Professor Paddle

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Kleck, Mate
California Sea Kayaker to try for U.S. First: Level 5 Coaching Certificate from BCU

Jen Kleck, 37, owner of San Diego, Calif.’s Aqua Adventures, is on a mission. Not Mission Bay, where her sea kayaking instruction, outfitting rental and retail store puts more than 3,000 people on the water each year, but a mission to earn something no other person in the United States has ever accomplished. In May, she takes her vast sea kayaking experience to the United Kingdom in an attempt to receive her Level 5 Coaching certification from the British Canoe Union (BCU). While she received her five-star skills rating from the BCU in 2004, no one—male or female—has ever received such coaching accreditation in the U.S. In fact, only three women in the entire world have the honor.
Paddling Life caught up with Jen on a recent paddling trip to Baja to find out more about the upcoming certification and what it means.

On the rationale behind it:“For me, it’s a personal goal. I’ve always wanted to be a good teacher, but never liked the politics of university life. This is a way for me to become the absolute best padding instructor I can.

On the test: “If I get it, I’d be the only person in the U.S. to have it. No one from the U.S. has even ever tried to take the test before. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get it, and it’s a big commitment of time and money, without necessarily a huge payoff. But I received my five-star level (personal skill awards) a few years ago, so I sort of know what to expect…

On what she expects to encounter: “It’ll be a two-day course in Northern Scotland. On the first day, I’ll be working with two students I bring over (Jake Stachovak and Tom Underwood) to demonstrate in front of an assessor that I can coach their interests and needs. They’ll tell me what they want to work on, and I’ll decide where we’ll go and how I’ll teach it. Because we’ll be in northern Scotland, there’s a good chance we’ll work on things like tidal streams. On the second day, I’ll get new students, and a completely new assessor to watch how I teach them. As long as I use good coaching techniques, I should be okay.

On the difference between instructors and coaches: “Instructors give instructions. Coaches encourage individuals to get the most out of themselves. They help facilitate what works for them. You can teach people to do the same thing, but in coaching you’re giving paddlers the tools they need, and showing them how to pick the right ones to serve their needs. The star awards are personal skill awards, while the level awards are for coaching, or assessing people. It’s a good system because it separates personal skills from coaching skills.

On ACA vs. BCU certifications: “They’re both good organizations. I have my ACA coastal instructor’s certification. The ACA is evolving quite a bit now, but the BCU offers a clear path of progression from day one. Each test asks you to perform certain things to certain standards, and if you pass you move onto the next level. I like it because it hangs a carrot out in front of you to progress, and is a nice, step-by-step progression that guides and tests you in your development.

Background Beta
After graduating from The Colorado College in 1993, Jen spent a year in grad school studying geology at the University of Minnesota before making her way to San Diego and discovering sea kayaking (she bought a sea kayak, in fact, before even finding an apartment). Once there, she landed a job at Aqua Adventures, where she’s been for the past 10 years. In 2005, she bought out her partner, Greg Knight, and now runs the retail, rental, instruction and outfitting operation by herself. The store is located on Mission Bay, and is one of the leading paddlesports resources in Southern California. Info: www.aqua-adventures.com; (619) 523-9577.