Happy New Year!

Marlow winterAs we say goodbye to a fantastic 2018 I’m looking forward to a 2019 that could be even better. There’s something about fresh starts and new beginnings that I find really exciting and there are plenty lined up for UK paddlesport in the coming months.

For paddlers we have the launch this week of British Canoeing’s new personal performance awards. The new awards are just that, completely new. There’s no point in trying to compare them to our old Star awards because the two schemes really are chalk and cheese. Gone are the links to coaching and leadership awards, gone too is the requirement to paddle both canoes and kayaks (although you still can if that’s what you want to do) and gone (finally, surely) are the days when someone could fail an award just because they didn’t do exactly what the assessor expected them to do. In come a suite of awards designed around the paddler, the craft they choose to paddle and the environments they choose to paddle in. I’m particularly excited to see the recognition of paddleboarding as a distinctly different type of paddling with new awards for sheltered water, white water and surf SUP.

This week also sees the launch of the new British Canoeing Paddlesport Instructor (PI) award. Once again, comparisons with the Level 1 Paddlesport Coach award miss the point. The new PI award is firmly positioned as an award recognising that an individual has completed an appropriate training programme and is ready to start introducing others to the wonderful world of paddlesport. Crucially, the new PI is not a foundation course for aspirant coaches but exists in its own right. Many PIs will never want or need to become coaches and I can see a future where British paddlesport recognises a large workforce of fantastic, highly skilled and experienced instructors introducing people to the sport in ways than many coaches would find difficult to do. Many clubs will say they already have such individuals and I wouldn’t disagree but isn’t it great to see the different roles acknowledged in our awards system.

I’m really looking forward to working with paddlers next year to help them achieve their goals and using the new awards as part of that. I’m also looking forward to more personal adventures on the water and continuing to develop my own skills and experience with plans for more paddleboarding and a major canoe expedition. But more of that as the year progresses! Whatever your aspirations are for 2019 I hope that they come to fruition and if not that you enjoy your journey as much as I’m sure I will mine.

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