Level 4 Sea Kayak Skills

General aims

The Level 4 Sea Kayak skills award aims to enable candidates to:

  1. Kayak safely and competently on the Sea up to and including slight seas (Douglas Sea Scale) and force 4 winds, including overfalls and tide races as part of a group of peers.
  2. Be capable of negotiating obstacles likely to be encountered in such conditions.
  3. Able to deal competently with rescue situations that might occur in these conditions.
  4. Develop group awareness.


To obtain the Level 4 Sea Kayak skills award, a participant must successfully explain and/or demonstrate the following techniques and skills at a level higher than that required for the Level 3 Sea Kayak skills award and be capable of demonstrating any combination of the strokes competently and efficiently.



Rescues and Safety Techniques


The candidate should demonstrate a basic knowledge of the following:

  1. Tidal Streams, causes and effects and how to predict them.
  2. Weather Forecasting, obtaining and understanding forecasts.
  3. Sea Kayaks, equipment and clothing.
  4. Sea Kayaking Camping Procedures.
  5. Sea Kayaking Safety Procedures.
  6. Sea Charts and Ordnance Survey maps.
  7. The effects of wind on sea conditions.
  8. An introductory knowledge of the coastal environment.
  9. Navigation while at sea, including feature recognition, self-location, ability to route plan to alternate locations such as escape route.
  10. First Aid, to include the symptoms and treatment of exposure and an awareness of the technique of artificial resuscitation. It is recommended but not mandatory that the candidate attend a First Aid course such as REC3.

Applying to attend a Level 4 Sea Kayak Skills Assessment

Before applying to attend an assessment, a candidate must:

  1. Have obtained the Level 3 Sea Kayak skills award
  2. Have completed an Essential Coastal Navigation Course and obtained an ECN Certificate.
  3. Be a member of Canoeing Ireland either as an individual member or as a member of an affiliated club.
  4. Have unrestricted access to a fully equipped sea kayak, personal equipment and additional equipment (see Level 4 skills list of equipment).
  5. Be a least 16 years of age.


  1. The Level 4 Sea Kayak Skills assessment will include a short written assessment followed by a sea trip of 3-4 hours in duration which must take place in slight seas (Douglas Sea Scale) with up to Force 4 winds.
  2. The written assessment will include trip planning exercises with specified conditions and group parameters. These trips may be anywhere along the Irish Coast. No conferring is allowed.
  3. During an assessment a candidate must explain and demonstrate all techniques and skills at a level higher than that required for the Level 3 Sea Kayak skills award. All techniques, skills and rescues must be demonstrated to the required level in order to achieve this award.
  4. All strokes should be demonstrated in relevant situations i.e. bracing in surf. Strokes should be demonstrated on both sides of the kayak.
  5. All rescues must be executed by the candidate acting as both rescuee and rescuer. Generally, required assessment rescues will be kept until the end of the trip.
  6. While attendance at a course is normally necessary, exceptions to that rule are accepted based on the candidate's presentation of an extensive range of logged sea trips. While it is not compulsory to attend a training course prior to assessment, it is strongly recommended.
  7. Before assessment the candidates must present their logged trips (See details of qualifying trips in Guidelines).

Assessment Guidelines

Qualifying Trips


The candidate should seek to include trips in a logbook that includes the following categories:

  1. Coastal trips with simple tidal considerations – it being necessary to identify which way the tide is running in order to plan the trip to take advantage of tides.
  2. Coastal trips with a crux i.e. a trip where you wish to be at a specific location at a specific time to benefit from predicted tidal conditions.
  3. Open crossings where knowledge of tidal streams is necessary.


Equipment List required for Assessment:

Properly equipped kayak:

  • End loops and/or toggles.
  • Suitable buoyancy
  • Suitable foot rest
  • Tow and Deck Lines
  • A kayak must be of sufficient volume to carry out all necessary safety equipment and perform any rescue as required by the Level 4 Sea Kayak skills award.

Personal kayaking equipment:

  • Paddle
  • ISO approved Buoyancy Aid
  • ISO approved helmet
  • Spray deck
  • Adequate footwear
  • Wetsuit or dry pants, dry cag or dry suit, combined with sufficient thermal clothing

Other Equipment:

  • Towing System.
  • First Aid Kit.
  • Mobile Phone.
  • Whistle.
  • Torch.
  • Flask and Food.
  • Spare Clothes.
  • Bivy Bag or group shelter.
  • Flares (one red parachute flare and one red pinpoint flare).
  • Bailer/Sponge.
  • Repair Kit (to include, at a minimum, tape and something to   dry out a kayak).
  • Spare paddles.
  • Charts (or copies of OS maps containing all relevant trip) planning information.
  • · Waterproof Bag or other method of keeping equipment dry).
  • Compass.
  • Watch.

Recommended additional group equipment:

All equipment should be stored in a logical fashion with emergency equipment secure and allowing easy access at all times. Equipment must remain secure during rescues and spare clothing should be dry at the end of the day. The candidate must be fully conversant with the use of all equipment carried. It is not appropriate that the retrieval of emergency equipment should require assistance.