Paddler Grading System

Grading System

Trips and training events are organised by our trip leaders in conjunction with our trips and training coordinators.  The grading system serves many purposes and is designed to ensure that our trips and training are conducted in a safe and enjoyable manner.    

As sea kayaking trips are subject to weather conditions it is impossible for a trip leader to advertise in advance how difficult a paddling event may be for a given location plan, therefore the grade relates to the participants skills and knowledge.  

Trip descriptions are developed to allow interested participants to evaluate their suitability.  All of our club trip leaders can sign-off for grades 1 and 2.  Open sea trips will often have a minimum paddler grade 2 when the trip leader does not anticipate that there will be time to allow for appropriate initial training. General information on the Grading System can be found under our basic skills sub menu.  See the “Grading System” tab.

Your responsibility

Sea kayaking is by its nature dangerous. The sea does not suffer complacency kindly. Paddlers should aim to minimise their own risk, and the risk they expose others to. Paddlers should be aware that paddling on the ocean is generally more physically demanding than on sheltered waters, and that a reasonable fitness level may be required for even moderate distances. The formal Paddler Grade qualification that you have achieved at a point in time does not necessarily mean that you are able to paddle at that level today. Being unfit, or out of practice, may reduce your ability to safely take part in a proposed trip. You must be candid with the trip leader when discussing your participation in a trip. If you have any doubts about your fitness or ability to paddle at the expected level, you must fully disclose all of your concerns. If asked, you must be ready and willing to demonstrate your skills.  

The Paddler Grading system qualifications include rescue skills. All paddlers on a Club trip are encouraged and expected to contribute to the safety and successful completion of the trip, at least to the level of their qualifications and ability.

Trip design and leadership

Our leaders hold Australian Canoeing (AC) qualifications and the club maintains an agreement with AC as a National Training Provider.

The level of the trip leader's formal qualification determines boundaries of where they can lead trips with some restrictions based on the participants grade.

Whether a trip is carried out as planned or not, will depend on conditions on the day. Experience shows that roughly a third of Club trips are carried out as planned – the rest are altered or even cancelled as dictated by weather and/or the composition of the group on the day of the trip.


Paddler Grading



Grade 1  Able to swim 50 meters fully clothed for paddling, able to wet exit. (1)

Grade 2  


   1. able to perform an assisted rescue (as rescuer and rescuee);
   2. able to paddle at 5km/h (min average speed) for 90 minutes;
   3. able to perform a basic low brace support strokes;
   4. able to effectively turn the kayak;
   5. able to tow another kayaker (as tower and towee);
   6. understand the (BOM) marine weather forecasts;
   7. presents kayak to Club Grade 2 standards (Equipment Requirements);
   has satisfactorily completed a minimum of 2 trips of 15km or longer (2)

Grade 3  

 AP Sea Skills Award(3)

Grade 4  

 AP Advanced Sea Skills Award (3)

(1) Trip leader to confirm skills prior to trip commencing. Paddler self- assessment & disclosure is subject to trip leader consideration.
(2) Trips can be witnessed by an instructor, guide, sea leader or another club member. 
(3) Or another award, recognised by AC as an equal qualification.

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