Canoe Skills and Qualifications

Coaching At Warwick University

Currently on Mondays 8:30pm - 10pm, we have the pool for structured coaching. This is used at all levels of ability, from foundation skills to advanced flat water to playboating. Each week we will often focus on a particular skill or set of skills but this is only a rough guide, just come along with your own questions, problems or aims.

The standard of canoeing at Warwick is always getting better and as such we have more and more coaches on hand to help you out so never be afraid to ask questions on a more informal basis on a Wednesday night at the pool or in the street, coaches live and breath boating so always ask questions there is never a silly question only a silly answer!

The club has a strong history of organising foundation and intermediate courses and assessments for its members, with a high proportion of members passing courses and qualifications at their time with us.

If you have no idea what that means look up the link on this page to the British Canoeing award schemes.

If you are new to the sport and would like to develop your skill level and understanding, look into working towards a start or develop award and see if any Foundation Safety and Rescue (FSRT) courses are running soon

British Canoeing Awards

British Canoeing Qualifications

For those that wish to become a coach, check out our page on coaching and leadership

British Canoeing

Formerly known as the BCU, British Canoeing is an umbrella organisation made up of Canoe England, Canoe Scotland, Canoe Association of Northern Ireland and the Welsh Canoeing Association. They are the leading body for padlesports in the UK.

BC run paddlesport test and awards schemes and coaching qualifications, up-to-date details of which can all be found on their website.

Their website has a reputation for being difficult to navigate and find anything that you're specifically looking for, however it is a hive of information for anything paddling related! These pages are simply meant as an overview with short explanation and a quick reference point for links.

Personal development awards

For a beginner, British Canoeing offers 3 awards that are meant to introduce a paddler to the sport, develop their ability to control their craft and use it safely

The Start award is a flat water award that demonstrates an individual has basic boat control and transferable foundation skills in any one kind of paddlesport craft

The Discover award is a development flat water award that demonstrates an individual has an understanding of and an ability to control how the body, boat and blade interact with the water in order to manoeuvre any craft. Individuals with this award also have an awareness of safety and can make safe decisions on the water and preparing for trips

The Explore award is an award aimed at getting paddlers prepared for independent paddling, with all the knowledge and safety experience needed to get out and paddle safely without an instructor

Our qualified coaches are able to assess and issue both the Start and Discover awards, if you're interested in this please talk to a member of the exec and we'll help you acquire all the skills and knowledge you need to pass.

Beyond these awards, British Canoeing offers a variety of discipline specific awards aimed at developing advanced skills in a particular craft or environment. We regularly offer Whitewater Leader Training with an external instructor that equips individuals with the skills to safely lead others down whitewater.

Safety Training

These courses are designed to develop an individual's safety awareness during paddlesport. Some are pre-requisites for coaching and star leader awards.

Foundation Safety and Rescue Training (FSRT) is a course designed for all paddlers (irrespective of craft) to teach simple and safe skills that can be applied appropriately.

White Water Safety and Rescue (WWSR) and Advanced White Water Safety and Rescue (AWWSR) are training courses to provide the underpinning knowledge and teach simple and safe practical skills that can be applied appropriately in the moderate to advanced white water environment

Personal Paddling Skills

Forward paddling

Watch this video of Tim Brabants training. If you didn't know, he won the Gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in K1 class over 1000m, so basically his technique can't be bad! However, it is very specific to to racing long distances in straight lines: not perfectly suitable to white water river running.


Head: up straight, driving forward a little

Shoulders: twisting (trunk rotation)

Arms: virtually straight, pushing top hand rather than pulling bottom hand

Hips: rotating (trunk rotation)

Legs: 'cycling', pushing the boat forward


A flat heel, with no edge


Shaft: Vertical shaft of paddle when entering and driving through the water

Small pause before blade enters the water to allow upper hand to bring blade into vertical position and bottom hand to reach forward

Bring through water close to boat, in order to reduce turning

Sideways paddling

Keep paddle vertical and look at the objective. Slow steady motions are generally more efficient.

Draw stroke - Pull blade towards your hip, and twist blade out to repeat

Sculling draw - Sweep blade through the water close to the boat. Keep the blade angle quite low and motion slow and steady

Backwards paddling

Similar to forwards paddling, but reversed paddle action. Look over alternating shoulders to keep the boat going in the right direction.


Low brace - Arms, body and paddle form a rectangle - "monkey arms". Push blade against water and use hips to right the boat.

High brace - keep elbows low and arms close to body. Blade should hit the water by the hips, use hips to correct the boat similar to a roll.


Try and keep body upright and use waist to tip the boat from side to side by lifting your knee on one side. 


Control strokes

Bow rudder - while moving forwards, place the power face of the paddle blade at a roughly 45 degree angle to the boat near your feet. Good for small corrections whilst on the move. 

Stern rudder - place the paddle near parallel to the boat with one blade submerged behind your hips. Experiment with the angle of the paddle and feather of the blade to control your boat delicately while moving 

Sweep stroke - Place blade near feet and sweep in wide arc towards the back of the boat. Turning your body increases the effectiveness of this stroke.


Set up position

Pull on right hand blade

Flick hips and keep head low

Finish on a low brace