Details are given, below, of a classification system that the club will adopt to indicate the level of paddling difficulty that might be anticipated on a given trip, and, thus, the suitability of that trip for the individual paddlers.

There is no recognised system for classifying the sea or coastal waters. Hardly surprising, as the difficulty of any stretch of coast will be dependent on the sea state at the time, which will be a product of the weather, particularly in terms wind speed and direction, and the tides.

We have attempted to classify varying sea states with the IGS grades applied to rivers. Advanced notification of trips will indicate a grade based on the normal conditions of the coast in question for the season. But with the vagaries of our climate, the degree of difficulty of a coastal trip will normally only be known the evening before (or on the day!).


Paddler Ability

Description of Water or Sea State



The Novice:

A beginner under supervision

None: since waters around our coastline and estuaries are always moving, there are no areas or conditions that can legitimately go 'ungraded'



The Beginner:

1-star intro to moving water

Quiet enclosed harbours or holiday beaches with minimum or no surf and close inshore in calm weather.



The Improver:

2-star paddler

Simple coastlines with easy landings and no tide races, overfalls, or short open crossings with no shipping. Calm or slight seas with small wavelets with crests beginning to break. Beach surf up to 1' to 2'



The Intermediate or Proficient:

3 or 4-star paddler with some surf experience

More complex coastlines, or short open crossings, with slight to moderate seas. May encounter other vessels or shipping. Small to moderate waves, with frequent white horses and a moderate to fresh breeze (force 4/5)

or Beach surf of 3' to 4'


Very Difficult

The Proficient or Advanced:

4 or 5-star paddler where rolling ability is often needed

Complex coastlines, or long open crossings, with limited landings. Moderate to rough seas, with moderate waves with white crests and spray. A strong breeze (force 6/7). Tide races and overfalls.

or Beach surf of 4' to 6'


Extremely Difficult

The Advanced: 5-star paddler. Rolling ability: bombproof

Rough seas and rough weather. Wind force 7+, larger waves forming. Sea heaps up with white foam from breaking waves

or Beach surf of over 6'



Go with another club!

Someone missed the forecast!