Adam Constantine paddling out in surf and getting hit in the face with a wave.
Location: Bay of Fundy, Saint John, New Brunswick. Photo credit: Adam Constantine

Sea Kayak Level-4 Skills

Discipline: Sea Kayaking Stream: Skills Development

In Sea Kayak Level-4 Skills, students are challenged to apply already learned leadership/decision making and paddling skills in the context of a multi-day trip in class-4 or greater conditions.


With a strong focus on scenarios and problem solving, this course develops students’ skills appropriate to travelling in remote and/or technically challenging locations while fine tuning new skills such as surf and currents.

Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to confidently sea kayak in class-4 water conditions along remote and exposed open coast for an extended trip. The student will also be an effective part of a group of peers, able to perform both leadership and supportive roles.

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Course Overview

Typical Course Length

This course is a minimum of 5 days long.

Course Water Class

This course runs in Class-4 conditions which are described as:

Rugged and exposed coast with long and committed crossings and any combination of the following: strong turbulent currents (≥ 6 km/h or ≥ 3 knots), strong wind effects (near 37 km/h or 20 knots), large swells with a combined sea state 1 metre or more with a moderate to rough sea state, exposed surf beaches (≥1 metre), infrequent and sometimes difficult landings which present significant challenges for individual safety and group management. Significant delays in access to land-based assistance can be expected.

Learn more about our water classification system.

Course Topics

Safety Skills
  • Re-entry and incident management
  • Emergency response/communication plan
  • Risk analysis and mitigation strategies
  • Emergency on water repairs
  • Incident management and decision making scenarios
  • Peer debriefing strategies following an incident
  • Towing
  • Rolling in class-4 conditions
Paddling Skills
  • Launching and landing along difficult shorelines
  • Paddling in swell and currents
  • Paddling in sustained wind with a loaded kayak
  • Travelling along inaccessible shoreline
  • Surfing
  • Paddling in currents
Knowledge
  • Leadership, group awareness, judgment, & decision making
  • Weather interpretation and forecasting
  • Waves and currents
  • Tide and current calculation
Course Prerequisites
  • Certification
    • All participants must have Paddle Canada Level-3 certification.
  • Paddling Experience
    • At least 10 day-trips kayaking in class-3 conditions.
    • A minimum of three extended trips totalling 10 or more overnights. The student must show evidence (e.g. weather/sea state logs, photography or video) that they spent a minimum of five days during any trip in class-3 conditions.
    • An ability to confidently roll (on one side) in class-3 conditions is essential.
  • Other Training
    • Wilderness first aid certification (36 hours) with CPR is strongly recommended.
    • Restricted Radio Operator's Licence (marine VHF) is strongly recommended.