ACA Levels out of whack?

Recently, I had reason to review where I was in skills and determined that I am pretty solidly in the beginner range.  This seemed about right to me as I have received ACA level 2 training and the levels go up to a 5.  However I noticed here on level 4 training at the ACA site:

the following information:

"Course Location / Venue: Ideal location will have a moderate current not to exceed 4 knots, a short crossing of 1 to 2 miles, and a tide rip with a large well-defined eddy. Current should not be moving into an area of danger and there should be a variety of landing options down current. Winds should not exceed 10-15 knots"

It seems pretty weird to me that 15 knots is considered advanced level 4 conditions as I paddle in those conditions with regularity. I'm thinking these should be considered level two conditions.  Certainly I'd want a level two instructor to be trained in these conditions as they commonly occur without warning.

It appears that the BCU does it like this as well.  If that is the case maybe they should realign the conditions to go with the level of skill.  Or maybe I should not go out whenever the wind is over 15 knots and the waves are over 4 feet?  It seems reasonable to go out in these conditions but I do tend to self rescue a few times on every surf day.

What do you think?  Are the condition levels out of whack with the skill levels being taught?


  1. I don't know the ACA or BCU grading system first hand but I assume it is similar to a system we have in Australia.
    Teaching a bunch of paddlers in harsh conditions is always tricky since they have to learn and not just play. It's like herding kittens when kayakers are in conditions: a student has a hard time to stay close to the instructor and hear what's going on without getting blown away.
    In saying that I think that the assessment probably should be in conditions that are a bit more demanding. Honestly, grades imparted by institutions mean little to me since I have seen high level awards given to paddlers that could barely roll. I understand that one wants be measured against his/her peers and see where he/she stands but in reality those awards mean little when one really needs to have the skills to pull through. These days I don't care anymore about grading; I practice in conditions that push me every time and learn from my and others’ mistakes (in a controlled environment) to better my skills.
    I see grading as a dogmatic way of imparting restrictions on paddlers that love the confinement of sanctioned group paddling.

  2. I understand about the idea if teaching beginners or doing assesments, but I think the whole idea of grading is so you can be certain folks you may want to select for a trip are at a certain skill level.

    Based on what the current system says, I don't think I'd take a paddler like me any where near the ocean which according to the ACA gets to level 3 and 4 without much warning.

    In actuality I've been inlet and ocean paddling with level 2 though 4 paddlers.

    Your comment does highlight the fact that some paddlers are not up to their stated skill level. I've seen a couple of those as well. Still I'd say on average a level 3 or 3 star paddler is going to have skills I don't.