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Get the 411 on counseling your Scouts to earn the Kayaking merit badge.

MOVE OVER, CANOEING. Kayaking is here. Recreational kayaking’s popularity increased by 32 percent in the past three years, according to the 2013 Outdoor Participation Report published by the Outdoor Industry Association. And as of summer 2012 — a decade after the Kayaking BSA activity patch was introduced — America’s fastest-growing paddle sport now has its very own merit badge. To learn more about the

badge and how to teach it, we caught up with Richard Thomas, the project leader for the Kayaking merit badge pamphlet, and Pat Noack, chairman of the BSA’s National Aquatics Task Force. Here’s what they had to say.

WHERE DOES THE KAYAKING MERIT BADGE FIT INTO THE ADVANCEMENT PROGRAM? The Kayaking merit badge teaches entry-level skills. “It’s designed as a flat-water experience — quiet water without significant wind, waves or current,” Noack says. Scouts who are interested in white-

water kayaking should pursue the Whitewater merit badge after earning Kayaking. “In contrast to flat-water or quiet-water paddling, there’s a large range of skills that are necessary in whitewater kayaking,” Thomas says. “That really takes additional train- ing from qualified Whitewater merit badge counselors.” The new Kayaking merit badge doesn’t replace the Kayaking BSA


award (which is worn on swim trunks) available to Boy Scouts, Venturers and adult leaders who want to get a taste of the sport. Find more information about this award at

HOW HARD IS KAYAKING TO LEARN? If you’ve ever watched an experienced kayaker shoot a set of rapids, you may think kayaking is more difficult than other paddle sports. Think again. While those advanced skills do require plenty of practice, getting started with kayaking is actually easier than getting started with canoeing. “The strokes required in kayaking

are much fewer than in canoeing. In literally 30 minutes, you can teach the basic strokes Scouts need to learn to

paddle a kayak in a straight line, turn or pivot it, or paddle it in reverse,” Thomas says. Another advantage: the

double-bladed paddle. “You’re doing synchronous movements on both sides of the boat,” Noack says. “That helps you stay in a straight line as a novice.”

HOW WELL DO CANOEING SKILLS TRANSFER? “Many of the princi- ples of paddling are the same for both canoeing and kayaking in terms of upper-body rotation and using the muscles of the upper torso and back,” Thomas says.

WHICH KIND OF KAYAK SHOULD BE USED? The merit badge require- ments allow for several types of boats: hard-shell kayaks, sit-on-tops and inflatables. A hard-shell kayak with a large, open cockpit may be the best option if you have a choice.

“The advantage of this type of boat is that it can be used in practically any conditions,” Thomas says. Scouts will get wet using sit-on-tops, so those are better in warmer climates. Some inflatable kayaks can perform with the best hard-shell kayaks, while others are harder to turn and offer more resistance when paddling.

WHICH TEACHING TECHNIQUES WORK? Noack and Thomas say kayaking games make learning fun and easy. For example, Scouts can play Follow the Leader with their counselor or

FIND MORE leader guides to a range of merit badges at

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