being advanced.

Off the top of my head, the levels go something like this - they all also involve some level of theoretical knowledge too, I'm erring in only talking about the skills, and I'm massively oversimplifying the skills too, I'm just trying to give the most general idea here:

One star: Very basic - this is an award that, if I'm remembering correctly, could be awarded to a group of kids who've taken an intro course. All that's needed is a modicum of control - the ability to paddle forward in a more-or-less straight line, ditto backwards, and a couple of turning strokes, and the ability to get out of a capsized kayak & swim it to shore (and btw kids LOVE falling out of kayaks so that part is fun).

Two star: beginner with a little more control than a one-star. Most control is with the paddle although some edging is expected. Oh yeah, and with the edging comes the bracing, being able to use a quick paddle stroke to save yourself from a capsize when you've overbalanced yourself, which tends to happen when you're learning to edge, at least if you're really committing to sitting that boat up on it's side. Ability to get back into your boat starts to matter too - usually you end up practicing that after really committing to your edging & not quite getting that recovery stroke right (edging is a skill where taking a cue from the kids & deciding that falling out of your kayak is fun and fine is very very useful - hot summer days are a great time to practice!).

Three star: intermediate, showing competence in what I tend to call "the BCU strokes" or sometimes "kayak dressage" (that's what I call it when at the end of a paddle, I hang out between the piers working on various types of turns & strokes - that's always a nice way to end a paddle)- at this level you're really starting to use the boat for control, not just the paddle, and these are the strokes that when you watch somebody good do them, they look a little magic - actually they feel a little magic too when you get them right (I have some that work all the time, and then there are still some that could be better).

Four star: This is taking all those three-star skills, add on some basic seamanship (navigation, knot-tying, ability to deal with equipment problems, etc) and showing that you know how to use them, can use them in open water (1 through 3 are all flat-water), and are capable of being a competent member of a group. This is what I am. Or at least what I was when I was assessed. I always have this gnawing worry that maybe I'm getting worse (this is why the comment about "not very much", this really does bother me, I haven't taken a class in far too long & lord only knows what sort of bad habits I have fallen into).

Five star: This gets up into the leadership stuff - means that you seriously know your stuff - you can get through all sorts of crazy crap, towing 5 seasick paddling companions if necessary. Add on restricted-visibility (night or fog) navigation skills, full multi-night expedition capabilities and whatever else your sadistic assessor decides to throw at you (they want to see if you can think on your feet)...I have been told that I would probably have a blast getting 5-star training (I had more fun than seems like could possibly be legal at my 4-star assessment and I think everybody there saw that). Shooting for the 5-star assessment itself someday - that gets more complicated. That's where the fact that I ended up leaving Manhattan Kayak Company (and at that point semi-voluntarily sidelined myself from the leadership role I did once try to play in our local kayaking community) makes me have some doubts as to whether I'd really be a good candidate, as do my split loyalties between sailing & paddling. Seriously, if a genie were to appear and tell me "I will grant you the money and time and anything else you need to work for one of two certifications - a captain's license or your 5-star award" I seriously think I would have to draw straws to decide - then sit down and bawl for a week about the one I didn't get to go for.

Notice I wouldn't even want the genie to just give me one or the other? Naw. Getting there is half the fun.

Then you have the coach awards - a 3-star paddler can be a 2-star coach, a 4-star paddler can be a 3-star coach, and so on until you get to those rare and astonishing creatures the 5-star coaches. The one class I did try to get into this year was a 2-star coach training - unfortunately I was thwarted as the one chance I had to take that was the same day as another co-worker had already asked to take vacation & I had to cover for him. I was very dissappointed in that although I didn't hold it against the guy (in fact I never even breathed a word of what I missed out on, had plenty of good vacations this year & was not about to be a brat about one letdown -- and I'm really glad I didn't because since then he's had some sort of scary health problem and if I had given him so much as one speck of grief about his mountain biking trip costing me that class, I would have absolutely hated myself for it).

BTW - I have to add one more link since I have given the superdupershorthand versions of the star levels - if you want more detail, the full syllabi for the various assessments can be found on this page of the BCU North America website.

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