group of kayakers on the sea with snowy mountains in background

Coastal Guide Modules

To become an ISKGA Coastal guide you must complete the following as well as the Generic modules.

Minimum Duration 
2 Days


Shore contacts & float plans

Candidate should be happy using a VHF radio to inform the coast guard of their float plan. They should also have an understanding of other available methods of raising outside assistance. If possible a shore party should be utilised and copies of float plans and client questionnaires be made available to this responsible party.

Because of the vulnerability placed upon sea kayaking groups when in danger, it is essential that commercial guides have in place safe measures to allow for the alarm to be raised by a third party. We call this the ‘Shore Party’ The shore party will hold the Float Plan, the client information sheets (PARQ) and will also know the appropriate actions to take in the event of the group not returning back on time or if in receipt of a distress call, be it through telephone, SPOT unit or by any other means.

leadership styles

Candidates should be able to demonstrate the use of appropriate leadership using a variety of styles to maintain good group control and motivation.

These styles are generally referred to as Autocratic, Democratic and laissez Faire. These styles should be looked at as being tools in the toolbox rather than defining characteristics of the leaders personal character


Understand and be able to implement the CLAP process in advanced conditions.

CLAP is the pneumonic we follow to remind us of the leadership process.CommunicationsLine of SightAvoidancePosition

Feature Leadership

Demonstrate a variety of methods for leading an appropriate sized group, through the following environmental obstacles: Surf – Rock Gardens – Tide races & Overfalls – Open Crossings.

This may include: Shepherding, chain-linking, partnering and safe group positioning. Where necessary this may also include the appropriate use of an assistant or another suitable paddler utilised to maintain a safer environment.

Journey Leadership & Night Navigation

Leading a journey by assessing paddler’s performance and using appropriate styles.

Lead a group of paddlers at night or in darkness, showing good navigation skills, time appreciation and communication.

It is essential that the groups paddling performance is established prior to committing to an environment that may become excessively challenging.This should be achieved by carrying out an effective underpinning exercise establishing group skill levels and abilities.Leaders should also have thorough risk assessments as well as being able to conduct rolling dynamic risk assessments and also be able to convert to contingency plans if needed.Leaders should have a variety of effective control measures in place to lead an appropriate sized group at night time or during darkness and poor visibility.

Human Strategies & thought processes

Leaders should be able to control and follow a logical thought process under pressure.

Understanding the emotional effects of ‘Peer Pressure’ the physical and mental effects of ‘Adrenal Fix’ (fight, flight, freeze and avoidance) and being able to think and react organically throughout an incident is essential for group leaders, especially in advanced conditions or when presented with serious incidents on the water.

Operating Zones

Leaders should be able to show an understanding of the need not to overstretch clients in terms of abilities and emotional influences: Comfort zones, stretch zones and terror zone areas should be examined to ensure correct engagement of clients to risk and outcome is achieved.

Paddling Skills
Minimum Duration 
Planning & Navigation
Minimum Duration 
2 Day

Approved training: The aim of this one-day classroom based programme is to give participants the necessary tools and tactics to plan and navigate effectively on coastal journeys and multi-day expeditions in moderate ocean conditions.

This module will look at the different navigational systems that exist around the world that a sea kayaker may encounter, in order that they are able to understand the requirements for the areas in which they will be leading others.

This course forms part of the ISKGA Coastal Guide development pathway.



Synoptic Charts

Frontal Systems

Sea Breezes

Katabatic Winds

Hurricanes, Cyclones, Typhoons

Marine Forecasts



Scales of Measuring Wind Strength

Swell forecasting and the effects of swell on the coastal environment

Tides & Currents:

The Rules: Twelfths; Thirds & 50/90


Tidal Diamonds

Tidal Stream Atlases

Tidal Constants

Ocean Currents

Charts and maps:


Identify chart features: Depths, drying heights, buoyage, cardinal marks, lights, over-falls

Identify map features and combining charts & Maps

Measuring distance

Calculate bearings

Understand magnetic variation

Positioning on maps and charts


Tidal gate planning

Methods to plan a crossing: Vectors, Timings, Transits

Day planning sheets

Multiday planning

Meteorological effects on tidal waters

Methods of position fixing: Triangulation, GPS, stroke measuring, timing, ready reckoning.

Expedition Logistics:

Plan options for camp locations

Re supply planning

Transport logistics

Tide Race IM
Minimum Duration 
1/2 Days

Approved training: BCU 5* training, EPP 5, ISKGA Advanced Skills


Surf: Effective launching & landing, demonstrating aggressive & passive maneuvering, safe and effective body positioning, bracing and recoveries. Effective rolling on the left and right sides.

