Angus Hulbert

Sea Kayak Leader Assessment

I used to be a competitive slalom kayaker, competing in the premier division in the UK and ranking within the top 100. However when I made my move to Fort William to study Marine and Coastal Tourism I started to transfer these high quality slalom kayak-ing skills into sea kayaking. I initially did my first Sea Kayak Leader training as part of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh residential in 2017. However at this point an assessment was not on my horizon. Since then, I gained more sea kayaking experience and I thoroughly enjoyed this process as I was able to develop existing skills in effective sea kayaking leadership skills. When I made the move to UHI in Fort William I decided I wanted to re-do my seakayaking training to refresh what I had learned, now with the aim to do the assessment.

This training filled me with confidence and also gave me a few pointers as to where I could improve. At this point I had enough experience and was eager to do the assessment, I was in the process of booking an assessment when COVID-19 hit. In terms of my Sea Kayaking Leaders assessment this (COVID-19) ended up being a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to get further experience. During the first ease of lockdown restrictions I was on the look out for some work experience in sea kayak leading and an opportunity in Skye which I grasped with both hands. At this time assessments were not running, and therefore I had no choice but to get more experienceand retain the level of skills I had gained over the years. Getting this opportunity of work experience on Skye allowed me to work with qualified professionals who were able to give me coaching and pointers for improvement. Having this time to gain such experience was extremely precious as I then felt that I was in a far stronger position to sit my assessment when restrictions would allow.

Fast forward to May 2021 when lock-down restrictions were easing, I booked my assessment with the assistance of the Neil Mackenzie Trust. The day of the assessment changed multiple times due to a lack of conditions to effec-tively run the assessment. Eventually we settled on a day and location that suited therequirements of a Sea Kayak Leader Assessment. The assessment consists of personal paddling skills (Paddling skills, rolling in rough conditions and practical navigation skills), Safety and Rescue (rescuing other paddlers, self rescue and proficient tow-ing skills), Leadership Skills and finally Theory (tidal planning, weather, safety etc.). On the assessment there was one other being assessed along side our guinea pigs. We had to guide our guinea pigs around a small island. The conditions were perfect for the assessment and even going slightly above the remit, however this posed a good challenge for us as leaders. We were tasked with certain sections of the journey. I was tasked with taking our group across wind then surfing back into a sheltered bay. The conditions were growing at this point and I noticed one of our group needed some closer guidance away from some rocks, I was prompt in positioning myself in a place where I could guide them safely away and down into the bay. We were then tasked with using the conditions to find areas we could play on the waves with our group. I found a good point where larger surf-waves were forming near a headland, the group had great fun playing on these waves. Within the same task I was asked to guide our group through a gap in some rocks which had some waves in-between (Rock Hopping). Again the group enjoyed this.

To finish the assessment, certain scenarios were set up so that we could demonstrate our rescue skills. My scenario involved a group member falling out of their boat in a position where they may be washed onto the rocks. I decided to ask a group member to tow myself and the ‘casualty’ away from the rocks as I did the rescue, this involved emptying the capsized boat and getting the‘casualty’ back into the boat and back to safety. Finally, I had to demonstrate two methods of self-rescue, I chose to do a roll and a self-rescue called a re-entry and roll.The assessment was successful and I passed with the recommendation that I work towards my Advanced Sea Kayak Leader. With the support that I received from the Neil Mackenzie Trust I have now gained an extremely valuable qualification whilst also giving me a step-up into my future Industry.