Candidates must demonstrate the personal ability to land and launch through surf of up to 2 meters (wave face) using timing and controlled surfing.   Candidates should be comfortable playing in up to 1.5 meters (wave face) of surf. They should also show an understanding of the surf environment and understand the effects of wind, associated hazards such as rips, wave types and effects of sea bed morphology and angle.

Rocky-coast paddling

Candidates should be able to demonstrate a variety of personal

skills in the rocky environment, negotiating caves, gullies and other


Candidates should be able to negotiate rock gardens safely and effectively, making personal judgments to paddle between features taking into account, timing of wave action and effect of swells upon the features to be negotiated.To paddle effectively and safely through areas of clapotic wave action, close to cliffs, through gullies, into caves demonstrating effective and confident kayak handling skills.Demonstrate a wide variety of rescue and towing techniques to recover both themselves and other swimmers as well as being able to recover sea kayaks and other pieces of equipment from a variety of different situations. An ability to land a sea kayak, exiting the water near to a rocky feature and effect a difficult landing where swimming ashore may be the best and only option, should also be demonstrated.

Personal skills in strong tidal flow & Tidal paddling: Candidates should be able to negotiate tide races and overfalls demonstrating safe and effective boat control, effective edging and understanding of the effects of fast tidal flow when combined with other environmental features such as wind, swell and rock

The candidate will demonstrate that they are comfortable in strong tidal water and are able to surf against the flow and manoeuvre across and in a tidal race.  The candidate must be able to perform all personal skills in an environment which consists of more than 3kn of tidal flow and paddle competently and comfortably through tidal races and overfalls.  The candidates ability to handle a wide variety of rescues should be demonstrated.

Paddling in strong wind: Candidates should be able to show effective kayak control and other personal skills in winds of up to Force 6 (Beaufort)

Candidates should be able to manoeuvre their kayak in winds in up to Bft6 without the use of skeg or rudder. Show effective personal safety drills, rescue skills and towing techniques in these winds as well as being able to show an understanding of how to predict strong winds whilst on the water.

Open Ocean Paddling

Candidates must be comfortable paddling away from the shelter of land and in reduced visibility and have the fitness to tow for long distances into conditions.

Candidates should have an understanding of individual and group sea survival techniques.

Candidates should have an understanding of the dynamics of open water crossings, an understanding of ‘Limits of adequate reserve’ and have an effective emergency action plan protocol.

Personal Fitness

Candidates but be able to swim effectively in their kayaking equipment for a minimum distance of 100 meters and Complete a 20 nautical mile sea kayak journey in under 8 hours, complete a 3 mile trail run in under 40 minutes, tow a raft of two sea kayaks 2 nautical miles. Be comfortable swimming offensively & defensively in the surf environment and in a rocky ocean environment.

Candidates need to show an adequate level of fitness to be able to perform as a strong leader, this may include activities such as swimming, running and towing.

Self rescues

Cowboy re-entry or a re-entry & roll must be effective in the conditions in which the candidate is expected to lead a group in. The candidate must have the ability to paddle their kayak with a flooded cockpit.

A paddle float rescue is not regarded as an acceptable self rescue at this level of leadership. A leader’s response to an inadvertent capsize and swim needs to be conducted quickly and efficiently so that the candidate can quickly resume the role of leader once more. To that end, the candidate must prove that he is still able to control his kayak in a rough water environment whilst the cockpit is still flooded


The candidate must be competent in the use of contact tows, tow-lines and throw-lines and able to effectively deploy these systems and then tow in the conditions of the assessment

He or she must have a variety of tows to extract paddlers and kayaks from different situations and environments.

The towline can be regarded as the most important piece of rescue equipment that the group leader will have at his or her disposal and a thorough knowledge of its uses and experience is essential

Injured paddler rescues

Be able to deal with unconscious casualties and other injuries whilst out on the water.

The candidate must be able to physically perform these rescues in the conditions in which they are likely to occur. The candidate must have a rescue or strategy that is applicable to the nature and severity of the injury or situation.

Repairs to kayaks and equipment

Be able to recover and repair a variety of problems associated with a damaged kayak. Service and maintain essential expedition equipment, such as tent poles, cookers etc

These repairs will often fall into the category of a: ‘Repair to get you home’ and/or a ‘Repair of a more permanent nature’ to this end the leader must have a repair kit that is suitable for both their own and the groups kayaks and equipment

Swimmer rescues

Be able to use bow, stern and deck carries to move a swimmer in the water. They should also have the ability to swim a casualty ashore.

Being able to swim recover a swimmer in the surf zone and amongst rock garden is an essential skill for the sea kayak leader and these skills can be taught effectively on surf lifesaving events and co-steering sessions if required.

Minimum Duration